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St. John USVI Culture: Sport Fishing

Ethien Chinnery

There are three major categories of sport fishing to be enjoyed on St. John, shoreline fishing, inshore fishing and offshore blue water fishing.

The first category, shoreline fishing, includes fishing from beaches, docks, rock outcroppings and points. Traditionally native Virgin Islanders use hand lines using bait that can be obtained locally such as fry or soldier crabs. Of course, rods and reels will also work just fine.

St. John also offers the sport fisherman the opportunity to fish in lagoons and shallow water flats, such as behind the reef at Reef Bay or at Leinster Bay where you can fish for bonefish, jacks, snappers, small sharks, tarpon and barracudas.

The second category, inshore fishing, includes bottom fishing and trolling, using either rod and reel or hand line. Bottom fishing is generally done around coral reefs where the fisherman can find fish such as snapper, parrotfish, rock hind, grunts and blue tang.

Trolling around reefs, rocky cays and jutting headlands, will often yield Spanish mackerel, kingfish, barracudas and jacks.

Be aware that some fish in Virgin Islands waters may harbor ciguatera, a type of fish poisoning, that though rarely fatal, can make you really sick. Certain species, such as baracudas and amberjacks are more likely to harbor the pioson than other species and larger ones will be more likely than smaller ones. Check with local fishermen to help identify suspect species.

The third category of Virgin Islands sport fishing is blue water offshore fishing, which generally takes place along the north or south drops where water depth descends sharply from about 80 to 120 feet to 600 to 1800 feet. This is where the serious sport fisherman can try their hand against the famed blue marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, bonito and dolphin (mahi-mahi).