Bonefishing is one of the best of the angling sports... maybe the best! But if you don't take the time to acquire the basic skills or if you let your skills rust, you're certain to be disappointed on the flight home. To be sure, the best way to get good at bonefishing is to spend time on the water. You can subscribe to all the magazines, read all the how-to books and watch all the videos you want, but there is simply no substitute for actually being out there in the salt. On the flats, you train your eyes to see fish and learn the critical subtleties such as presentation, retrieve, and hookset that can often mean the difference between success and failure. And because bonefish live in such exotic locations, it takes a commitment of time, energy and money to learn these requisite skills.
In recent years, the number of anglers wishing to spend their precious vacation time in the salt has risen dramatically. In response to this demand, many new lodges have opened hoping to cater to these adventuresome anglers. The choices are now greater than ever. On the downside, prices have skyrocketed as many lodge owners scramble to gain from the bonefishing boom. A seemingly endless stream of anglers willing to accept price increases without blinking an eye has enticed many of these lodges and some larger booking agencies to cater more and more to affluent anglers. Lodges have sought to provide every possible creature comfort from deluxe accommodations to five-star dining while many booking agencies have focused their entire marketing efforts on these high-end experiences.
For the dedicated angler, we see two dangers with this trend:
First, often these high-end lodges need to book 12-16 anglers per week in order to support the cash flow needs of bank loans and investors. These large numbers of anglers can often overwhelm the carrying capacity of a resource and the fishing can quickly begin to suffer. We feel that good fishing is our clients' first priority and no matter how good the food and lodging might be, without good fishing, these amenities mean nothing. While we have nothing against creature comforts, we do insist that the lodges we choose to book offer excellent and sustainable angling opportunities. To put it another way, the affluent angler does himself no good if he is seduced by the glossy and glitzy high-end places and ignores the smaller, but perhaps more productive locales. One of our more dedicated clients, who can afford to fish wherever he wishes, says,
"Hey, I go fishing to fish. I don't always want five-star dining and hors d'oeuvres on silver plates. I get plenty of that at home or on my business travels. What I do want is for my less affluent friends and my son to go with me. They can't afford the prices of these exclusive resorts. All we want is a good healthy meal, comfortable accommodations and good fishing... and I don't want so many other anglers buzzing around me all the time. I like remote fishing!... and I'd like to go 3-5 times a year instead of once or twice."
Our second objection to the marketing trend that promotes only high-end experiences as viable opportunities is that this approach (and the swelling prices) leaves many students, young professionals, guides, and fly shop owners out of the equation. For these anglers, spending $600 per day to bonefish is not an option ñ and they should not be lead to believe that they must commit to these prices in order to have good fishing. As previously stated, we like a great meal and deluxe accommodations as much as the next fellow. Again, we have absolutely nothing against luxury resorts as long as they offer a quality angling experience along with the amenities. We think these lodges are entirely appropriate for some anglers. We book many of these lodges now and we will continue to in the future. We just don't think it's good for the sport to see this trend towards only high-end experiences. We don't want to leave less affluent anglers behind. Students, guides and fly shop owners are the foot soldiers of our sport and as such, are key to providing the grassroot support that is essential to any out-island conservation or anti-netting effort.
So to the angler able to afford the best, we say, don't put on blinders and certainly don't be seduced by glossy brochures and expensive ads into believing that amenities equal good fishing. And to less affluent anglers, here is a list of angling opportunities that may require some sacrifices in the way of creature comforts, but still offer great fishing at a very affordable price. All of these destinations offer very comfortable accommodations and good, if not gourmet, meals. We have also selected these spots because all offer extensive hard-bottomed flats and prolific fisheries... the two top priorities for our more adventuresome clients.
Some of these destinations are also appropriate for more affluent anglers who want to go more often during the year, put a mixed-income group together or provide an incentive program to employees.
