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Early Summer Fishing Report

Inshore Fishing Summary:

May and June have continued to produce fantastic results for Tarpon, Snook, and Bonefish. In the first week of June, a strong Southwind has brought in the first significant arrival of Sargassum Mats to the Southshore. Sargassum Mats, while an eye-sore, bring in sargassum crabs, baitfish, and a significant amount of micronutrients. Due to St. Croix’s remote status and deep water offshore trenches, Sargassum is one the biggest supplier of new nutrients to the Island! Tarpon, Snook, and even Bonefish will actively patrol the edges of these Mats feeding on the sargassum crabs and smaller baitfish. Add in Pelican or Turn activity and there’s almost a gurantee you’ll find a school of Tarpon or other Gamefish feeding. Additionally, as the sargassum breaks down, the oxygen levels in the water reduce, this forces Tarpon to Roll (the activity of coming to the surface and gulping oxygen). Keeping your gaze on the edges of the Sargassum Mats will give you a great insight into what might be feeding.



The below shows the size range of the Silver Kings we hooked into in April:


Tarpon: 10 - 70lbs


Bonefish: 3 - 7.5lbs


Snook: 22” - 40"


Permit: 10-15lbs



Trending Species of the Month


TARPON


Beach Fishing has been producing the largest Tarpon, as we’ve found schools of over 300 individuals feeding for hours at a time. These beach Tarpon are often quality fish ranging from 15 - 65lbs, with the average individual around 25-30lbs. This presents an incredible opportunity for hooking multiple Tarpon in a short amount of time as you may see a dozen tails cruising the Sargassum line. Keeping your fly line or lures from tangling in the Sargassum is a major challenge, but even just a few perfect casts will lead to results! On the Flats, Tarpon are still around but in lesser numbers than to start the year.


Conversation Pro Tip:

When using bait, you’ll often not have to wait long, but be sure to use a 4/0 Inline Circle Hook (non-offset) to ensure you don’t Gut hook these fish. Circle hooks do not require you to set the hook. Simply let the fish take the bait and once it’s running with the bait, start to smoothly yet quickly reel to put tension on the fish. The Circle Hook will almost always set in the Tarpons mouth and be easy to remove upon landing the fish. Tarpon are one of the oldest growing of all fish with a lifespan of nearly 80years! As such, replacing quality fish takes decades, which is why proper handling techniques are key to ensure a healthy population!


Learn more about proper handling techniques and tricks, designed by BTT marine scientists: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/education-outreach-tarpon-catch-release/








Honorable Mention:


Snook


The Snook bite has surprisingly picked up again on the Flats and along the Shorelines in May and June. When the Tarpon on the the Flats are fewer, the Snook take over as the Apex predator. St. Croix’s Snook Fishery is unique in that it is extremely unpredictable and there seems to be a lack of sub 20” snook, or at least we’ve never caught one that small. More typical of St. Croix, is to hook into a drag screaming, tail thrashing menace in the 30” - 40” range. A pattern we’ve notice is that Northshore snook (and even Bonefish) seem to be a bit smaller than their South or Westshore counterparts. Northshore snook have been coming in between 22” - 32” in May & June. On the Southshore, we often find snook north of the 30” mark and weighing up to 20lbs! Larger Baits and Flies seem to be what these fish prefer, going after less, but more substantial meals. They love dirty water (irish chocolate milk or tannic brown are their favorites, see photos below) and like Tarpon, they are able to handle very low oxygen levels. Occasionally they’ll show their electric Yellow tails as they cruise the Shore or Flats. If you find one, they often will have a few buddies cruising around nearby.


Conservation Pro Tip:


While there are no regulations governing Snook in the USVIs (mostly due to a lack of awareness), we would strongly ask anglers looking to catch and cook to focus on Yellow Jack and Snappers as their populations are much healthier than the Snook population. A lack of Snook in Salt River and Altoona Lagoon, does not bode well for their future, as these areas are normally used by juvenile snook (10” - 25”) as a nursery. One issue that is unique to Snook conservation is that they are hermaphrodites, meaning they will begin their lives as males and between the 20” - 30” mark they will start to switch over to become females. A healthy fishery thus requires both small and large Snook. The smaller males to fertilize the eggs, and the larger females to use their larger body cavities to carry more offspring and thus increase the species chance of survival.


If you do decide to take a Snook, we’d recommend taking fish between 24” - 30” as the Fishery needs both those 30”+ Females, and those smaller males. Hooking a Crucian Snook, however, may change your mind about keeping it as they are lb for lb one of the strongest gamefish in the Tropics, and very often overfished to the brink like they have been in Salt River Bay and in the expansive lagoons of San Juan on our northern neighbor of Puerto Rico.






Fly Pattern of the Month:

This month we’re giving the title to EP Minnow in black and purple. A wider profile bait, it can be a bit trickier to cast in high winds, but those casts that you do land nicely will produce results! Sizes from 2.5” to 4” are what works best on St. Croix


Lure of the Month:

This month we’re giving it to the 4 3/4” Yo-Zuri 3D Twitchbait in Bone color. A Snook, big Mutton Snapper, and Tarpon killer, this lure can cast a country mile and works just under the surface reducing snags and allowing for some incredible, topwater-esque, bites! We recommend switching out the treble hooks with VMC 4/0 Inline Hooks to improve fishability around mangroves, structure, and sargassum. Treble hooks are an angler’s worst nightmare when fishing near snagable things.

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