Abaco, Bahamas

In May 2009 I was on Abaco as, you guessed it, part of a Bonefish & Tarpon Trust trip. We trained guides at the Abaco Lodge and with the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association how to tag bonefish (to determine bonefish movement patterns), take fin clips (to determine which species of bonefish they are catching), and to save otoliths (earbones) to estimate growth rates and ages of bonefish. The otoliths are only collected from bonefish that are partially eaten by predators after release or otherwise don’t survive the fishing encounter. Now to the fishing and lodge.

We stayed at the Abaco Lodge. Abaco Lodge just opened, and already it is a top notch operation. There are 8 rooms, each with a king bed, that open onto a balcony. Meals and the bar are centrally located, and have a fantastic view. The boats depart and return from the lodge dock, so everything is convenient. Thanks to Oliver White for hosting our stay and putting up with our many needs, and to the great staff and guides.

The fishing was fantastic. We fished the Marls, which is a tremendously huge area, so we never fished the same place twice. We fished with a few different guides and all did a great job. We were fortunate to have some fantastic weather (on the heels of an extended, and unseasonable, period of very high winds). The bonefish were very agreeable. The only skittish bonefish we encountered were unconcerned with us and wholly concerned with patrolling sharks. The sharks, just small lemons and blacktips, never really chased the bonefish, but kept them in constant motion. Here is a good example of the fishery. A school of five bonefish was moving across the flat in the same direction we were being poled, and since we were all traveling at the same speed we really had no chance to catch up. The guide told my boat mate to make a cast, to which my buddy replied ‘but they’re facing the other way’. But in desperation he cast, the fly landed to the right and just behind the school of fish, a fish turned around and ate the fly. Fishing pressure? Not much.

The fishable area there is so large, the present level of fishing pressure is fine. And refusals were rare – on only one morning did I get more than one refusal, and switching to a lightly weighted fly fixed that problem. The bonefish ranged from 2 to 4 pounds, and all were very robust and full of energy. They must have some great tings in their diets because they made some great runs.

I also fished with some of the independent guides that are members of the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association (Cindy Pinder is my contact for AFFGA), including Jody Albury, Paul Pinder, and the folks at Rickmon Lodge. All of the guides I fished with were great. I also had the pleasure of giving a presentation to the AFFGA on the evening of May 4. I spoke about our knowledge of bonefish biology, some of the research that BTT is supporting, and asked the guides for help with some of the research. It was a great turnout, there were some great questions, and I think a second session with some more discussion is in the works. It’s great to see an organization like the AFFGA so proactive and interested in conservation.