Frank and Ruth's Guesthouse
Crooked Island is the sister island to Acklins Island and offers great opportunities to fish to large schools of 3-5lb bones and frequent singles and doubles. Most of the island's beautiful white sand flats are hard-bottomed and easily waded. Crooked Island is a vast and pristine wilderness offering great bonefishing and enough permit and tarpon that we'll insist you pack the appropriate gear. Accommodations are in the form of a newly remodeled, air-conditioned guesthouse. Delicious home-cooked meals are served nearby at a local restaurant. Guides use new boats with 115 hp Yamaha motors and trim tabs to swiftly carry you to the best flats despite the amount of chop encountered. At only $2,650.00 per week, per person, double occupancy, this trip is a great value and offers anglers an opportunity to fish this remote area at a very affordable price.
Grey's Point Bonefish Inn
Acklins Island is known for both its prolific bonefishery and its extensive hard-bottomed flats. Grey's Point has the best out-the-front-door fishing available anywhere in the Bahamas. Last year, Grey's Point completed their new lodge and put the final touches on six new air-conditioned rooms and now offers amenities surprising, especially considering their remote location. At our suggestion, Grey's Point is offering a budget alternative for those anglers seeking more affordable opportunities. While a fully guided week costs $2,895.00, anglers can now opt to spend 7 nights with 6 days fishing including two days fully guided for only $1,950.00 per person. The extensive flats 100 yards from your room ensures you'll fish dawn to dusk...no matter what amount of guiding you choose.
Great Abaco Island,
The Lodge at Tangelo Wood
If price is your main consideration and you don't mind native boats and local fishermen as guides, you should consider this option. The A/C accommodations are actually very comfortable, the meals quite good and the staff friendly... especially when you consider the price. If you've been bonefishing for awhile, this is what it used to be like at most bonefish camps in the Bahamas only 15 or 20 years ago. The bonefishing on the north end of Abaco is excellent. In addition, there are some large, hard-bottomed flats within walking distance of the lodge that are perfect for after-hours fishing or for anglers looking to save even more money by doing a self-guided trip. For only $1,895.00 per week, per person, double occupancy, this option is a real bargain.
This large area of white sand flats, hidden creeks and pale turquoise channels is perfect for anglers seeking lots of shots at bonefish. Guests stay at a small hotel with air-conditioned rooms. The owner prides themselves on the delicious Bahamian food they serve guests including many out-island seafood favorites. This may be a budget vacation, but Long Island is known for its top notch angling opportunities and may be the best spot in the Bahamas if you love to wade-fish. This lodge will make sure you get to experience the best that Long Island has to offer. At $1,995.00 for a fully guided week, this price is tough to beat!
Unguided Canoe Exploration
Ever heard of this island?... probably not! Mayaguana Island has been fished by only a handful of anglers and this island is so remote that no guides are available for hire on the island. As a result, this is an unguided trip that uses quiet canoes to reach extensive hard-bottomed flats teeming with very inexperienced bones. Now for a very reasonable price, anglers can have full use of the canoes, daily transportation to the flats in the mornings and back in the evening, A/C accommodations, all meals and transfers to and from the airport.
While we don't feel that this experience is for everyone, we do think that if you can see fish well, do not require the services of a guide and are in good wading shape, this might just be your cup of tea! Once you arrive on the island, you will have a host at the lodge, but when fishing, you will be on your own. We'll provide you with a map of the area, a suggested itinerary based on tides and the benefit of our extensive experience on the island. The goal is to limit the number of anglers, eliminate the expense of guides and offer a quality angling experience at a very economical price. We think this is a great opportunity for students, adventuresome couples, experienced independent-minded "old salts" and anyone else with perhaps more skill than money!
We will host only eight anglers at any one time on these self-guided, week long adventures. Anglers will stay in a sparkling clean, air-conditioned, beachfront resort. All meals will be provided. Lunch will be packed in coolers and taken to the flats along with plenty of water, snacks and assorted non-alcoholic beverages of your choice. Dinner is a nightly sampling of traditional Bahamian cuisine.... nothing fancy, but certainly tasty and filling. If you are an experienced angler, in relative good shape and do not need a guide, Mayaguana Bonefishing may provide you with a rare opportunity to explore "the last of the best". For only $1,895.00 per week, per person, double occupancy, this option is a real deal.