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How’s the flats fishing in the Virgin Islands

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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One of the most frequent questions visiting anglers ask is “How’s the flats fishing in the Virgin Islands?”

Most fisherman envision miles of pristine sandy flats teaming with bonefish, permit, and other game fish. While we don’t have miles of super shallow water like the Bahamas, the entire Caribbean from St. Thomas down island to Trinidad have excellent flats fishing.

The thing to remember is that a fish could care less if they are in 2 or 20 feet of water as long as there is sufficient forage and access to deep water is nearby.

Take a look at any navigation chart of the Caribbean and you will see we are blessed with flats. The thing that you have to get past as a fisherman is that these “flats” are not going to be those classic shallow wading areas. Lets use figure 1 below to examine areas that are likely to hold fish. Most fisherman looking for “flats” would immediately head straight for point A and B as the most likely places to start. This is the very reason that areas are often some of the lowest percentage fishing areas due to the fishing pressure they can receive.

Now lets take a look at area C. It is bounded on all sides by water over 20 feet deep, but has a long spine that is much shallower than the adjacent water. In most cases you will find that the bottom composition in these areas will be sand and turtle grass which is exactly what we are looking for. Area D is similar but has a gentle contour and is a good bet for early and late in the day. Area E may hold the most potential for a wide variety for species. Access to deep water and two distinct points make this area the “spot on the spot”. I’ve seen areas like this hold everything from trophy bonefish, huge permit, barracuda, and the occasional trophy dorado.

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flats fishing in the virgin islands - Between the Boat and the Cuda - 1972 - by Stanley Meltzoff
Between the Boat and the Cuda – 1972 – by Stanley Meltzoff

Now that you have an idea of what bottom structure to look for, we need to discuss presentation.

These areas can vary in size tremendously, but the key to fishing them is careful presentation. During the low light periods of the day the fish will be right on top feeding and will move deeper during the middle of the day. Regardless of the time of day, this is casting water. You need a quiet stealthy approach which definitely leaves trolling out, and the water is usually very clear making it just that much tougher. During low light hours top water baits like zara spooks are hard to beat especially for the exciting strikes they produce. The most consistent lure for these areas is a jig tipped with live bait or grub body of some type. A jig allows you to cover lots of water effectively and just about everything that swims will eat it. As the day progresses you will want to move off the top of the flat and fish the edges. The key to fishing the edges is to cast out over the deeper water rather than tying to work closer to the bottom. You will discover that many of the strikes you get will come from fish that were suspended a considerable distance from the edge of the structure. This presentation method often results in bonus fish like dorado, mackerel, jacks, and a host of others. On your next trip take the time to locate some of these small areas and you will be rewarded with some fantastic fishing..

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So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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