2023 Bahamas Trip Report March 1 – 18, 2023
Whether sight-fishing from a poled skiff over skinny water or stalking a white sand flat, the Bahamas are the ultimate bonefishing experience.
Last month I embarked on a three week familiarity trip to the Bahamas, concentrating on Andros Island followed by a hosted week to the two remote out islands of Crooked and Acklins. During my trip I visited seven different lodges and had a chance to sit down with the owners/hosts of each operation and discuss and thoroughly analyze not only their individual programs, but the passion and motivation behind what they do – making guests happy. Each of them have their own unique style that reflects on the experiences they create for guests.
The Top Reasons to visit and fish the Bahamas
- The Bahamas are super easy to get to from the East Coast. You can depart NYC in the morning and be sipping a cold Kalik in the afternoon on the beach while readying your kit for the next morning of fishing.
- Easy communication. Since the official language of the Bahamas is English, there are no communication barriers while traveling within the country or spending a day with your guide.
- Tons of water to fish! The Bahamas have a ton of water to explore and fish, both by boat or wading. Fact: The shoreline of Andros Island alone, is greater than the entire coastline of Belize.
- Variety. When we think of the Bahamas, we immediately think of bonefish. However, in our experience, there are many other fish to pursue – permit, tarpon, barracuda, jacks, triggerfish, sharks, Mutton Snapper. If the bonefish are not cooperating, keep yourself in the action and try pursuing a different species.
- Travel within the Bahamas is safe. The country has a well-established tourism industry and for the most part, airports, immigration and customs are easy and simple to navigate. The bonus of clearing U.S Customs and Immigration in the Bahamas makes your return trip home much easier and expedited.
- Bahamian guides are true watermen, reliable and fishy. Most guides grew up in a family of guides with a long history, passed down generation to generation. They know their game, and offer quality fishing days on the water.
- Guides in the Bahamas fish out of some of the finest flats skiffs in the world. It’s an eclectic armada of specially designed vessels including Hells Bays, Beaver Tails, Mavericks, Dolphins, Hewes, and Eastcapes.
- When the snow is piling up at home and short winter days are getting you down, head to the Bahamas. Picture white sand beaches, balmy warm weather, crystal blue waters and a laid- back and chill atmosphere – “Island Time – Mon”.
- Great food!! You won’t find a better variety of cuisine. From local Bahamian fare, to amazing gastronomic experiences that look more like art than dinner. We could live off of conch ceviche or fritters, and they are usually served with an ice cold beer. Expect plenty of fresh fish dishes right out of the ocean.
- Bahamians are a wonderful mix of happy and good-humored people with a love of life, water and their seafaring lifestyle. You won’t find any more friendly people in the Caribbean to share your time with and their booming laugh will stay with you forever.
- Andros Island Bonefish Club
- Mangrove Cay Club
- Swains Cay
- Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge
- Andros South
- Bair’s Lodge
- Crooked & Acklins Island Lodge
Beautiful day between storms here in Redding, CA, for a 2:30 PM departure to SFO. Landed at 3:15 PM. The SFO to Miami flight wasn’t until 11:20 PM, and United said they can only hold bags for 6 hours for all Bahamas flights. No big deal but I had to pay twice for the bag. Retrieved my bag and rechecked it with American Airlines. I had a lot of time at SFO B terminal so I ate and tried to sleep a little on the long couches they had at the airport. Took off a little late from SFO and had the very back seat, so no reclining. Not much sleep going on.
