Can I fish from my sailboat in the BVI?

Absolutely, you can fish from your sailboat in the British Virgin Islands. It’s a great activity to do while sailing from island to island and, if you are lucky, you might have fresh fish for dinner.
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License

You can apply for a fishing license via email. You can download the form form from BVI Tourist Board. There’s an email address on that page where you can email the completed form. A license cost $45.

Apply at least two weeks before your departure date.

Gear

You’ll want a traveling rod, 40 pound test and the right set of lures.

For example:

There’s more information about what to take in our post on fishing gear.

Where to fish

You can fish any where you go, as you never know exactly where you’ll run into fish. Some say if you watch the birds, you’ll find the fish.

If you are serious about fishing, the best game fish are found near the ocean drops, where the ocean drops from 100 feet to 250 feet and more.

The North Drop is an all day trip and not something most charter sailors do. However, the South Drop is easily accessible. If you are doing the typical counter clockwise trip, when you leave Norman, head south until you hit the drop and then follow the drop along until you get to Cooper.

When you get the drop, zig zag across it. It should be pretty obvious on your depth finder when you cross the drop. You’ll go from 100 feet to “blinking”, as most of the depth finders on the charter sailboats can’t register that depth.

What to fish for

You’ll be looking for tuna, mahi-mahi, bonita and wahoo.

Because of the danger of Ciguatera poisoning, you should not eat fish that feed on reefs or that feed on reef fish such as barracuda, grouper, eels, snapper, triggerfish, parrotfish or amberjack. Ciguatera is a poisoning caused by ingesting fish contaminated with ciguatoxin – it’ll give you gastrointestinal and neurological problems. Not fun on vacation! For more information see the BVI Conservation and Fisheries Department page.

Sailing while fishing

When you are fishing, you will most likely need to “STOP” when you catch a fish. Be sure whomever is sailing the boat is prepared for that. Heaving to is a good way to stop quickly.

You may want to motor if you are fishing the South Drop. Depending on how much help you have, fishing, pulling in fish and lots of tacking may be hard to do all at once.

Can you eat the fish?

Absolutely. You can eat your fish on the boat. (Keep in mind that to avoid Ciguatera, avoid the reef fish and the fish that eat reef fish.) We usually fillet ours, season it with spices or with onions and capers, and then wrap it up in the tinfoil and cook it on the grill.

Good luck fishing!