Inshore Fishing on the South Shore
While most people have heard of offshore or deep sea fishing, the concept of inshore fishing may be unfamiliar. Both types of fishing can be found here on St. Croix, but inshore fishing is done in shallow waters near the shorelines. These inshore areas are mostly protected from large waves by the islands barrier reefs and are therefore commonly called ‘the flats’. Inshore fishing allows you to catch a whole different variety of fish than its offshore counterpart, but it is definitely still sport fishing…so be prepared to work for your catch!
You can find a great inshore fishing experience offered by Fish Tales, which offers guided shoreline fishing adventures for tarpon, snook, bonefish and jacks. Fish Tales’ guide, Jeff Tareila, is an avid fisherman, ecologist, and entertainer who will certainly make your fishing trip one to remember. No boats, all fishing on these trips are done from beautiful beaches and mangroves. If you want to go by boat, check out Hook and Sun Fishing Charters. Run by Jens Hookanson, a locally born ‘Cruzan’ with 25+ years of experience in our local waters, you can book a private inshore fishing charter for up to 6 people.
Personally, my husband and I had the opportunity to go inshore fishing with Captain Mike Hushek of St. Croix Inshore Fishing Charters. Having never been saltwater fishing in my entire life, I was excited to give it a try. Mike was extremely informative and explained that there are lots of game-fish species that inhabit the Caribbean flats including sharks, crevalle jack, permit, several species of snapper, mackerel and Barracuda; but, the most prized are tarpon, bonefish, and snook. After shoving off from Molasses Pier, as we waited for the sun to rise, Captain Mike showed us the gear we would be using and taught us how to properly cast. He also told us what to watch for on the surface of the water to spot tarpon and as the sun was rising we practiced casting with the spin reels.
Before we headed to the first fishing spot, Captain Mike cast out a net and brought up a huge haul of live bait, known locally as ‘sprat’. He showed us how to cast the bait net and explained how it worked, then we used the live bait, in addition to the artificial lures, to fish for the rest of the day. After only a few casts with my first sprat I hooked and landed the first fish of the day, a beautiful little snook. After a quick ‘Hey Dad, look what I caught!’ photo, we released him back into the sea. We continued to fish along the South Shore for a couple of hours while also learning more about inshore fishing, the fishing gear we were using, the difference between the types of fish, and enjoying a unique view of the South Shore of the island.
When our stomachs started growling, Captain Mike provided us with some delicious deli sandwiches and chips, and we happily ate lunch as he took us over to Shell Island. Shell Island is a very small, uninhabited barrier island just south of the Molasses Pier. Once we had anchored the boat in the shallow bay we walked over to the island to do a little exploring and, of course, a little fishing. It started to rain as we approached the island, so we ducked inside a small lean-to on the beach. Inside the lean-to was a makeshift fire pit that looked like it had been used for grilling, and a table completely covered with hermit crabs of all shapes and sizes. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the hermit crabs scamper around until the rain passed, at which time Captain Mike took us into thigh deep water and gave us an introductory lesson in fly fishing. (Side Note: Having never fly fished I can say that there is definitely a lot of technique and practice involved in it!) Then, we grabbed our spin reel fishing poles and walked across to the inland side of the island and did a little shore fishing.
While Captain Mike no longer owns St. Croix Inshore Fishing Charters, it was taken over by Captain Dave…and I’m sure you will have just as great an experience. I can honestly say that my day of inshore fishing was one of the most fun excursions I have done here on St. Croix. Having started the day watching the sunrise over the Caribbean, I got to fish (and catch) saltwater fish for the first time, and we got to see the South Shore from a whole new perspective. We basically spent a day fishing, floating on the Caribbean, laughing and telling stories, learning new things, seeing a variety of wildlife, and enjoying so much of what St. Croix has to offer. I highly recommend that you try inshore fishing, it is fun for the whole family. Not only will you have a great time, but you will undoubtedly have some great fishing stories to tell for the rest of your life!
– Jennie Ogden, Editor