I landed at 7:30 AM in Miami. Took the train to gate D3, got coffee and breakfast and was ready for my 10:40 AM flight to Nassau. Took off just after 11:00 AM from Miami. A half hour later we landed in Nassau. No immigration forms were handed out on the plane and no English forms were available on the tables upon arrival (lots of Spanish ones). It was kind of hectic as the lines were long and nobody knew where to go. People were bunched up by the stairs and milling around. There was a live Bahamian band playing which made it more relaxed and palatable. I guess we were now all on island time, so no use getting stressed. I scavenged a form from someone who grabbed an extra one from the office and got ushered into a really short line. Score!! People from the long line were staring daggers at us in the short line. I made it through pretty quickly, picked up my bags and made it over to the domestic terminal and got checked in with LeAir for a 3:00 PM flight with a couple hours to wait. We took off just before 3 and at the last minute they added a stop to Mangrove Cay (20 minutes) before continuing on to Fresh Creek. The prop plane was small (18 passenger), hot and smelled like diesel fuel. It had an Alaska feel to it, an old yet functional plane, locals bringing groceries back, mail and supplies getting loaded on the plane. We landed in Mangrove Cay at 3:15 PM. We unloaded, reloaded and were back in the air, 10 minutes later we landed in Fresh Creek. I met Scherell, the driver, at the airport and she drove me 30 minutes to the Andros Island Bonefish Club. I met Juliet, the owner, and her stepdaughter and granddaughter when I arrived and they took me to my room. I got settled and went over to the outside bar and met some of the other guests. Two guys from New England have been coming for a few years. Really nice guys. They said it’s basic accommodations but the guides are awesome and they enjoy coming down. They go with Chris every year. I met CJ the bartender, who is working on being a guide. Super nice guy. Easy to chat and hang out with. He really makes you feel at home and welcome, and is on point fixing drinks. I also met Danny, Juliet’s husband, who has been guiding for almost 30 years. I had dinner with the other four guests and went back to my room to sleep.
Daily Schedule –
Breakfast at 6:45 – 7:00 AM, Boats leave at 8:00 AM, Lunch on the water, Back to the lodge 4:00 – 5:00 PM, Apps at 4:30 – 5:00 PM and Dinner at 7:00 PM
The plan was to go out with DJ, Juliet’s son who is a young guide (24) to get some more time on the water and to get me out to see the area. It was a windy start to the day and it never slowed down. We headed west down the north bight. We were limited on where we could go because of the wind. As I stripped out line and cleared it, I caught a small barracuda on the first cast. He didn’t bite through my line. We poled around and I had some shots and saw some fish in the first two spots. Fish were spooky and the ones I got the fly in front of weren’t chasing or eating it. We got out of the boat and waded a shallow sand bay for a couple hours and saw lots of barracuda. I lost 3 flies on fish we thought were bonefish, but weren’t. Wind was howling in the afternoon. We quit fishing around 1:30 PM and headed in early. It was good to see the water. Everyone had a tough day but the other two boats got some fish, though it was pretty windy. No complaints by me as Juliet had someone to take me out and I appreciated it.
Dinner was grouper with carrots, broccoli and eggplant. Bread pudding for dessert. Basic, tasty and well-presented.
AIBC holds 24 people, but Juliet says she likes 16. The Internet was spotty and mostly only available at the lodge. The rooms could use some upgrades, but had clean towels, sheets, beds made daily, hot water, AC, and was clean and organized. I like AIBC. It has a good feel/atmosphere and a lot of history. Basic, but from what I understand they have some good veteran guides.
Liz called again in the morning and she said if I was all packed, she was sending a boat. I checked with Juliet, and she was ok with the decision, so Liz had a boat meeting me at Bering point, 5 min away, in half an hour. Juliet drove me to the dock and Percy was in sight heading our way. I really liked Liz’s executive decision making. You can tell she is the kind of person that gets things done. Necessary for running a high-end lodge in the Bahamas. I made it to Mangrove Cay Club at about 9:00 AM, stowed my bags, got my gear out and we were on the water by 10. I went with Percy (guide) and fished with Steph, who was hosting a group of 9 ladies at the lodge. It was fun seeing an all-ladies group. It was a different atmosphere. Liz wanted us to see the mini-skiffs they have placed in some back bays and shallow lagoons you can’t fish with the big boats. You had to wade through some mud to get there, but it was a pretty unique experience. Nobody else is doing it. We fished super skinny water in mangroves and saw lots of fish right away, but they were jumpy as the water was clear and shallow. We fished for a good hour before we each caught a bonefish, and each lost one in the mangroves. We moved into some deeper water and found a school of 100+ fish and took turns catching a few each. It was fun, but I really enjoyed hunting the singles and small groups in the shallow water. We headed back to the big boat and didn’t see another fish as we poled back.
