June 4, 2023
The superbly scenic Scrub Island Resort and Marina, situated within the coronary heart of the British Virgin Islands.
Courtesy Scrub Island Resort

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Each sport has its hallowed floor, its must-see vacation spot. Lambeau. Wrigley. Augusta. Daytona. For blue marlin fishing, it’s the North Drop. This roughly 12-mile stretch of undulating Caribbean seabed—the place the east-to-west Puerto Rico Trench takes a 90-degree elbow to the north simply above the Virgin Islands—shortly earned a fame within the early days for providing probably the most constant blue marlin fishing this facet of the Panama Canal. Visiting boats made it an annual pilgrimage yearly, reliably returning to fish the times earlier than and after the complete moons from July by means of October.

Ask any passionate blue marlin ­fanatic—captain, angler or mate—about their favourite a part of the sport, and practically each one in all them will say it’s the chunk. For causes identified solely to the fish themselves, within the days ­main as much as the moon, the fish on the Drop appear to crash baits and teasers with an amplified fury and a reckless abandon that’s simply not persistently present in different locations. After the moon, they will flip a bit lazy, however when it’s on, it’s an unimaginable sight to witness. When the situations are proper, it’s a full-on omigod-there-he-is chunk.

A digital vector rendering of the British Virgin Islands.
Scrub Island provides good entry to the waters of the North Drop in addition to Anegada.

Within the Starting

As extra boats began touring overseas from the US, the fishery grew in reputation and led to the formation of the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin Match, the legendary Boy Scout. The primary occasion was held in 1972, organized by Chuck Senf, with none aside from Winthrop Rockefeller among the many early supporters. Jimmy Loveland, who had come to St. Thomas within the US Virgin Islands within the Nineteen Sixties, was Rockefeller’s captain through the 1974 match, they usually gained all of the marbles that yr. Loveland took over operating the match in 1980, and did so till the occasion’s ultimate yr in 2017 (he handed away in 2022). Participation ­numbers had been steadily on the decline over the past decade of the occasion, due partially to the rise of different outstanding fisheries within the Dominican Republic and on the deep seamounts off Costa Rica. The British Virgin Islands, in whose waters the North Drop is definitely situated, additionally asserted its management over visiting vessels, rightfully requiring them to examine into the BVI previous to fishing. For these and lots of different causes, the recognition of the Drop as a first-rate blue marlin hotspot waned.

Three men smiling and posing for a photo.
The Scrub Island Billfish Invitational series-winning workforce of Jorge Moore, boat proprietor Damon Chouest and Capt. Matt Coppoletta through the awards ­celebration.
Courtesy Out Your Entrance Door

The BVI is a calmer model of the USVI, extra like a laid-back yacht membership situated throughout the road from a rowdy school frat home. The Dutch settled the western finish of Tortola within the mid-Seventeenth century however had been changed by the British, who annexed the small archipelago in 1672. It wasn’t till the Nineteen Seventies that the BVI started to prosper as a yachting, vacationer and international-financing heart. At this time, solely about half the 50 islands, islets and cays are inhabited. Tortola is the most important of those islands and is the middle of the territory’s commerce and authorities, which is aware of the necessity to protect its pristine magnificence and marine ecosystems.

A New Growth Emerges

For years, the knock on the BVI was that there was no stable place for the ­sport-fishing fleet to name house. That modified for the higher when Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina opened in 2010, to finally change into probably the most luxurious non-public island resorts discovered anyplace on the planet. It’s the primary new marina growth within the BVI in additional than 15 years.

Maybe one of the best half? As they are saying in actual property: location, location, location. With quick access to the waters of the North Drop, in addition to the usually equally productive grounds situated off Anegada, it’s centrally situated with good entry to both. The marina provides 55 deepwater short- or long-term slips, together with 5 particularly for bigger yachts or mothership operations as much as 160 toes. Journey is straightforward as effectively as a result of the resort is inside a stone’s throw of the airport on close by Beef Island. A water taxi runs practically on a regular basis between the 2 islands, so it’s very straightforward to attach in from nearly anyplace. And whereas the resort brings in a gas barge through the tournaments, there’s a plan to put in everlasting gas on the marina, which might be one of many few remaining items of the puzzle but to unravel (at present the closest supply of gas is on Tortola).

Damon Chouest, a Louisiana native and proprietor of the 68-foot American Customized Yachts Mon Chari, is a kind of actually marlin-addicted personalities—calm and laid-back however all enterprise and completely zeroed-in on the sport when he’s within the cockpit as his workforce’s lead angler. I spoke to him because the boat was checking into the BVI in early November. His workforce was contemporary off a win within the inaugural Scrub Island Invitational Billfish Sequence earlier within the season, the place they swept each legs in addition to the highest angler trophy for Chouest. Now they had been on the hunt for his 2,two hundredth lifetime blue marlin, most likely one of many few anglers in sport fishing to realize such a exceptional profession milestone.

Two boats at the docks of a marina at Scrub Island.
An idyllic setting on the Scrub Island Resort and Marina.
Courtesy Out Your Entrance Door

“We love fishing the North Drop—and have for a very long time—for lots of causes, however principally it’s the constant chunk,” he says with out hesitation. “You can begin per week on the entrance facet of the [full] moon in August or September and fish by means of to some days after, and be fairly assured of excellent ­fishing.” The savagery of the chunk was one other field to examine. “We fish with all bait quite than lures, and the teaser bites are normally fairly wonderful to see.”

