Fly Fishing for Coastal Gamefish
I've chased bonefish on Grand Bahama Island courtesy of H2O Bonefishing a number of times, and each time I've had some great fishing. H2O Bonefishing has supported Bonefish & Tarpon Trust research and conservation for a number of years, and is now heavily involved in the BTT's bonefish tagging research program. Most recently, I was on Grand Bahama for the second Bahama/Orvis Bahamas Pro-Am Classic, an event sponsored by Orvis, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, and H2O Bonefishing, designed to benefit Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. This year, the event generated $3,000 for BTT, and we were able to tag and fin clip a bunch of bonefish. Thanks to all of the anglers who participated.
The setup on Grand Bahama is different than the typical lodge situation, where everything is self contained at a lodge. On Grand Bahama, anglers stay at Pelican Bay Resort, in Freeport. Guides pick up the anglers each morning at the hotel entrance, and drop them off there at the and of the day. Anglers are on their own for meals, and there are plenty of good restaurants within sight (and an easy stroll) of the hotel.
The guides launch their Maverick flats boats at any number of ramps within a short drive from the hotel, the ramp they choose depending on tides and weather. They prefer to fish the north side of Grand Bahama, which offers seemingly endless flats - algae-covered limestone, sand, or mud - mixed among mangrove-lined shorelines and islands. These flats are generally dark bottom, but the fish are also dark so are not especially difficult to spot. Most fishing is from the boat, but there are wading opportunities during appropriate tides. The flats on the south side tend to be lighter - either sand or limestone.
The bonefish on Grand Bahama typically range from three pounds and up, but tend to be on the large side, especially on the north side of the island. Although three to four pound fish are certainly abundant, the great thing about Grand Bahama is that there are a lot of larger fish. It's common to catch bonefish six pounds and larger. I would say that good anglers can expect to land numerous fish from six to nine pounds. These fish are typically traveling as singles or groups of three or four, but sometimes you'll find schools of 10 bonefish, all over six pounds. It's common to find these fish aggressive to the fly - sometimes to the extent that it's tough to strip the fly fast enough to keep up with (and set the hook on) a charging bonefish.
On the most recent trip (October 18 - 24, 2009), 80% of the bonefish I caught were over six pounds, with the largest during the first four days at nine pounds. Then on the last day, first cast of the morning to some tailing fish, I caught a bonefish at approx 10 to 11 pounds. And believe it or not, the fish came out of a school of eight to ten fish that were all a similar size. Excellent. The fish was tagged, a couple photos taken, and released in good shape.
The bonefish fishing on Grand Bahama is solid, and the outfit at H2O Bonefishing is a great group. Plus, they are involved in research and conservation for the long-term health of the bonefish fishery.
The Fisherman's Coast approach focuses on how coastal gamefish interact with their habitats and prey. The more you know about the gamefish you pursue with a fly rod, the more often you'll be in the right place at the right time with the right fly making the right presentation. It's about catching more fish.
Our sister site Tribal Bonefish is all about conservation through responsible fishing. Tribal Bonefish shows you how to become a better steward of our coasts to protect our fisheries today, and ensure future generations get a chance to experience these fisheries.