We tried one other spot and saw one fish. Started heading back to the lodge at just after 3:00 PM to be back by 4:00 PM. It was a good day. We had a couple beers and they took me to my place a mile or so up the road since the lodge was full. Kikki (head guide) has a little Airbnb he rents out. Liz gave me a car to drive back and forth. Dinners were exquisite, very well presented and delicious. Some were like artwork. That night we had cracked conch for appetizers, and shrimp ceviche with avocado salad for a starter. The entree was grilled beef filet with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed zucchini, and chocolate fudge cake with berry salad for dessert. It was quite the dining experience. There are lots of no-see-ums around…all over Andros, not just there. Some of the guests’ legs looked like they had chicken pox!
Steph and I were with Ronald. We headed out to a white sand flat which he poled very slowly through, a lot slower than most guides. I liked his deliberate style. We saw a couple of bonefish and I had a couple long shots but no interest. We moved to the other side of the Cay and Steph got one right away. We worked our way down and saw a couple more fish. We picked up and moved to another spot on the west side but the water was off-colored. There were a couple places Ron wanted to fish like this but we could not, due to water clarity. We looked around and finally found some clear water. We saw a couple of fish, then got into a few small groups and Steph and I each managed to get two fish and missed a couple more. The schools left so we moved to another deeper flat. It felt like big fish water and I hooked a nice fish behind the boat that took me directly to my backing, into the mangroves, and broke me off. Ron said it was a big fish, 7-8 pounds. We saw 3-4 big fish on this flat and had a couple of shots but no other fish hooked. We ate lunch and Ron wanted to head back to the bay with the mini skiff. It was close by so we ran over, parked the big boat, waded through the mud, got in the mini-skiff and poled around for an hour + and only saw one fish. The tide was high, so I think all the fish were back in the mangroves. We parked the mini-skiff and headed back to the big boat and poled one more flat, saw 1 fish, then headed back to the lodge. It was a good day and all the other boats except one caught fish. Conch ceviche appetizer was delicious. This is my favorite, I could live off of conch ceviche. Another great dinner of Ahi tuna. I had a nice conversation with Liz and her story about how she ended up owning and running the lodge. I headed back over to the apartment to spend the night and Liz arranged a taxi to take me to Swains Cay in the morning.
Mangrove Cay Club
Grounds are immaculate, attention to detail is amazing. Guides are all set to a standard, trained by Kiki. They all seem good, but of course I only fished with two. High consistency in guides, food and lodging. Fishing is mostly isolated. I think they only compete with Swain’s for fishing and there is a lot of area. The mini skiffs are a great idea since the Dolphin skiffs don’t pole in very shallow water. It is a great way to get into some more areas that don’t get fished. I don’t know how you could come here and not have a good time. Boats are 16’ Dolphins and Liz is refurbishing all of them, patching, putting new gel coats on them and edging inside and out. 85 Yamaha 2 strokes on all of them. Liz does an amazing job. In my opinion, this is the nicest place to send guests who want amazing food, accommodations, a pool, and appreciate attention to detail.
I made it to Swain’s Cay Lodge and got checked in with Kristen and had a long chat with the owner, Cheryl, in the dining room. She is so nice and has her heart in this place. The lodge has a good feel, right on the beach. Kayaks, bikes, ping pong table, corn hole, fire pit, beach chairs, snorkel gear. She has rods and reels available, and a little gift shop with flies, shirts, hats, sunscreen, and toiletries. Has 7 core guides, and lots more available. There is a flat right in front of the lodge where you can fish. She is very open to different packages of lodging only, or lodging plus food, or just people who come by to eat. Cheryl loves groups. She took me for a tour of the island.
