The Fourth of July Fishing Tournament was a yearly three day affair. It was mostly a contest to see who could catch the biggest fish.
In 1966 Dad decided to enter us and the FDO. We were competing against the deep-sea fishing boats, the ones that go out to catch Blue Marlin and Sailfish and Dolphin (not the mammal known as porpoises.)
I think the big boaters kind of snorted at us behind our backs, pointing their figures and snickering at our brazenness. How could a 12 foot boat compete against 50 foot boats? Did we think we could actually make a big catch? How could we, when we were only trolling the shallow coast-lines of St. Thomas and St. John, while they were going 40 miles out to the Puerto Rico Trench (the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean) and catching world record Blue Marlin? Snicker, snicker, snicker...har, har, har...
Dad, being the captain of our huge luxury yacht, went out all three days. Mom went with him on the first day, Erva on the second, and I went on the third day. Each day we consistently brought in more fish than any of the other boaters. Each day our fish were counted and weighed. I think by the end of the tournament we had brought in more pounds of fish than anyone else.
The crowning touch was this. At the end of day three Dad and I were out between Little and Great St. James. We were getting ready to head back home when we spotted birds diving and fish jumping, a sure sign of a school of fish. We raced through the school at top speed (a trick Dad learned to bring the lure up to the surface so the feeding fish would mistake it for a fry) and I got a strike. When I got it to the boat it turned out to be a nice sized Yellowtail, probably 5 pounds or so .
Dad said, "Let's do that again and see if we can't get another one."
So we zipped through the middle of the school and BANG I got another strike. Only this time I knew it was BIG. I was so busy paying attention to my rod, the star drag, and the line I didn't see this fish leap out of the water and dance on its tail...three times! And, I was already tired, not only from being out in an open boat all day, but I had just landed a Yellowtail, a fish known for it's good fight. Finally I managed to get the thing to the boat.
It turned out to be a barracuda! Now you have to be careful with barracuda. There's no known attack of a person by a barracuda in the water. But out of the water, landed in a boat say, they have been known to snap oars in half and take chunks out of hands, legs, arms or anything that gets in the way of their needle sharp teeth. They get pissed.
Once Dad hauled it into the boat he beat it sounded on the head with a club we kept in on board for just such a purpose. That barracuda was not small. The FDO was about 4 feet wide and the head and tail of that fish curled up at the ends where it lay across the stern. Dad was sure I had a winner.
And I did. I won for catching the biggest fish by a teenage girl angler. That barracuda was 4 feet long and weighed in at 11 1/2 pounds. Below is the newspaper picture of me accepting a string of real pearls. I still have them.
We enjoyed snorting at the big boaters behind their backs. Big is not nescessarily better. Snicker, snicker, snicker, har, har, har!
Oh...and by the way, today is Go Fishing Day.