Next up: Scrub Island Billfish Series

Returning once again to the hallowed grounds of the North Drop
A sport-fishing boat cruising on the water around Scrub Island.
Lunatico heads out for a day of blue marlin action on the North Drop. Courtesy Scrub Island Billfish Series / Out Your Front Door

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Forget about big crowds on the rip or at the fuel dock, or doing endless figure eights around an undersea FAD for hours on end. If you’re looking for a high-end boutique tournament that’s held in one of the world’s most luxurious island resorts and fished in some of the Caribbean’s most famed hunting grounds for blue marlin, then you need to check out the Scrub Island Billfish Series.

What makes this event so special? First and foremost is the fishing, which takes place on the North Drop. This roughly 12-mile stretch of undulating Caribbean seabed—where the east-to-west Puerto Rico Trench takes a 90-degree elbow to the north just above the Virgin Islands—quickly earned a reputation for offering the most consistent blue marlin fishing this side of the Panama Canal. Visiting boats make it an annual pilgrimage every year, returning to fish the consistently good days before and after the full moons from July through October. Aside from the consistency, the blue marlin on the Drop just seem to be more aggressive than usual, crashing baits and teasers with an amplified fury and a reckless abandon that’s just not found in other destinations. Many teams take advantage of that, pitch-baiting the majority of their fish just a few feet from the transom. Not only is it more exciting for the angler and crew, but the bite-to-release ratios also go through the roof when using circle hooks with dead bait, compared with an equal number of bites on lures with standard J hooks.

Aerial view of Scrub Island Resort & Marina.
The marina at Scrub Island. Courtesy Scrub Island Billfish Series / Out Your Front Door

Luxury Awaits

Although it wasn’t until the 1970s that the British Virgin Islands began to prosper as a yachting, tourist and international finance center, even today only about half the 50 islands, islets and cays are inhabited. Tortola is the largest of these islands and is the center of the territory’s commerce and government, and it serves as the primary travel hub as well. In 2010, the Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina opened its doors to the world, to eventually become one of the most luxurious private island resorts found anywhere. It’s the first new marina development in the BVI in more than 15 years.

Scrub Island offers easy access to the waters of the North Drop, as well as the often equally productive grounds located off Anegada. The marina offers 55 short- or long-term slips, including five specifically for larger yachts or mothership operations up to 160 feet. Travel is easy as well because the resort is within a stone’s throw of the airport on Tortola. A water taxi runs nearly all the time between the two islands, so it’s very easy to connect in from just about anywhere. And for 2024 there is now fuel available at Scrub Island as well, solving the last piece of the puzzle that was ­previously missing.

Damon Chouest, owner of the 68-foot American Custom Yachts Mon Chari, is a past winner of the two-tournament Scrub Island Billfish Series and has been fishing the waters here for decades. “We love fishing the North Drop—and have for a long time—for a lot of reasons, but mostly it’s the consistent bite,” he says without hesitation. “You can start a week on the front side of the [full] moon in August or September and fish through to a few days after, and be pretty confident of good fishing.” The savagery of the bite was another box to check. “We fish with all bait rather than lures, and the teaser bites are usually pretty amazing to see.”

A large blue marlin pulled boatside.
A blue marlin at boatside, ready for release. Justin Roper

Chouest enjoys the family-friendly environment of the island as well. “You can bring the wife and kids along, and if they don’t want to go fishing, they can explore around the island, go kayaking or visit the Baths on Virgin Gorda,” he says. There are several options for bars and dining just steps off the docks, and the accommodations are as luxurious as anything in the Caribbean.” He also notes the proximity to the airport and frequent water taxis as another bonus for the owners and crews flying in and out. “At Scrub, you’re basically 20 to 25 miles from some of the best blue marlin fishing in the world,” he says. And because it’s been out of the spotlight for many seasons, it remains unpressured as well. Imagine sharing a wide-open blue marlin bite with just a handful of other boats during any given day, instead of a fleet of 50 or more. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

So, just how good can the fishing on the North Drop be? When the Mon Chari team won the Scrub Island series in 2022, they released 17 blue marlin, one white marlin, three sailfish and one spearfish in six days of tournament fishing. When they returned to Scrub Island in November, their first day back saw Chouest’s team having an incredible day, going 9 for 9 on blue marlin (and saw two more), 2 for 2 on white marlin and 3 for 3 on sailfish. While the record of 10 blues in one day is one he shares with Sam Jennings, Capt. Mike Lemon and the Revenge team, he feels that this represents one of the most incredible days ever on the famed North Drop. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that the fishing here is at least as good—if not better—than it’s ever been. And it’s ready for a comeback. In the 2023 tournament series, there were 61 blue marlin caught in six days of competition, along with one white marlin and one sailfish.

A sport-fishing angler fighting a blue marlin on the line.
Fighting a nice blue on standup gear is always a good time. Courtesy Scrub Island Billfish Series / Out Your Front Door

Travel Tips

Visitors traveling by air to the British Virgin Islands will usually arrive in Tortola, where they can enjoy the tropical climate of an exotic destination that’s still just a relatively short flight from the United States. The US dollar is the official currency in the BVI, and credit cards are widely accepted. The water is crystal-clear; the snorkeling and diving are world-class. One of the most popular spots in the BVI is the Baths, located about a mile south of Spanish Town at the southern tip of Virgin Gorda between Spring Bay and Devil’s Bay. This is an area of unique geologic formations, with huge granite boulders forming natural tidal pools, tunnels, arches and scenic grottoes that are open to the sea. Hiking and sightseeing around Scrub Island are also popular and very safe, and there are a host of options for watersports for the entire family to enjoy.

A group of men shake hands and laugh while attending the Scrub Island Billfish Series.
The camaraderie is hard to beat, as lifelong friendships are developed. Courtesy Scrub Island Billfish Series / Out Your Front Door

The two tournaments of the Scrub Island Billfish Series will take place September 13-17 and September 17-21, 2024, so make plans now to attend. Tournament organizers are ready to help your team in securing the appropriate licenses and other paperwork you’ll need to fish these productive waters.

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