Virgin Islands: Fishing Guide

Various world records in fishing have been set in the Virgin Islands including the still-standing IGFA Women’s ‘All-Tackle’ world record for blue marlin; a 1073 pounder reeled in by Annette Maudi Dallimor on July 6, 1982. These historic catches, some 21 records over the years, are a testament to the great fishing opportunities that exist in the Virgin Islands for anglers of all ages and experience levels.

You will find general information about fishing grounds in the Virgin Islands, fish species, tournaments and fishing clubs in this section. For fishing charters and trips please select the island you will be vacationing on: St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John.

Fishing Grounds

The Virgin Islands are perched at the edge of the six mile deep Puerto Rico Trench, an area known for having some of the hardiest game fish in the world. Two well known fishing areas off of St. Thomas are the North Drop, about 20 miles north of St. Thomas; and the South Drop, 8 miles south of St. Thomas. St. Croix is surrounded by a drop which is .5 to 4 miles north or south. Migrating schools of small fish gather in these areas, and this attracts larger pelagics such as billfish, Tuna, Wahoo and Dolphin fish (Mahi-Mahi). “Working the drop” consists of trolling back and forth across the 50-100 fathom depth contour.

Classic flats fishing are a rarity in the Virgin Islands; though exceptions such as the Leinster Bay area on St. John do exist. On St. Croix, which has a narrow under-water shelf off its shores; fishing from small boats very close to the shoreline can be very rewarding. Some recreational fishers have success fishing from shore despite difficulties due to windy conditions, deep drop offs and coral snags.

Offshore Game Fishing

Offshore game fish include Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna and Wahoo among others. Most of these game fish strike with little warning and they are all known to give quite a fight. Marlin will fight for hours and are said to become more aggressive the week before and after the full moon. Tuna are also strong fish. Wahoo are known to attack bait ferociously and then swim away from the boat; they can race up to 50 miles an hour!

Atlantic Blue MarlinSTT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off, FADsAll year, best May-OctoberLures, Ballyhoo, Belly strips, Mackerel
White MarlinSTT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off, FADsAll year, best April-MayLures, Ballyhoo, Bellystrips
SailfishSTT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop offOctober-MarchLures, Ballyhoo, Bellystrips
Yellowfin TunaSTT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off and all shelf areas, FADsAugust – FebruaryLures, Ballyhoo Feathers
Blackfin Tunashelf areas on all islands, FADsAll YearLures, Feathers
Skipjack Tunashelf areas on all islands, FADsAll YearLures, Ballyhoo
Dolphin Fish (mahi-mahi)STT North & South Drop, shelf areas on all islands, FADsOctober-January (peak season) May, JulyLures, Ballyhoo, Flying Fish
Wahooshelf areas on all islands, FADsAll year, best September-MayLures, Ballyhoo

Inshore Game Fishing

Inshore game fishing is the mainstay of recreational fishing for visitors and residents alike and is a tradition in the Virgin Islands. Inshore game fish include Barracuda, Bonefish, Kingfish, Mackerel, Snook and Tarpon. Methods for inshore fishing include fly rod, top water bait and trolling. Bonefish are a bit trickier to catch as they hide around corals making for an easy snag of your hook/line.

Bonito (Little Tunny)most inshore areas, drop-offs and around schools of bait fishAll year, best January-MayFry, feathers
Barracudareef & bank areasAll YearLures, spoons, ballyhoo
Hardnosemost inshore areas and around schools of bait fish and FADsApril-SeptemberFry, small feathers
Bar Jackmost inshore areas and around schools of bait fishAll YearFry, squid, ballyhoo, feathers
Crevalle JackSTX 100 Fathom drop off, most inshore areas and around schools of bait fishAll YearFry, squid
Rainbow RunnerSTT North and South Drops, reefs & banks, FADsApril – SeptemberFry, squid, ballyhoo, feathers
Yellowtail Snappernear reefs & bank areasAll YearFry, cut bait
Kingfishreefs, most mid-shelf areas and drop-offsAll year, best February-MayBallyhoo, fry, skirts
CeroNear shore, reefsAll YearLures, feathers, fry, ballyhoo

The primary target of shallow water fishing and flat fishing in the Virgin Islands include Barracuda, Jacks and Permit. Bonefish and Tarpon are also popular catches in shallow waters, but they are catch and release only. Snook are caught occasionally.

Bonefishnear shore, shallow areas, sea grass & sand flats, bays, mangrove lagoonsAll year, best late March- SeptemberLive shrimp, small jigs often baited with shrimp or crabSmall flies tied to imitate shrimp, crabs
Permitshallow sea grass & sand flats, bays, lagoons, back reefsAll year, best April-OctoberSmall live crabs, pieces of crab, small sea urchinsCrab patterns
Tarponmangrove lagoons, bays, harbors, deeper water adjacent to shallow flats, around offshore caysAll year, best March-OctoberSilver spoons, white jigs, live bait fishLarge streamers, various ‘tarpon’ flies
Barracudaaround reefs, channels adjacent to shallow water, mangrove lagoons and baysAll YearLive fish, bait fish imitations, silver spoons, feathersBait fish imitations, needlefish imitations
Jacksaround reefs, channels adjacent to shallow water, mangrove lagoons and bays, back reef flatsAll YearSquid, shrimp, cut bait, small spoons, spinners, jigsSmall streamers, shrimp imitations
Snookmangrove lagoons, bays, harbors, along beaches with sharp drop-offs and submerged structuresAll YearLive shrimp, small fish, bait fish imitation lures, jigsBait fish imitations
Mahogany Snapperaround reefs, channels, adjacent to shallow waterAll YearBatifish, squid, fry


Fishing in the U.S. Virgin Islands is regulated by both territorial and federal restrictions regarding fishing licenses, protected areas where fishing is limited or not allowed, protected species, size restrictions, catch restrictions and other rules that seek to manage fisheries and protect their sustainability. Visit Recreational Fishing Regulations for more information.

Fishing Events

Avid fishers take note; there are several fishing tournaments in the Virgin Islands throughout the year! Come join in the fun as a spectator or as a participant!


Couples Tournament (February)
Dolphin Derby (April)
Memorial Day (May)
July Open Kids Tournament (July)
July Open Marlin Tournament (July)
Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament (July)
USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament (August)
Wahoo Windup (November)

Golden Hook Challenge (February)
Dolphin Tournament (March)
Guy/Gal Reel Challenge (September)
Wahoooo Tournament (November)

Fishing Clubs

The Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club (VIGFC) on St. Thomas and the Golden Hook Fishing Club on St. Croix, are active clubs that schedule annual fishing events and tournaments. Many of the members are distinguished anglers, having set world records.

Note Information for this section was provided in part by Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Division of Fish and Wildlife.

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