2009 Billfisheries of the Year – #3…St. Thomas

The Billfish Report is counting down the top billfisheries of 2009 – and coming in at #3 is St. Thomas.

Blue marlin released on the Marlin Prince in St. Thomas this year

The blue marlin season – the highlight of the St. Thomas fishing calendar – runs from May through October.  What’s unique about this fishery is bite’s correlation to moon phase: no other billfishery on earth sees such connection between the moon and the bite, and in St. Thomas it’s all about the full moon, typically a week before and a week after.  So given that dynamic boats need to concentrate a lot of fishing in a relatively short period of time – and in 2009 there were a LOT of blues to be had around the full moon, especially later in the season.

Here’s how the season shaped up…

It all started innocently with the May moon, with boats seeing a typical bite for that time of year.  June kicked into a bit higher gear right at the first of the month with boats seeing between one and four blues a day, with a few fish of size, up to 500 pounds.

The July moon saw an even better bite, with boats boasting multiple releases per day.  The waxing moon saw greater numbers – boats seeing up to six or seven shots a day at blue marlin (e.g., the Revenge released 12 blues in eight days), and the waning moon saw much greater size (the July Open saw two fish in the 1,000-pound range, and the Omi Gosh claimed a 1,200-pounder on July 9).

The August moon is where the fishery started to go off.  Boats were seeing multiple huge fish – double-digit shots per day – and it wasn’t unusual to see six, seven, eight blues released on given days, with some girth to some of the releases.  The legendary Boy Scout tournament had 35 boats releasing 158 blues in three days – some stunning numbers.

But the August moon was only a warmup to the September full moon, (September 4), which saw billfishing that was almost unmatched in the world this year.  On September 1 alone, 14 boats raised 140 fish, releasing 52 blue marlin…which was similar to the several days before and after.  Boats were at times releasing double-digit blues – for example, on September 2 the Revenge went 10-10…one of the best days of fishing we saw this year.  Boats were even catching slams – for example, on 9/1 the Therapy got a blue/sail/white grand slam.

And the bite was back on for the October moon, with boats hooking as many as 10 fish a day and releasing as many as seven or eight.  Some big girls made some appearances as well – the Reel Tight released an 800-pounder on 9/29.  And if that wasn’t enough, boats were still seeing numerous blues on the November moon – one boat, the Freedom had a 7 for 11 day in late October!

So St Thomas is the Billfish Report’s #3 Billfishery of the Year, with good reason.  Stay tuned for #2, coming next week.  Happy New Year!

About John

John Harmeling is the co-founder of billfishreport.com and granderwatch.com. Having traveled to and fished the major billfisheries across the globe, he counts Kona and Cairns as his favorites, and the black marlin to be the ocean's supreme pelagic specimen. He believes the very best and most enjoyable place to find tuna is in a marlin's stomach.

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