World-class facilities combined with world-record fishing grounds are what sports fishermen can expect in Red Hook, St. Thomas. Over the last half century, this settlement on the far eastern end of the island has grown from a quiet bay where pioneering Capt. Johnny Harms first built a simple marina, to home of the full-service 126-slip IGY American Yacht Harbor (AYH) marina.
“American Yacht Harbor is the closest marina to the famed ‘North Drop’, which is where some of the world’s largest marlin swim,” explains Lee Hicks, AYH’s current general manager and former dockmaster at Yacht Haven Grand Marina and licensed USCG Master Captain. There’s also year-round fishing here to the north in the Atlantic and south in the Caribbean Sea.”
In addition, the American Yacht Harbor complex houses everything an angler, captain or crew could need. There’s Neptune Fishing, the only bait and tackle store on the island; Island Marine Outfitters ships store; a PADI dive center; captain’s school, for all USCG licenses and endorsements; shops; boat rentals; sailing and fishing charters; and nine bars and restaurants. Across the street from American Yacht Harbor are even more bars and restaurants, plus banks, a pharmacy, mail service, walk-in medical services, and much more.
The ‘North Drop’, located about an hour or 30-mile run from American Yacht Harbor’s docks, is one of the most productive sports fishing holes in the world. There’s been nearly 30 world-record catches here, including over a dozen for blue marlin alone. The first was an 814-pound blue marlin caught by John Battles on July 26, 1964. Battles all-tackle record was broadcast on radio and across the Associated Press wire to newspapers nation and worldwide. Then, nearly four years later, Elliot Fishman brought even more national attention to the Virgin Islands with his world record catch of an 845-pound blue marlin, a catch he made during the first day of the July Open Tournament. But, beating them all was Larry Martin’s mammoth 1282-pound blue marlin caught on August 6, 1977.
Since this time, three more one-thousand pound blue marlin have been caught in Virgin Island waters. The next was on July 8, 1980 when Captain Spike Herbert’s charter client Herbert Willog on Caribbean Soul hooked up a 1,194 pound blue marlin. Then on July 6, 1982 angler Maudie Lopez on Prowess caught a 1,073 pound blue marlin. This record still stands and visitors can see an exact replica of Lopez’ fish at the head of American Yacht Harbor’s ‘A’ dock. And finally, a 1,004-pound blue marlin was caught on Lethal Weapon on October 3, 1988.
Catch an IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) all-tackle record blue marlin – that means a fish what weighs more than the current record of 1,402 pounds 2 ounces caught in 1992 off Brazil or a dolphinfish over 87 pounds – and pocket $1 million. IGY Marinas has launched its first Million Dollar Sportfish Challenge and American Yacht Harbor is understandably one of the six marinas in IGY’s network that is participating in this contest. To win, anglers must reel in their record catch between now and October 31, 2013, have a signed berth agreement with AYH for three months or more with a maximum of two anglers per berthing agreement, and have the winning catch certified by the IFGA.
Right before and after the full moon are the most productive fishing days for blue marlin in Virgin Islands waters. That’s why major tournaments are held during this time. American Yacht Harbor plays host to the July Open Billfish Tournament, which will take place July 19 to 21; Virgin Island Billfish Tournament for Haiti, set for August 14 to 15; and the USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin or ‘Boy Scout’ Tournament (ABMT), August 16 to 22. Historically, the September and October full moons have also been some of the most productive for blue marlin. Today, except for the possibility of an all-tackle world record, all Virgin Islands tournament are conservation-oriented meaning the angler or boat to catch and release the most blue marlin first wins. The wahoo and dolphinfish bite are year-round, however fall through spring are the hottest months for these species.
New this summer, American Yacht Harbor will play an integral role in the inaugural Marlin Fest. Marlin Fest is a week of fun packaged vacation activities planned at the same time as the ABMT. American Yacht Harbor is the host marina for the tournament and will participate in a special Marlin Fest event August 17, where there will be food, music, arts and crafts, and wine tasting.