Saint Lucia, the largest of the English-speaking Windward Islands, has endured a colorful past, with conflicts (originally between the Arawak and Carib Indians and followed by Spanish, Dutch and English settlers) dominating its history. With the boom of the sugar industry, the French and English fought for possession of the island, each winning and losing many times, but in the end, it was the British who took permanent control in 1814, and the island has remained a member of the Commonwealth ever since.
While sugar no longer rules Saint Lucia’s economy, the island has emerged as one of the largest banana exporters in the Caribbean. Behind bananas, tourism makes up the second largest percentage of the country’s economy. With its consistent tropical climate and cooling trade winds, Saint Lucia makes for an ideal year-round vacation and fishing spot. Even though the island measures just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, it boasts — unlike most Caribbean islands -— many diverse landscapes, including mountains, rain forests and numerous white sand beaches.
After a brief stop in Saint Lucia many years ago, we opted to spend a little more time there when I was running Stalker and do a bit of exploratory marlin fishing. Visiting boats have two options for marinas. The larger of the two is located in Rodney Bay, and it’s an IGY full-service marina with a boatyard and a haul-out travel lift that can handle up to 75 tons. As an added bonus, the marina also has 60-cycle electricity at select docks, a nice touch for American boats, since most of the islands in the area are on European 50-cycle service. You can also make customs entry in the marina and resupply your boat with groceries and maintenance items not far from the marina. On our trip, we decided to stop in Marigot Bay and tie up at the Marina Village. Marigot Bay is smaller then Rodney Bay but prettier and more relaxed. You can make your clearance in this port, as well, and have the option to stock up on limited food supplies. They also have 60-cycle power available for a few slips, but it’s best to call ahead to reserve a spot.
Saint Lucia Sights
As we do in a lot of spots, we hired a guide/driver to shepherd us around the island for the week. Through our knowledgeable guide, we quickly learned that in addition to the islands’s great marlin fishing, we had an endless list of spots to check out while we weren’t on the water. It’s hard to beat the beauty of the island’s famous Pitons: rock formations that jut up 2,619 feet into the sky with cobalt blue Caribbean waters as their background. You can get a tour guide to help you hike up a steep trail to get a great view of the incredible formations, but if you’d rather take a more leisurely approach, you can hike up by way of the Tet Paul Nature Trail. This trail is situated on 6 acres in the lush farming community known as Chateau Belair in the Piton Management Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The trail is rated easy to moderate, and hiking up it takes about 45 minutes. The trail boasts some of the most spectacular views of the southern end of the island, including Jalousie Bay, Petit Piton and Gros Piton, as well as Martinique and St. Vincent on a clear day.
Another memorable side trip we took was to the volcano known as Sulphur Springs, which formed more than 400,000 years ago after a large eruption. It is the world’s only drive-through volcano. Once you drive in, you can get within a few hundred feet of the center of the crater. At the center, spring water boils up at almost 340 degrees, creating large plums of pungent sulfur steam — an awesome sight with a not-so-awesome smell.
Saint Lucia Botanical Gardens, also known as Diamond Botanical Gardens and Estate, is the home of Diamond Waterfall and is the oldest botanical garden on the island. The same sulfur spring waters from the volcano run through the gardens. These waters feed baths on Diamond Estate, originally built in 1784 so that King Louis XVI of France’s troops could take advantage of the therapeutic waters. We toured the gardens after our hike up the Tet Nature Trail to see the Pitons. Walking under its lush rainforest-like canopy was a nice way to cool off and relax while enjoying the flora and fauna.
In case you didn’t know, Saint Lucia has also become a world leader in chocolate. Hotel Chocolat Boucan, a boutique hotel, spa and restaurant, is nestled in a beautiful manicured cocoa grove not far from the Pitons. The restaurant serves an exclusive cacao cuisine and has a spectacular setting, making it one of Saint Lucia’s most popular foodie destinations.
Billfish Nitty Gritty
Because of the tropical climate, anglers can fish Saint Lucia 365 days a year. One of the unique aspects of the island as it relates to fishing is that most of the target species are caught within just two miles of most of the island’s harbors because of the sharp drop-off and deep waters that surround the island.
In general, the waters in between the northern tip of Saint Lucia and southern end of Martinique see the best blue-marlin fishing. But in the south, the government has added a number of fish-attracting devices about 10 miles offshore that see good numbers of blues as well.
The consensus coming from local fisherman was that blue marlin could be caught all year, but the biggest numbers of fish show between October and August. On our most recent trip, we raised some blues and even caught a few, and although the numbers weren’t staggering, we felt we had a very realistic chance of catching one every time out. Anglers shouldn’t rule out multiple fish days in Saint Lucian waters either. During the spring a couple of years back, Capt. Tim Richardson ran the private boat Ambush to the island and went 10 for 14 on the FADs.
As is the case with most billfish destinations, dorado, yellowfin tuna and wahoo make occasional appearances in a properly trolled spread, especially from December through June. Bigeye tuna also show up between March and May and then again from October through December. If you’d like to fish Saint Lucia but don’t want to run your boat there, don’t worry, flights from the East Coast are frequent, and finding a charter boat to take you to the marlin grounds is easy as well. All in all, Saint Lucia provides a perfect midwinter getaway that provides excellent onshore amenities and activities while offering a very real shot at a blue marlin every month of the year.
American Airlines, Delta and Jet Blue all offer service to Saint Lucia, with just a two-hour flight from Miami to Castries in Saint Lucia. Good resorts and restaurants aren’t too hard to find in Saint Lucia, but the list below offers some spots we particularly enjoyed or found helpful during our Saint Lucian exploration.