The US Virgin Islands Best Guide

Virgin Islands: Fishing Guide

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 Marlin STT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off, FADs All year, best May-October Lures, Ballyhoo, Belly strips, Mackerel
White Marlin STT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off, FADs All year, best April-May Lures, Ballyhoo, Bellystrips
Sailfish STT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off October-March Lures, Ballyhoo, Bellystrips
Yellowfin Tuna STT North & South Drop, STX 100 Fathom drop off and all shelf areas, FADs August – February Lures, Ballyhoo Feathers
Blackfin Tuna shelf areas on all islands, FADs All Year Lures, Feathers
Skipjack Tuna shelf areas on all islands, FADs All Year Lures, Ballyhoo
Dolphin Fish (mahi-mahi) STT North & South Drop, shelf areas on all islands, FADs October-January (peak season) May, July Lures, Ballyhoo, Flying Fish
Wahoo shelf areas on all islands, FADs All year, best September-May Lures, 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 fish All year, best January-May Fry, feathers
Barracuda reef & bank areas All Year Lures, spoons, ballyhoo
Hardnose most inshore areas and around schools of bait fish and FADs April-September Fry, small feathers
Bar Jack most inshore areas and around schools of bait fish All Year Fry, squid, ballyhoo, feathers
Crevalle Jack STX 100 Fathom drop off, most inshore areas and around schools of bait fish All Year Fry, squid
Rainbow Runner STT North and South Drops, reefs & banks, FADs April – September Fry, squid, ballyhoo, feathers
Yellowtail Snapper near reefs & bank areas All Year Fry, cut bait
Kingfish reefs, most mid-shelf areas and drop-offs All year, best February-May Ballyhoo, fry, skirts
Cero Near shore, reefs All Year Lures, 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.

Bonefish near shore, shallow areas, sea grass & sand flats, bays, mangrove lagoons All year, best late March- September Live shrimp, small jigs often baited with shrimp or crab Small flies tied to imitate shrimp, crabs
Permit shallow sea grass & sand flats, bays, lagoons, back reefs All year, best April-October Small live crabs, pieces of crab, small sea urchins Crab patterns
Tarpon mangrove lagoons, bays, harbors, deeper water adjacent to shallow flats, around offshore cays All year, best March-October Silver spoons, white jigs, live bait fish Large streamers, various ‘tarpon’ flies
Barracuda around reefs, channels adjacent to shallow water, mangrove lagoons and bays All Year Live fish, bait fish imitations, silver spoons, feathers Bait fish imitations, needlefish imitations
Jacks around reefs, channels adjacent to shallow water, mangrove lagoons and bays, back reef flats All Year Squid, shrimp, cut bait, small spoons, spinners, jigs Small streamers, shrimp imitations
Snook mangrove lagoons, bays, harbors, along beaches with sharp drop-offs and submerged structures All Year Live shrimp, small fish, bait fish imitation lures, jigs Bait fish imitations
Mahogany Snapper around reefs, channels, adjacent to shallow water All Year Batifish, 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.

Virgin Islands Books & Maps