There are two launch sites: Lisbon Creek dock (Lower Bight), or a ferry to South Andros to the Little Harbor dock (Middle Bight). Then she took me to Shine’s Conch House. It is a local gem. Shine is a famous guide in the area and he and his family run the place. Fresh conch in a little hut by the water. I think everyone should see it. We had lunch and beers there. Cheryl is very hands on and is really involved in the community and in bringing tourism to the Bahamas in general. Dinner was great. Fresh grouper with a caper/onion white sauce. This is a great mid-range option in the Bahamas, with more things to do than solely fishing. Good for couples, kids, or people just wanting to get away. A nice flat in front of the place is a great bonus. Cheryl brings such a great local touch to the place. She wants guests to experience the local people and culture. The lodge holds up to 26. She likes 20. 18 to take the whole lodge.
Cheryl was off early to Nassau so I got checked out and Kristen took me to the ferry at Lisbon Creek at 7:30 AM for the 8:00 AM ferry. It was a short stay with Bill Howard at Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge. He picked me up at 8:30 AM at Driggs Hill and drove me to his place at the end of the road. He showed me around the new building which he is hoping to get moved into by the end of the month. It is definitely a nice upgrade. He is quite the guy, jack of all trades. He’s the host, he cooks (barbecue), builds/maintains the boats, and he built the new lodge where he will be moving the kitchen and dining room to. I like his style. The place is really nice, seems orderly and well-run. Bill is a fisherman running a fishing lodge. He wants anglers who want to fish. If you don’t fish he does not want you there. No wives that hang out or kids that don’t fish. Owner/operator lodges are more tightly run and I think there is a big difference in consistency. He took me to Andros South around 11:30 AM because he had a supply boat coming in. It would have been nice to stay for dinner with a full lodge of guests. He just gave me the run down below.
- Takes 6 people in the lodge (3 bedrooms), 4 people in the back with a common area (2 bedrooms), and 6 in the new lodge (2 bigger bedrooms with double beds, 1 slightly smaller bedroom with twin beds). Beds for 16 people. So he has room for most to get a single room.
- Breakfast at 6:30-7:00 AM, 7:30:00 AM leave lodge, boats leave at 7:45 AM, and boats return between 4 – 4:30 PM
- Fly tying table in lodge
- Guides – all guides rotate every day. No exceptions.
- Both wade and skiff fishing depending on guest requests.
- Has Starlink internet
Bill dropped me off in the afternoon and I met Mia and Marty, the new lodge managers. They got me into the Conch House, an extra cabin closer to the beach with two rooms, and I let them get back to their duties. I rested and took a walk around the property. It has the same beach feel to it as Swain’s. Very colorful buildings, a fire pit, a small palapa where there is a fridge with drinks, and a little outside hang-out area. It has a really comfortable, non-pretentious feel to it. I like the beach access, firepit, and little area outside the kitchen to eat appetizers or drink coffee. I went with Mia and Marty to the dock to pick up the guests just a few minutes away. I got to meet the guests and guides, and saw the boats. Boats are amazing there. Brand new Hells Bay skiffs, with power poles. Best boats I’ve seen so far. Marty and Mia did an awesome job hanging with the guests. They’ve been in the business long enough to know what it takes. They are working on eliminating plastic water bottles, and have a Starlink internet system about ready to install. They added a floating dock and completely redid the concrete and railing, as well as fresh paint at the public launch where they keep their boats. It looks really nice. We had dinner – cracked conch, rice and coleslaw. Nothing fancy, but delicious, followed with a fire by the beach and some beers. Similar lodge schedule.
