If you’d like to spend the day in a fighting chair rather than lounging on the beach, Virgin Islands’ waters will amply accommodate your every size and specie desire. Twenty-four sportfishing world records have been set from the Virgin Islands, for fish ranging from mega blue marlin to swift swimming wahoo.
The hot spot for billfish – blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish – is the world-famous North Drop, which you can easily access from St. Thomas or St. John. A short ride offshore St. Croix, the billfish bite best off Lang Bank, another deep drop-off where cool waters and ocean currents bring a bevy of bait fish, especially June through October. During the winter months, dolphin, wahoo and tuna keep the action on the drop-offs hopping. Closer inshore, you’ll find kingfish, mackerel, bonefish, tarpon, amberjack, grouper and snappers in Virgin waters all year long.
Captains and mates armed with local knowledge can guide you to the hot spots aboard a sportfishing charter. Both half day and full day trips are available. Half day trips are usually scheduled from 8 AM to 12 Noon and 1 PM to 5 PM and focus on inshore fishing. Full day trips can be of two types. On the first type, usually 8 AM to 4 PM, you troll slowly out to the drop-off, then fish for marlin once there. For the second type of full day trip, generally 8 AM to 5 PM, your captain will head full throttle for the drop with marlin as the single-minded pursuit.
A full day marlin trip is the most expensive, because of the extra time and fuel required. Daily fees range from $800 to $1,000 daily for the boat. This fee can be split among a maximum of six anglers. Captains, or charter offices, can assist anglers in sharing a `split’ boat. In most cases, a deposit of 50% is required to reserve the boat in advance of the trip. Bait and tackle are provided, but you need to bring your own lunch and drinks.
If you’re itching to experience the thrill of competition, then enter one of our local tournaments – the July Open, American Yacht Harbor Billfish Tournament, USVI/Open Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament, Golden Hook Challenge and Harm’s Virgin Islands/Puerto Rico Billfish Series. These big-money billfish classics attract amateurs as well as internationally-famed world class anglers.
Virgin Islands’ sports fishermen have proudly pioneered world billfish conservation for decades, promoting catch-and-release which helps ensure survival of this species for our future generations. Also, specially made research `tags’, which mates place in billfish before the fish’s release, have helped scientists learn more about these elusive undersea creatures. For example, blue marlin tagged in Virgin waters have been recaptured again off the coasts of Africa and North Carolina – giving clues as to their migration patterns. Thanks to catch-and-release and the tagging program, billfish seem to be increasing in numbers. Just ask local and visiting Virgin Islands’ sports fishermen who will tell you that the season of ’96 has been the best – most productive – in the last decade.
USVI-BASED SPORTFISHING CHARTER OPERATIONS
(All telephone numbers in the 809 area code)
- Fish Hawk (Fish Hawk Marina) 775-9058
- Prowler Sportfishing Charters (American Yacht Harbor Marina) 779-2515, 775-7205
- Marlin Prince (American Yacht Harbor Marina) 779-5939, 693-5929
- Hook-E-Player (American Yacht Harbor Marina) 775-3281
- Bluefin II (American Yacht Harbor Marina) 775-6691
- Abigail III (Sapphire Beach Resort Marina) 775-6100
- Phoenix (Sapphire Beach Resort Marina) 775-6100, ext. 732
- Double Header (Sapphire Beach Resort Marina) 777-7317, 771-2032
- Gone Ketchin’ (Cruz Bay) 693-8657
- Ruffian (St. Croix Marina) 773-7165/773-6011 (773-0917)
- Louie G (St. Croix Marina) 773-1123
- Center Console (Salt River Marina) 778-9650
- Lisa Ann (Green Cay Marina) 773-3712; 773-4977
- Cruzan Divers 772-3701/1-800-352-0107
- Fishaholic 773-8988; 690-8570
- Leisure Lady 773-8988; 690-8570
- Sharon M III 773-8988; 690-8570
INTERNATIONAL GAMEFISHING ASSOCIATION (IGFA) WORLD RECORDS ESTABLISHED IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS(From: Sports Fishing in the Virgin Islands. Carol Bareuther, 1992. American Paradise Publishing, St. John, USVI.)
Species Weight Line (lbs.) Date Cobia 52.75 12 2/19/67 Kingfish 67 30 (M) 2/12/80 Kingfish 65 130 6/15/80 Kingfish 44 12 5/07/69 Blue Marlin 1,282 130 8/06/77 Blue Marlin 1,073* 130 (W) 7/06/89 Blue Marlin 854 80 7/04/68 Blue Marlin 814 80 7/26/64 Blue Marlin 705 80 7/08/72 Blue Marlin 448* 12 (M) 9/16/71 Blue Marlin 392 16 (M) 8/14/73 Blue Marlin 404 16 (M) 8/02/88 Blue Marlin 305* 16 (W) 7/11/90 Blue Marlin 273 16 (W) 8/13/67 Blue Marlin 389 30 9/05/72 Blue Marlin 337 20 6/17/73 Blue Marlin 159 Fly-16 8/18/90 Tuna (yellowfin) 76 12 5/10/69 Tuna (skipjack) 28 20 (W) 7/16/77 Wahoo 124 50 (M) 3/29/67 Wahoo 83* 20 (W) 3/05/68 Wahoo 138 16 (M) 9/22/82 Wahoo 69 12 2/09/72 Wahoo 66 12 2/27/69 Wahoo 66 12 4/07/67 Wahoo 50 Spin-10 3/24/69
* Still Standing
WHAT’S BITING & WHEN(From: Sports Fishing in the Virgin Islands. Carol Bareuther, 1992. American Paradise Publishing, St. John, USVI.)
J F M A M J J A S O N D
Blue Marlin O O O O O F X X X F O O White Marlin O X X G F F F O O O O O Sailfish X G F O O O O O O O X X Dolphin F G X X X O O O O O G F Wahoo X X X X O O O O O G G F Kingfish G X X X X G G G G G G G Mackerel G X X X X G G G G G G G Yellowfin Tuna G G F F G G F F F F F F Blackfin Tuna X G G G X X F F F X G X Bonito X X X F O O O O O X X X Bonefish G G G G G G G G G G G G Tarpon F F F F G G G G F F F F Amber Jack F F F F G G G G F F F F Grouper G G G G G G G G G G G G Snapper X X G G G G G G G G G G Barracuda G G G G G G G G G G G G Tiger Shark G G G G G G G G G G G G
Key: O = occasional F = fair G = good x = excellent