Why wouldn’t you be eating your fish?

This is a 2 part article. The second part has a list of nearly 100 of the most common caught fish in the Virgin Islands. It lists fish by common names with color pictures and a rating of each fish concerning its risk of Ciguatera. Click for part 2.

This is a touchy subject whenever you fish in tropical reef waters. There is a toxin that tropical reef fish can have called the ciguatera toxin. The toxin comes from reef that is under stress.

Bottom Fishing in BVI

aaaaGreat Catch!

The stress can be pollution, silt, hurricane damage, anchor damage, increased water temperature or anything else that living coral does not like.

The reef will release the toxin when stressed, the small herbivore fish that keep the algae of the reef ingest the toxin. The larger territorial predator fish eat the small fish that have the toxin and the level of the toxin builds up in the fatty tissue of the larger fish. So the fish that are reef meat eaters that stay on the same patch of toxic reef are the danger. Pelagic fish that spend most of their time swimming in the ocean, may on occasion snatch a tasty fish from a toxic reef however the amount of toxin in each of their prey is small and really of no concern.  Different fish have different fat levels in their tissue so “retain” different levels of toxin. Part 2 lists all the fish and what risk they may pose.

When you are eating your fish that contain the toxin, it builds up in our fat cells. We do naturally get rid of the toxin but it is a very slow process. This means that you could eat a ciguatera toxin affected fish today with a low dose and have no ill effect from it. In 2 weeks time some of the toxin would be gone from your fat cells, but not all of it.

Then you could go fishing and be eating your fish again that is toxin affected. This fish may have not had enough toxin to make you sick, however, with the combined toxin that you still have in you, it may then be enough to make you sick.

Sick you say? How sick? Well ciguatera poisoning is like the very worst case of food poisoning you will ever get. In bad cases hospitalization will be required. There is a simple way to tell if you are suffering from ciguatera toxin as apposed to your husbands’ bad hamburger grilling!

If it’s ciguatera poisoning, temperature reversal occurs. A cold beer feels like its hot, a cup of hot tea feels like its cold. If you have doubt see a doctor, you will have the same effects as food poisoning, vomiting and diarrhea. This combined with the warm Caribbean temperatures and high humidity that make you sweat, there is a very real risk of de-hydration. All a very good reason to be careful when eating your fish.

When is it ok to be eating your fish

All ocean fish that move around a lot and do not eat from the same source of fish all the time, are considered safe.

This includes Tunas, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Mackerel that are caught away from land, Marlin and Sailfish.
Do not ever eat any type of jack or barracuda no matter where they are caught. They have the biggest risk of all the fish species that are regularly caught. Do not be eating your fish that you caught on the bottom, that are caught anywhere to the west of  Virgin Gorda within the Sir Francis Drake channel.

This includes Salt, Peter, Norman islands and Road Harbor. Fish caught on the north side of the Tortola  are safe. As are fish off Virgin Gorda or Anegada.

Some of the old timers in the British Virgin Islands say the biggest culprit is the old copper mine on the back of Virgin Gorda. They say that for years, spoil and chemicals from the mine were dumped over the cliff face at the mine into the ocean. The currents move along the shore line pushing the chemicals in a tear drop shaped plume that spreads along the south side of the islands, getting wider and as it moves towards St Thomas.  This makes sense as the big risk areas all fall within this teardrop shape.


Where do I get my bait and gear?

The majority of time if you are going to be fishing from a charter boat that has a crew on board, they will have already arranged bait and tackle to be on board.

There are a few places where you can get gear. Richardson’s Rigging- This is a place that looks like a small house on the waterfront opposite the ferry dock in Tortola.

If you are standing at the ferry terminal it’s on the other side of the road and a few houses to the left. They have the largest selection of tackle and bait in the BVI. They have frozen squid, ballyhoo both rigged and unrigged, shrimp, herring and other small baitfish. Be warned though as these are not Kmart prices.

photo Eating your fish in the British Virgin Islands.

In Road Town next to Village Cay, there is a building that looks like an old windmill. This is a yacht chandlery. They have some gear here also.

At the Moorings marina there is a water sports company that rents out fishing poles and gear however moorings sailing bare boats do not have the correct permits to fish. Their crewed charters and power cat bareboats do.. At Hog Bay marina there is Sail Caribbean Divers which will also rent you poles. At Harbor view marina in East end there is a chandlery that has a small selection of gear.

All the large grocery stores have squid and ballyhoo for sale and these are by far the cheapest place to buy bait from. With these accommodations you’ll be eating your fish in no time!
If you are out in an anchorage and want to fish, a bit of raw chicken or steak on a hook on the bottom, will usually get you some small baitfish that you can use as cut baits.

Silverside and needle fish are easy caught with a scoop net at night with some lights shining in the water.
If you like to fish with good gear, have your own favorite gear or want to troll lures, the best thing is to bring them from home. Airlines have no problem with fishing poles, but if you plan on chartering a yacht for the week that specializes in fishing, then their gear should be up to snuff.

They should also be very willing to allow you to be eating your fish fresh on the bbq the day its caught. It doesn’t hurt to check though.

We will make sure that any yacht that we book you on meets any requirements and has all the correct permits in place for you to be able to fish. This includes bare boats as the majority of them do not have the permits needed.

Fishing Charters.

Fishing license requirements in the Virgin Islands

Our page on bottom fishing in the Virgin Islands.

Our page on tarpon fishing in the Virgin Islands.

Trolling in the Virgin Islands.

List of ciguatera risk fish in the Virgin Islands.

If you have any interest in either chartering a yacht and doing some fishing or going on a serious fishing charter then please use our experience to your advantage.


About us at H2o Trips.

I personally ran a 10 passenger charter yacht in the British Virgin Islands for 20 years and did over 600 charters. This coupled with the fact that I have personally stepped  aboard each of the several hundred yachts that I represent  and inspected the vessel as well as  quizzed the crews makes my help to you unconditionally qualified to be up to date, informed and unbiased. Many in our industry simply rely on information that they have gotten from either the internet or from our other “trade” sources. Many have ties to particular boats so will push them even if they do not match your requirements well.  I am here for the express purpose of finding the correct match for you and your family’s needs. What I tell or show you is what I have recently seen or personally photographed myself. I do not rely upon information and pictures from 5 year old brochures.  Our service is completely free to you and there is absolutely no obligations to book through us. Please let me help make your vacation the vacation of a lifetime.

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