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Great Abaco Island / Crooked Island Bahamas 04-10-1995

... I stepped off the plane, rod case in hand, and breathed in the warm Caribbean air. Memories of previous adventures flooded my senses: the feel of a breeze through palm trees, the quiet movement of a boat on the flats as we scan for tailing bonefish, droplets of salt water flying off my line as the bonefish begins his run, adrenaline coursing through my veins, the slippery weight of a silvery bonefish in my hands, a cold Kalik beer after a long day stalking the flats, the slap of my hand against a no-see-um on my arm. (small price to pay for paradise)...

It was great to be back.

I arrived back in Sandy Point after a year long absence. Seven days of bonefishing lay ahead. I'd been waiting for this trip for months. For seven days there would be no more shoveling snow, no crowds, no phone calls. I was about to go bonefishing. I was traveling with old friends from Alaskan river trips: Chuck Ash, an Alaskan fishing guide, Chris Smith, an orthopod from Sheridan and veteran salmon fisherman, John Naugle, oral surgeon and fishing fanatic, and Paul Wallop, a Wyoming fishing guide. They were now going to try their skills against the bonefish of Abaco.

The first few days were unusually windy. Normally the winds calm down by early March, but not this year... El Nino, maybe. I didn't care. By God, we were going to catch fish. And find fish we did. Despite the winds, we were able to find fish both north and south of Sandy Point, although trips to More's Island were out of the question.

On the second day, Chris and I fished a little bay north towards Cedar Cay with Patrick Roberts, head guide at Sandy Point. The bonefish were big and inexperienced, untainted virgins of the sea. We started plopping big chartreuse Clousers next to every fish we saw. Chris and I had three doubles in 2 hours. The biggest fish landed was 7 pounds.

The following day was breezy but ideal. Chuck, (my old friend and fellow explorer from Arctic kayaking days) and I ventured to More's Island for an incredible day of sight casting to big cruising bonefish.

Towards the end of the week, Chris, John and I returned to More's Island and had an amazing morning of bonefishing. Chris and I fished both sides of a small mangrove island at the beginning of the flood. Wave after wave of bonefish were moving onto the flats surrounding the island. We both caught and landed over 8 fish in an hour. John, Chris, and I continued to wade through the bight and we saw many big fish. I managed to land an 8-pound cruiser and I was thrilled. I hooked the fish on a desperate, last best hope of a cast. Each previous cast fell behind the fast moving bonefish that was swiftly snaking through the shallow waters. I guess even a blind pig gets an acorn some days. I also saw 4 barracuda. I didn't cast to them only because I didn't want to break off my Clouser. One has to set one's priorities! Unfortunately for me they turned out to be not barracuda but bonefish - - each 10 pounds plus. I was stunned when they jetted off.

The following week, round two of a bit of uncomplicated fun, found me on Crooked Island, my traveling companion again, was Chris Smith. Flying into Crooked Island is thrilling. Turquoise water rings the island and abruptly gives way to cobalt on the northeast side. On the southwest side it's all just flats, cuts and bights. As a bonefisherman, your heart beats not just a bit faster.

We fished Crooked Island for 2 days. Almost every flat had a large school of 2-4 pound bonefish on it. These schools were being dogged by barracuda and sharks. Periodically a barracuda would charge into the school to take a fish. The whole school would panic and rise up like a wave, scattering the water into a white froth. Almost immediately the school would settle down and tails would begin to appear. We repeatedly cast to the edge of the schools picking up fish after fish. Chris and I caught each other's eye. Now a twinge of guilt, not barracuda dogged us. We finally left the school, moving onto another flat, leaving a trail of gluttony behind us.

We decided, having saturated the quantity angle, to go hunting for the quality angle, namely bigger fish... cruising singles and doubles. We found tailing fish in the cut between Long Cay and French Wells at sunset. The two I hooked were 4 and 6 pounds respectively. We also found good-sized fish in the flats outside Turtle Sound. We never did get inside Turtle Sound or to the bight between Crooked and Acklins Islands. Both areas looked like perfect bonefish habitat. So much fishing, so little time. It is hard to be philosophical at times like this.

Written by Scott Heywood



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