Have you ever heard your boat captain tell an incredible sea story? Well, it was one such sea story told by Captain Johnny Harms that helped to launch sport fishing in the Virgin Islands. Like most good sea stories, there was more than a drop of truth in Captain Harm’s fish tale about the 1,000 pound blue marlin (known as “Big Daddy”) that got away.
Before 1951, few anglers came down for sport fishing in the Virgin Islands. Then, a remarkable blue marlin was caught on rod and reel and brought into Club Nautico de San Juan, Puerto Rico for all the world to see. Ernest Hemingway had been writing about the thrill of blue marlin fishing, and the Swedish research vessel Albatross had just published their oceanography reports on the 6-mile deep Puerto Rican Trench. These events sparked a fiery interest in sport fishing in the Virgin Islands. Seeing that the opportunity was ripe, the Puerto Rican tourism board hired a Florida fishing boat captain named Art Willis to come down with three sport fishing boats.
Nearby on the island of St. John, a man named Laurence Rockefeller was buying the Caneel Bay Resort (from two Puerto Rican brothers, not coincidentally). He wanted to make the Virgin Islands a destination for sport fishing too. Mr. Rockefeller hired Johnny Harms, another Florida fishing boat captain, to come and test the waters for him. As the story is told by Captain Harms, on his first day out he missed landing the giant blue marlin, which he called “Big Daddy”. This miss was paired with several more blue marlin sightings, but nary a catch that day. Still, the story of “Big Daddy” was enough to entice anglers to come to the Virgin Islands for decades to come.
By the 1960’s Captain Harms, along with friends, had formed the Virgin Islands Game Fishing Club to help keep the Virgin Island’s growing reputation as the “Blue Marlin Capital” of the world, and to kick-off some friendly competition! Today, the Virgin Island hosts the most competitive and environmentally-friendly sport fishing competitions in the world thanks to these early anglers. So, whether you are ready to sign up for the Marlin Fest in August, you want to fish aboard the Abigail III (Harms lucky fishing boat, today manned by Captain “Red” Bailey), or just check out the world records display at the American Yacht Harbor, the thrill of the catch is in your reach!
Interested in going fishing in the U.S. Virgin Islands? Give us a call at Ocean Runner (340) 693-8809 and we’ll help you find a boat. Visit the VINOW website to read about fishing rules and regulations. Blue marlin season is May through October.