6:30 AM-breakfast, 7:45-8:00 AM leaving the doc, 4:00 PM back at the lodge, 5pm Appetizers, 6:30 PM -Dinner
I ate breakfast with the group and we drove them to the dock. We came back to the lodge and it was high tide so Mia and I walked to the rocky point north of the lodge. We saw 3 barracuda that I took shots at and had one chase, but no go. Close to the point I spotted a nice 4’ barracuda. After some coaxing I hooked him, and he went screaming out and chewed through my steel leader. It was fun while it lasted! I caught a little bar jack off the point blind casting a popper, then ran out of water; it was good to get out, walk, and cast to some sighted fish. I ate lunch at the lodge, and then Mia and Marty wanted to take me wade fishing on a flat south of the lodge. The wind picked up and was blowing 20-plus by the time we got there. They didn’t want to get punished and neither did I, so they dropped me off at Bair’s Lodge around 1:30: PM. I met the old managers, Ray and his wife Anna – they are a wonderful couple, do a great job, and fill-in when needed. The current managers were taking a vacation, and there were only 4 other guests when I showed up. The wind calmed down but it was still cloudy. I was a little itchy from sitting around all afternoon so I wandered the flat just north of the lodge, but visibility was tough and I didn’t find any targets. Appetizers were guacamole dip, veggie wontons and grilled shrimp skewers. Dinner was blackened grouper with mango salsa, grilled veggies and sweet potato puree, and an optional Mediterranean pasta with grilled chicken.
Dessert was grilled pineapple w/rum sauce and vanilla ice cream. Great food – tasty, with very artistic presentations.
Pretty much the same program as almost everywhere in the Bahamas.
7:00 AM – breakfast; 8:00 AM – leave from front of lodge; back at 4:00 PM; appetizers 4:30 – 6:00 PM; Dinner 7:00 PM
I was with Lox as my guide. He guided for Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge for 13 years, and this was his first year at Bair’s. He was a good guide. We had a long run – 45 minutes in the morning, and 1 hour back. The wind was blowing 10-15 mph and stayed pretty consistent all day. On the first two flats we saw a few fish and I had a couple of shots, but it was kind of quiet. We moved on and Lox found some muddy water where a bunch of fish were feeding. Not as cool as hunting them, but I think he wanted to get a fish. I cast to the edge of the mud and after a few casts hooked and landed one. On our way to the next spot he found another mud and I caught one there as well. We poled some back bays and saw a few groups of bonefish in skinny water and I had multiple shots at them – I hooked a few and landed a couple. That was the best part of the day. He didn’t stay with fish too long if they spooked, whereas other guides would stay on them until they left the area. I had a beautiful shot at a big single cruising fish coming straight at us. I put it a little too close and he spooked off. The next bay over, I hooked a jack that must have moved 20 feet for my fly! He was on briefly, then off. We saw some more small groups of bonefish but the wind didn’t make things easy. We found another feeding area and I caught a couple more. It was a good day. Long boat ride back, we left at 3. The other two boats caught a few fish, but nobody killed it. Amazing dinner and in bed early.
Bairs Lodge is one of the few high-end lodges in the Bahamas, owned and operated by Nervous Waters. Gourmet dinners, wonderful breakfast options. The lunches were great as well. Bair’s physical property is a little tighter and all guests are accommodated in rooms in the lodge. Some of the woodwork – dining table, bed frames, furniture – at the lodge is unreal. The wood was brought all the way from Argentina – the bench in my room was beautifully hand-carved. There is a gift shop with shirts, hats, water bottles, Koozies, tippet, flies, nippers, etc. Bairs Lodge holds 12 max. Maverick boats – 5 years old – nice boats. There is a nice little flat just north of the lodge that you could walk to. It is a great high-end option. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Bair’s to anybody looking for nicer accommodations and food, and great boats.
I was up at 6:00 AM and the taxi was at Bair’s at 6:45 AM. Half hour ride to Congo Town for Western Air flight to Nassau at 8:40 AM. It was a short flight to Nassau. Everything was pretty smooth and I took a taxi to Orange Hill Suites. I had breakfast at the hotel as I was really early and wandered around. I met Garland and Gayne – two guys on my hosted trip – at the hotel pool and I bought them a couple beers at the bar. For dinner I had plans to meet my buddy Jeff – also going on the hosted trip – at his hotel, the Rosewood Baha Mar. We took a taxi and ate at Carna Baha Mar with his wife. Taxis aren’t cheap. And I learned after talking with some people that they seem to charge whatever they want. One group got charged $25 each ($100 total) for a 5-minute drive to the airport. No Uber down here. Orange Hill Suites is a pretty high-end place for anybody that wants something really nice. Full-on casino and multiple restaurant choices within the complex. Pool area and access to the beach. Dinner was amazing, a top-notch dining experience. My ribeye steak was absolutely delicious and we had some nice wine to go with it. I took a taxi back to the hotel and was in bed early to be ready for the morning flight.
