MARIO AUSTIN, AT HOME MARLIN FISHING OR MEAT FISHING -
St. Thomas-based angler, Mario Austin, likes to fish. He likes to catch too, and it doesn't matter if it's a mammoth blue marlin or one of a number of meat fish. In fact, one of the best fishing days of his life happened in 2004 when he and his fellow anglers aboard his Luhrs 36, Hook, won the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club's Offshore Marine Dolphin Derby.
"We headed south just after 6 a.m.," Austin explains. "It was about a half an hour later that we put our lines in the water and immediately started catching fish. At first, it was nothing but wahoo. The wahoo for some reason were really attracted to our dolphin lures."
Trolling on a bit further, the Hook's anglers hooked up more wahoo and a lone dolphin. "A lot of boats had been really catching a lot of dolphin the week before. Dolphin like rougher water, and because it was so calm, we thought maybe the bite had shut down a bit," Austin says.
Just then, the anglers saw a flash behind a freighter on the horizon. En route to the spot, they hooked up three big dolphin. "One of those was that big bull, a 35.9-pounder. At that point, we were happy. We were having a good day."
When Hook finally reached the spot the freighter had passed, a large net floating in the water proved a real fish magnet and the crew's day went from good to great.
"There were dolphin everywhere. We could see them up near the boat. We couldn't catch them and get the lines back in the water fast enough. At times we had four or five fish on a once, never less than three. It was chaos, a wonderful chaos with fish popping up everywhere. And, we had it all to ourselves for about 15 minutes until two of the other tournament boats showed up," Austin says.
Back at weigh station, the Hook's crew ultimately carted in a total of 26 dolphin, 7 wahoo, 2 skipjack tuna, one black fin tuna and a rainbow runner. "We had quite a day, really a lot of fun," Austin says.
Born in St. Maarten, Austin has lived on St. Thomas since the age of two and enjoyed spear fishing, scuba diving and boating during his growing up years. "In the last ten years I've developed a love for deep-sea fishing," says Austin. "That happened when I bought a boat, a Contender. I bought it for island-hopping, but I started fishing the local tournaments and liked it. I got a bigger boat, the Luhrs, five years ago and that's when I started marlin fishing."
Austin like to fish for whatever is in season. "Blue marlin are the most exciting. I love to pitch bait. The bite is the best and seeing the fish up close is more fun."
He continues, "I like tuna fishing too. Pound for pound, they are the best fighting fish. I live bait with them. Sailfish are great too, and I'm looking forward to a shot at striped marlin when I head to the Galapagos in February."
Austin admits he's had some great teachers along the way. "Stewart Loveland here in St. Thomas taught me all about marlin fishing. I've fished with Ronnie Hamlin in Guatemala and he's who turned me on to circle hooks. I've fished with Tim Choate a few times in the Boy Scout Tournament (USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament) and I'll be going to the Galapagos with him."
How many days does he fish each year? "Not enough," says Austin, who is the general manager of the Budget-Rent-A-Car franchises on St. Thomas and St. John.
"I'm out every weekend during marlin season."
In the future, Austin says he'd love to fish in Venezuela. "Maybe when I have a bigger boat that I can run down there."
Catch-wise, he adds, "I'm always looking for that grander blue marlin."
But, even when he's skunked, Austin finds there is no bad day fishing. "I love fishing for fishing. Fishing is fun and it's a great time to spend with friends. Some fishermen take the sport way to seriously. But having fun is what matters. Business is business. Fishing is fishing."