Chouest enjoys the family-friendly ­setting of the island as effectively. “You may convey the spouse and children alongside, and in the event that they don’t need to go fishing, they will discover across the island, go kayaking, or go to the Baths on Virgin Gorda,” he says. There are a number of choices for bars and eating simply steps off the docks, and the lodging are as luxurious as something within the Caribbean. Youngsters love ending the day watching the tarpon swim within the glow of the marina’s underwater lights.

Three workers holding up trays of cocktails in a marina.
A welcome joyful hour on the docks after a day chasing blue marlin on the North Drop.
Courtesy Out Your Entrance Door

From a captain’s perspective, Cory Gillespie is aware of the area effectively. Now operating the Lunatico operation for boat proprietor Lance Converse, he’s been on the Drop for a few years and remembers the glory days of the fishery: “It’s a spot that may spoil you, that’s for positive,” he says. “You may go 3-for-4 right here on some good aggressive fish, and it’s simply a mean day. The consistency is what retains us coming again.” He mentions that he additionally likes fishing construction, of which there’s loads alongside the various dips and cracks of the North Drop; the underwater ­panorama provides an skilled captain loads of room to maneuver, even with a diversified ­present, from the inshore edge to the deep facet and over to Anegada, which at instances, can ­produce stellar fishing in its personal proper.

Learn Subsequent: Study extra concerning the historical past of the Boy Scout match as a part of our “Ghosts of Tournaments Previous” right here.

He additionally notes the proximity to the ­airport and frequent water taxis as one other bonus for the house owners and crews flying out and in. “At Scrub, you’re principally 20 to 25 miles from among the finest blue marlin ­fishing on the planet,” he says. And since it’s been out of the highlight for a lot of seasons, it stays unpressured as effectively. Think about sharing a wide-open blue marlin chunk with only a handful of different boats throughout any given day, as an alternative of a fleet of fifty or extra. It’s the stuff desires are product of.

Two anglers high-fiving in the cockpit of a sport-fishing boat.
Chouest will get a well-deserved high-five from a fellow competitor as the highest angler for the collection.
Courtesy Out Your Entrance Door

Overcoming Hurdles

The elephant within the room has at all times been the issue of acquiring the proper permits and licensing to legally fish the waters of the BVI. The brand new administration, headed by Premier and Minister of Finance, the Honorable Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley, has made a powerful dedication to assist streamline that course of. Wheatley personally attended the 2022 Scrub Island Invitational, the place he was capable of meet and get to know most of the house owners and captains fishing the match. That face-to-face contact was a key step to gaining a greater understanding of what catch-and-release marlin fishing brings to the nation, in addition to the monetary affect that sport-­fishing tourism has on the host locations. As Gillespie says: “That type of private contact and communication is de facto necessary for each side to know one another, that we’re not piling up lifeless fish on the dock—or having a destructive affect on their fishery—and what we are able to convey to the desk. I felt that they had been pleasantly shocked to see how issues are performed as of late, and that actually helps us all.” Mon Chari was one other boat that was capable of obtain a multimonth allow to assist expedite the method of fishing right here, and whereas issues are sluggish to alter within the Caribbean, it does seem that it is a step in the appropriate path.

So, simply how good can the fishing on the North Drop be? Mon Chari gained the Scrub Island collection in 2022 with 17 blue marlin, one white marlin, three sailfish and one spearfish in six days of match fishing. Once they returned to Scrub Island in November, their first day again noticed Chouest’s workforce having an unimaginable day, going 9-for-9 on blue marlin (and noticed two extra), 2-for-2 on white marlin and 3-for-3 on sailfish. Whereas the document of 10 blues in at some point is one he shares with Sam Jennings, Capt. Mike Lemon and the Revenge workforce, he feels that this represents probably the most unimaginable days ever on the famed North Drop. On one memorable day in October, Gillespie and Converse went 9-for-12 on Lunatico, and positioned second within the Scrub Island collection. The fishing right here is at the least nearly as good—if not higher—than it’s ever been. And it’s prepared for a comeback.

A large blue marlin breaking the surface of the ocean.
The North Drop is well-known for its constant fishing and aggressive blue marlin through the full-moon intervals of summer season and fall.
Carol Lynne

Journey Ideas

Guests touring by air to the British Virgin Islands will normally arrive at Beef Island Airport (EIS), the place they will benefit from the tropical local weather of an unique vacation spot that’s nonetheless only a comparatively brief flight from the USA. The US greenback is the official foreign money within the BVI, and bank cards are extensively accepted. The water is crystal-clear; the snorkeling and diving are world-class. Probably the most well-liked spots within the BVI are the Baths, situated a few mile south of Spanish City on the southern tip of Virgin Gorda between Spring Bay and Satan’s Bay. That is an space of distinctive geologic formations, with enormous granite boulders forming pure tidal swimming pools, tunnels, arches, and scenic grottoes which might be open to the ocean. You may channel your inside Capt. Jack Sparrow with a go to to the Callwood Rum Distillery on Tortola—in manufacturing for greater than 200 years, it’s one of many oldest constantly working small-batch distilleries within the Caribbean. Or head to the Soggy Greenback Bar on Jost Van Dyke for an authentic Painkiller, a concoction of darkish rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juice topped with freshly grated Grenadian nutmeg that’s the essence of the Caribbean at its most interesting.

A sport-fishing boat cruising across the waters.
A family-friendly setting and wonderful blue marlin fishing are logos of this area.
Courtesy Out Your Entrance Door

Save the Dates

The 2 tournaments of the Scrub Island Invitational Billfish Sequence will happen August 27-31 and August 31-September 4. Groups should obtain an invite from the match to take part, and match boats are required to remain at Scrub Island Resort and Marina or an alternate BVI location. As soon as once more, the collection can have a authorities liaison in place to help visiting groups with their licenses and permits.