Crooked and Acklins Hosted Trip
I checked out early from the Orange Hill Suite and made it to the airport at 7:30 AM. I got checked in for the flight and met the rest of the group on my hosted trip at the gate. It seemed like a good bunch. The airline moved us back and forth between A and B gates a few times. It was kind of ridiculous. No real announcements, we just followed the rest of the people holding rod tubes. We took off at 10:10 AM and landed on Acklins Island around 11:10 AM. The plane unloaded, reloaded and we took back off from Acklins for a 10-minute flight to Crooked Island. Carnitha and Christine, the two-woman show running the lodge, were waiting for us at the airport. They had the lodge van and a rental car because their truck broke down. They got us to the lodge, we got settled in and we all ate lunch. My initial thoughts were that the place is great. Nothing fancy, plain, but everything you need. Big open, spread out property. We liked how spacious the rooms were. Everyone was pretty happy when we arrived. Everyone was excited so they all geared up to go out to cast. Nothing was caught, but the anticipation was high. We had grouper for dinner and it was delicious.
The schedule is very similar in all the Bahamas and the lodge has guides on both Crooked and Acklins Islands with two different meeting points. On this day we all met our guides at the dock at 8:00 AM on the east side of Crooked Island. Jarvis, a fill-in guide, wasn’t there. Carnitha said he was on his way and was running a little late. It was a perfect day. Calm and sunny. We fished with JJ. He stayed with Jeff and I fished on my own. We waded all morning and at the first spot I saw a single and a group of 4, but no shots as they were slowly swimming away. We moved out to a point and I walked down one side and Jeff and JJ down the other. I saw a big school too close, and didn’t get a good cast on them swimming away. Farther down, I had a going away cast at one big single fish. I had a good shot, but nothing. Jeff hooked one and lost it in the mangroves. He also had a shot at a big permit as well. We ate lunch and JJ poled us around. He had no leaning bar or poling platform and his pole was a long piece of PVC pipe but it wasn’t a deterrent spotting fish. He spotted 2 groups of 20+ fish and I had good casts at each group, no takers. A big storm rolled in and we got soaked and were ready to head in early. Just as we were almost back the rain stopped and it was dead calm and we saw a flat (Copper Bottom) with 100’s of tailing fish in separate groups. We both jumped out and I landed 2 fish pretty quickly, but we needed to get back. I think we could have picked up more fish if we had time. Tough day for everyone. Not many fish landed. JJ said when the winds are out of the west (rare) the bonefish school up in deeper water and are harder to find. Everyone was pretty happy but you could tell most wanted more fish.
We went out with Jarvis. He is one of the new Acklins guides, and only fished half the week. His boat doesn’t get very shallow, either running or poling. It’s long, wide and has a 2-stroke, 125 hp motor. But he knew where the fish were. We split up, wading, and Jarvis was with Jeff as we worked down separate sides of a bay, not seeing anything for the first hour or so. Towards the head, Jeff saw a small group and landed a fish. There was a small channel leading into the bay and I saw a few fish feeding in really shallow water. I got in a couple of casts but they soon made their way back into the mangroves as they clearly sensed something wasn’t right. Continuing to cover the water, I saw a school of hundreds of bonefish coming my way. It was pretty amazing. I watched them pour out of a creek, and hooked one of the first fish that swam by. As I was fighting the fish, they all fled out into deeper water and were gone. Waves of them, so many you could see them pushing up water as they went. I met back up with Jeff and Jarvis, told them what I had seen, and we went looking for them. Finding the school calmed down in a little deeper water, we got on top of them and hooked and landed a bunch of fish. I probably landed 12+ in just over an hour, and Jeff got a bunch as well. It was a long walk back, past 2:00 pm by the time we got to the boat. We guessed we walked 6+ miles. It was a great morning. We ate lunch and poled around for a little, then headed to a spot close to the dock to wade. We only had 30-45 minutes, but I quickly saw a group of 4-5 fish right out of the boat. I had one shot but no fish. I saw a few barracuda but that was it.
