Angling Destinations decided it was high time to take a look at some of the new things happening on Crooked and Acklins Islands. They asked me if I would go and investigate the islands in late June. I, of course, answered with an immediate "yes" and invited my wife to join me on this weeklong adventure. Her only conditions were that I couldn't bonefish all day long and that she wanted to beachcomb and snorkel when I wasn't fishing. I agreed and generally stuck to our agreement... although I did find myself searching for tails while beachcombing more than a few times!
From a jet at 35,000 feet, Crooked and Acklins Islands look like one big, boomerang-shaped island sliced in half by a narrow channel. This vast semi-circle of land blocks the prevailing winds and waves and in the island's lee, huge deposits of sand settle-out creating a vast, white-sand shallows called the "Bight of Acklins". This bight is a shallow water paradise for the light tackle angler. Hard-bottomed flats, narrow cuts and creeks and bright neon-blue deeper channels cover over 400 square miles of prime Bahamian "reel" estate.
I had not been on either Crooked or Acklins Island in over two years and Sara had never been to either island. I was anxious to get back to the islands' hard, white sand flats and Sara just wanted some R & R in the sun. We decided to start our "Grand Tour" in the south on Acklins Island and end up our adventure in the north at a more comfortable resort area on Crooked Island. Our first stop would be Grey's Point Bonefish Inn on the north end of Acklins Island.
Acklins Island is a narrow outcrop of limestone and palmetto scrub that rises out of the deep blue of the Atlantic. At the north end of Acklins, near Atwood Harbor, on the Atlantic side tucked inside a perfect Bahamian creek system, stands Grey's Point Bonefish Inn. Perched on a hill with a panoramic view of the flats, Grey's Point boasts some of the best "out-the-front-door" fishing in all the Bahamas. Grey's Point offers five, very clean, air-conditioned rooms and a brand-spanking new, colorfully painted dining room /club house complete with satellite TV and pool table. Authentic Bahamian fare such as lobster, conch, grouper fingers are simply prepared and perfect for the eat, sleep and fish hardcore angler. But make no mistake, this spot is as remote as it gets in the Bahamas and anglers should come prepared with all their angling needs including bug spray and a flexible attitude. The guides are good "if not highly sophisticated", work hard and are learning more about their fishery with each season. The inn is run by the Williamsons... a wonderful, friendly, hardworking family. They are eager to please and are very accommodating as long as you make your wishes known.
On our first day, Sara and I grabbed one of Grey's Point's canoes. We loaded it full of snorkeling gear, fishing gear, lunch and ice water. We launched in a freshening breeze and paddled the quarter mile to the creek mouth where the extensive exterior white sand flats begin. While Sara shelled, I waded off to explore pale blue fingers that snaked onto the blindingly white and extremely firm sand flats that stretch for miles up the coast. On a rising tide, I found two fish almost immediately and tracked them up the turquoise finger until it dead-ended at the beach. Here, the two bones paused to tail. I arced a travel-rusty cast, one fish charged the fly and I was off and running... certainly delighted to be back on Acklins! Over the next hour and a half, I caught 8 fish within 200 yards of Sara. In one 20 minute period, I waded a small pancake flat that was lightly sprinkled with turtle grass and starfish. I picked up fish after fish as they tailed into the wind and tide. Having promised Sara that I would fish for only a short time, I dutifully quit, if not fully sated, at least definitely with the edge off and ready to go for a snorkel. We quickly paddled to one of the many patch reefs that were within yards of where I was fishing and slipped overboard to view this island's superb undersea aquarium. Upon surfacing, we could see the coral and turquoise colors of the Grey's Point Inn.
About thirty minutes south from Grey's Point, past the rustic settlements of Pinefield, Hard Hill and Mason's Bay, lies the big bay called Snug Corner and the island's most narrow stretch. Here, built on a hill with a commanding view of both the dramatic Atlantic to the east and the leeward and more serene Bight of Acklins to the west, is the beautiful Acklins Island Lodge. This lodge was unfortunately closed for over a year while the American and Bahamian partners ironed out some land title issues. With the issue now resolved, activity has begun to reopen the lodge. This is good news to the many anglers that loved this comfortable and strategically located facility. Acklins Island Lodge plans to re-open in the spring of 2003 and to offer the same services and amenities that made this lodge one of our most popular remote 'hotspots'. So for all of you waiting for word from Angling Destinations on the status of the negotiations... "we are back on track and should be open for business in the spring of 2003"!
With Grey's Point Inn fishing both the north end of Acklins including Atwood Harbor and the extensive flats of Lovely Bay and Snug Corner, Acklins Island Lodge will fish south to Jamaica Cay and Roker Bay. The lodges will only overlap at Snug Corner making it possible to fish three days at AIL and three days at Grey's and to cover Acklins from "top to bottom". In all fairness, it would take a month, maybe a season to adequately probe this Island's bonefish habitat... in six days you will only scratch the surface. Maybe that's why so many people return to Acklins year after year!
