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FISH XVI: Crooked Island, Bahamas 11-03-2007

A tropical depression is an area of intense low pressure well on its way to becoming a full-fledged hurricane. These depressions carry gale force winds, often dump torrential rains and can quickly destroy an angler's dreams. On the day before F.I.S.H XVI (Forum for Indiana Studies in Health... this was year 16), was to fly to Nassau, tropical depression Noel was perched over the Bahamas, the airport in Nassau was closed and our trip was at risk. After a year of planning and anticipation, it was now unclear whether FISH XVI would ever happen... at least in the Bahamas.

On FISHmas Eve, as I sat staring at my computer's screen which was logged on to, I watched as a snarling mass of 60 mph winds carried over 15 inches of rain to many islands in the Bahamas including Crooked Island, the eventual destination of FISH XVI. As my frustration mounted, I was beginning to learn the true meaning of a tropical depression and that is the melancholy that invades an angler's psyche when dreams of blue skies, endless flats and big bonefish are seemingly dashed.

But at midnight, wet and windy Noel headed out to sea and by dawn, the airport had reopened. We proceeded as if nothing had happened and by 5:00 PM the twenty of us that comprised FISH XVI set down on a very soggy New Providence Island and taxied down the puddled Nassau airstrip. Now all we had to do was navigate a backlogged Bahamasair flight to Crooked, which we did easily the next morning. After a 30-minute bus ride over flooded roads and despite that less than 24 hours ago Noel had barged thru the islands, we were now rigging rods, sorting gear and sipping a cold Kalik beer as we gazed out upon a still angry ocean.

Sunday, our first fishing day, brought partly cloudy skies and a steady wind... certainly not optimal. Generally, the fishing is very good in the Bahamas after hurricanes. It may take a day or two for the water to calm down and the stirred-up sand and sediment needs to settle. This usually that happens quickly and fish that have not fed for a few days are hungry and aggressive. But the amount of rain this storm brought put us in unchartered waters. This amount of rain was very unusual and we had no experience with it. As we turned the corner at French Wells on our first morning, we could see that the water was somewhat milky, but a far larger problem loomed on the horizon. The intense amount of rain was now draining off the land and into the tidal creeks. This freshwater was tea colored, stained by the tannins in the island's deep leaf litter. As the tide fell, this creek water spread out onto flats like a plague. Once gin-clear flats were now more the color of micro-brewed beer. Where this rainwater merged with the salt, this weird brown color morphed into a surreal green. Of course, the bonefish wouldn't swim into this creeping fresh water, as they have always liked a little salt in their breathing water. It was now clear that our conditions would be far from perfect We could only hope that the bonefish would congregate on the outside flats and that our conditions would improve while we were on the island.

And it did! Each day the flats looked a little better and the fishing improved. To the credit of the FISH crew, they all took these less than perfect conditions well. Everyone fished hard and fish were caught each day. We had a great time socializing with each other in the evening and the only low point was that for this Indianapolis-based crew, it would have been great if the Colts could have managed to beat the Patriots. But FISHophiles, the playoffs are coming and revenge can be sweet!

Each day guides Kenny, Clinton, Michael, Randy, Shakey and Jeffrey headed out with those that wanted to stalk bonefish while Robbie and Dennis took a crew out reef-fishing, snorkeling, conching and lobstering. This group always seemed to perfect the art of fun and stories of caught sharks, lobster lunches and snapper heaven punctuated the traditional fish report at dinner with their "big boat" hijinks.

The bonefishing was not as consistent. It seemed that either a skiff found fish or it did not. There was no rhyme or reason to where fish were found on the outside flats. The consistency Crooked Island is known for had temporarily deserted us.

All in all, I think FISH XVI was a great success and I thank all of you for persevering, fishing hard and having so much fun. It was truly wonderful to see you all again. I wish it was more often! Thanks Terry for being such a steadying influence and thanks to Herb, Raleigh and all the folks at Pittstown for doing such a great job. Thanks to all the guides... you guys were terrific! To Mark Ponski, Dr. Stephen Peskoe, and Jim Wiley it was wonderful fishing with you again. And thanks to Julie Carmichael and Cliff Beyler for such a wonderful last day. Cliff you did a great job getting us started with that first nice bone and Julie, as always, you make fishing a pleasure. Here's to the 1000 glittering tails we saw winking at us after lunch. It was a magical afternoon made all the better by the people I was with.

To all of you on to FISH XVII!

Written by Scott Heywood








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