We went out with Chris. He is also a temp guide for the week. We waded some real skinny water at first. No fish. The next spot Jeff saw 3 and had a shot. I didn’t see anything. We saw 4 permit moving fast as we were going to the second location. I didn’t see a bonefish before lunch. After lunch we fished an island and didn’t see anything except some sharks and a big barracuda. Chris took us over closer to the dock. We fished some “hole and hill” type bottom and we found a group of at least 100 fish just hanging out. I stayed below them and Chris and Jeff tried to get above them. Jeff got a few casts on them but they were jumpy and he didn’t catch anything and spooked them towards me. I got a couple shots and managed to hook and land a fish. They blew out below us. We waded down and found another group of 10 fish moving towards us that were spooky as well – we each had a cast but they got out of there. We poled a little looking around a small island and Jeff hooked but broke off a triggerfish. Chris took us to Copper Bottom and we both got out and waded and after 15 minutes they left me to wander around. Chris took Jeff back over to wade where we just left and he hooked a big bonefish that took him into the mangroves and broke him off. We each hooked one for the day. A couple of the groups fished some muddying spots and Gayne caught 8. Everyone else scratched some out, but nobody caught many. The overall consensus is that most were hoping to see more fish.
We woke up to rain and lightning. The forecast was calling for heavy rain later in the afternoon. We had a weather window and headed to the dock. Everyone was expecting to be back at the dock in a couple of hours considering the forecast. We were with Elvis. He is a pretty soft spoken guy. We messed around on one edge close to the dock and it cleared up nicely. We only saw one bonefish and Jeff wanted to check out a huge school Elvis was talking about. Right as we were leaving we saw a huge permit cruising. We didn’t find the big school and Jeff wanted to try for a triggerfish since he broke one off yesterday, so we worked some rocky edges back close to the launch. Jeff was also open to catching a shark, barracuda and other traditionally non-targeted species we saw. He ended up getting a shark and 3 jacks. Those jacks are impressive. The amount of water they cover to take a fly doesn’t seem real. You strip as fast as possible and they come out of nowhere. We had stuffed lobster for dinner. Those girls are doing a great job in the kitchen.
Wind was blowing all night at 20-30 mph and you could hear it gusting over the roof and blowing chairs and stuff around outside. We ate and got ready just a little later than normal. Carnitha said the guides could make it across from Acklins so we drove down to meet them. One Crooked guide again, Michael. I sent Neil and Christian with him in hopes they would get on some fish since they did well on that side the day before. It was windy, but coming out of the east so we could hide behind the island. We fished with JJ again on the southeast side of Crooked, just out of the wind but not fully. We found a long shoreline that we poled and saw a decent number of fish but didn’t get any. They dropped me off to wade below where we finished, out of the wind and Jeff and JJ worked that edge again. I worked around the corner and didn’t see anything until I walked back up to the windy side of it. I saw one tailing, but it was directly into the wind, and another one got too close and spooked. Jeff saw fish and landed one. His biggest, just under 7 pounds. We got back together and ran it again and I caught a fish. With the wind and how fast the boat was moving you had a really short window to spot the fish and make a cast. We saw a big school close to a stream mouth waiting for the tide. We moved up to a flat around the bend and poled that. I caught one right off the bat and saw some other schools. That was the day. We were just happy to get out and were not stuck at the lodge for the day.