Sara and I fished the Snug Corner area one afternoon after we visited Acklins Island Lodge. It took us 10 minutes to walk from the lodge to the flats. Where else in the Bahamas but on Acklins can you experience such easily accessed and extensive flats within yards of where you sleep? In the two hours before supper, I had two shots at permit and hooked up with over six bones from three to five pounds... not bad for a low-key afternoon! I even managed to get in some snorkeling with Sara! Tomorrow we would leave for Crooked Island...
What Crooked Island lacks in out-the-door-fishing is gained in diversity, amenities and sheer electric-blue Bahamian beauty. The comfortable little resort at Pittstown Point sits on a dramatic stretch of white sand beach. With rooms so close to the water you can hear the waves lapping at the shore, this is a perfect spot for couples and die-hard anglers alike, especially for those seeking a variety of oceanic, as well as angling experiences. From offshore angling for marlin, sailfish, tuna, dorado and wahoo to reef and cut fishing for jack crevalle, grey snapper, 'cuda and mutton snapper to exquisite inshore shallow water opportunities for bonefish, permit and tarpon, this is a spot that merits any diehard angler's serious attention. With American guide Carter Andrews at the helm, this is one of the most sophisticated out-island experiences available in the Bahamas. Carter has personally trained four excellent guides who run superb fast boats, can throw a cast net with the best of them and know the complex and extensive flats of the leeward bight extremely well. With these guides, you can bonefish the best tide of the day, then net some pilchards and running with your live-well full, motor to one of a hundred places to chum for snappers and jacks. If you throw out twenty pilchards in ten minutes and don't start a feeding frenzy, you just motor to another spot where grey snapper, mutton snapper and cudas mob your live offerings. Throw a 2/0 Lefty's deceiver or a green and white Clouser and you'll get anything from a one pound grey snapper to a ten-pound mutton snapper to a twenty-pound jack crevalle. Great fun!
After our guide netted about a hundred pilchards, we motored to Turtle Sound and dropped anchor off some overhanging mangrove bushes. Clinton threw pilchards at the base of the bushes and almost immediately grey snapper and larger mutton snapper materialized to cash in on this heaven-sent bounty of raining pilchards. We hooked-up almost immediately on both fly and spin tackle. Sara loved it! This is just great fun and we all laughed, hooped and shouted from the sheer joy of it all. I would recommend this live bait chumming to anyone, especially after a quiet, concentrated session on bones.
After a long day on the flats or reefs or in the "big blue", the emollients of Pittstown Point are soothing indeed. A comfortable bar just off the new dining room offers your favorite libation and with Reggie the bartender offering up card tricks along with the cold Kalik beers and Goombay Smashes, the cocktail hour passes quickly. Meals are wonderful and feature fresh seafood and homemade Bahamian desserts like key lime pie and coconut cr'me pie. A traditional "rake and scrape" band often entertains in the bar after dinner.
For Sara, after the more rustic, fishing lodge experience on Acklins at Grey's Point, Pittstown Point seemed like heaven. With the electric-blue reef to snorkel and the beautiful, white sand beach to comb, Pittstown was the perfect place to finish out the trip. She could put on a dress for dinner, enjoy a real cocktail hour and a candlelight dinner and talk to people who didn't just talk about fishing. After all, being a good sport with all this fishing goes just so far.
If you're looking for a little more budget-minded experience than what Pittstown Point offers and don't want to sacrifice anything in the way of reef and flats fishing, you can fish with Clinton Scavella and Mike Carroll of Old Woman Cay Bonefishing headquartered in Landrail Point. Accommodations are in the form of a small guesthouse complete with A/C and full kitchen. Meals are taken just across the street at a wonderful local restaurant 100 yards from the guesthouse. But what is perhaps best about this Crooked Island option are the guides and boats. Clinton and Mike are wonderful people, very friendly, and willing to do what it takes to make your trip special. Both run state-of-the-art flats boats complete with big motors (to make the run to French Wells painless), trim tabs, live-wells and poling platforms. For instance, Clinton runs an 18.5' Silver King Grande Master with a 115 hp Mercury that eats up chop and runs in 6" of water. Mike operates a beautiful new 19' Action Craft. I cannot overemphasize how accommodating these guides are and how much they aim to please. They truly know what it takes to satisfy a client's expectations. As such, this may be the best bargain in all the Bahamas!
While the hardcore angler can enjoy either island, anglers seeking more amenities (or with non-anglers in their party) should probably visit Crooked Island. Acklins Islanders tends to be a bit less sophisticated and generally more shy and reserved. This is probably because Acklins Island is a harsher environment with fewer population centers. The Bahamaian government has made more improvements on Crooked Island and therefore jobs and sophistication have followed. If you seek remote, think Acklins... if you seek resort-style living or budget opportunities, consider Crooked Island. Or spend three days at Acklins Island Lodge, three days at Grey's Point and three days on Crooked and fish this extensive archipelago from north to south and east to west... you'll surely sample some of the best bonefishing in all the Bahamas.