Everyone else picked their guides and Jeff and I had JJ again. I like him. We always found fish with him. He’s funny and has a great attitude. I think he got judged negatively because of the large size of his boat, but it had no bearing on his guiding abilities. He just has the most basic boat. No back rest on the seat, no lean bar and no poling platform. Well, we found lots of fish! In the morning we waded a shallow flat and I saw 12-15 fish in various groups and landed one and had some good casts at others. The sun was low, so many of the fish we saw were really close. Jeff saw some and landed one as well. JJ said he knew a spot that was farther away, really shallow but would definitely have some fish. He dropped me off and sent me on a mission. He said I would get tired of catching them and just stay with the fish and he would find me. At first, it was a shallow white sand flat. Right off the start I saw a group of 20-30 fish cruising but they were on the wind side of me and I didn’t get a good cast. As I went down I saw fish everywhere. Small groups of 5-15 fish that were feeding and tailing in the shallows, working into the wind and swimming back away. Every once in a while I’d see a bigger group moving. A couple with 100+ fish would move towards me working down the bank. Some I would catch fish from, others would work on the upwind side of me. I caught 10 or so fish. All sight-casting, to individual fish or leading schools of fish. It was awesome! I was getting worried about getting back to meet them so I made my way down a channel to the other side of the bay. Half way through the channel, I started seeing fish. Towards the bottom there were waves that were coming up the channel and at the bottom of the channel into the next bay, there were hundreds of fish going in all directions. Some moved up the channel, some moved back into the bay. Smaller groups and one main big school milled around at the bottom. I caught another 5-6 and moved towards JJ waiting at the boat. I probably could have continued to cast into the school and caught fish but I had enough. I was pretty content. As I moved to the boat the school spooked out. Jeff saw and landed a few. We ate lunch as we motored out as the low tide made us have to idle forever to get to deeper water to get the boat up on step. The last spot we waded was a very shallow rocky flat. I saw 6-8 fish and hooked and lost one. Jeff hooked 3 and landed 2. Great day overall. Christian and Neil had a banner day and landed 6-8 each and Christian even had a shot at a pair of huge permit. It is amazing what a great day can do, especially the last day. Doug and Carroll had a great day with Clinton on the Crooked side and found and fished a huge school. Doug caught double digit numbers of fish and Carroll caught a bunch as well.
For the week, the fishing was up and down and overall slow for the group. However, I think Crooked and Acklins has so much potential. The bonefishery is there and boats saw permit every day. A good mix of wading and boat fishing. Fixing up the lodge a little, adding some staff, and making the guides more cohesive would be huge there. There are small things around the lodge that should be taken care of. The ladies are doing an awesome job, but they need a couple of more staff. A fishing manager or someone to talk fishing and a maintenance/grounds keeper would be ideal. Someone to put the rods up and drive guests to fishing. Also they could unload the rods and rinse them at the end of the day.
Homebound. We got up and had breakfast a little bit later at 7:00 AM and left the lodge by 8:00 AM. It was a 10:00 AM flight going directly back to Nassau. We arrived in Nassau, everyone else was staying the night, so we said our goodbyes and Jeff and I walked over to the International Terminal and got checked in. The check in line was long. It took 45 minutes. The security/Customs line was really long, another 45 minutes. It is nice to get customs done in Nassau and not the first place you land in the US. Jeff made it through pretty quick and we met up for lunch and a beer. Our 4:45 PM flight ended up being 1+ hours late getting out of Nassau. My close connection in Charlotte made it look like I was going to miss that flight. We arrived just after 8:00 PM and my flight was scheduled to leave at 8:15 PM. But when we landed, that flight was delayed by 2 hours so I was looking good. However, when I showed up at the gate, they kept pushing the time back because they didn’t have a pilot. At around 11:00 PM they canceled the flight. Ughh!! But not really a big deal. I canceled my hotel in SFO and they gave me a hotel/taxi/ food voucher, so I just ended up sleeping in Charlotte instead of San Francisco. My flight was rescheduled for 8:00 AM and it was looking like I was fine since my SFO-RDD wasn’t until 12:50 PM. I made it to SFO, ate and was ready for my flight to Redding, CA, which was also 1+ hours late, but no big deal as it was my last leg and arrived after 4:00 PM at the Redding airport. It was good to be back and it was a great trip.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The Bahamas is a destination that should be on every saltwater angler’s bucket list and I can’t wait to return to see more of it.
Please make sure you are on our mailing list so you can receive our next magazine dedicated to the Bahamas, due to hit your mailbox at the end of September.