Scott Steinfeldt, owner of the Bighorn Angler in Ft. Smith, MT had invited his friend, urologist Bob Stockdale of Billings, MT. to join me, Eric Berger of Indianapolis and Joe Scuderi, a retinal surgeon from Savannah, GA for a week of bonefishing in the Bahamas on Acklins Island.
We had heard stories of double digit bonefish and thirty-fish days. As the five of us boarded the plane in Nassau to make the flight to Acklins Island, we wondered whether the rumors were true. I had fished this general area before (see AD newsletter volume 1 issue 2) and it had been at my insistence that we do this trip. I hoped that the rumors were at least 50% correct - hell, I would have settled for 25% correct.
It's the week after the trip as I write these words and I've repeatedly checked in with my Acklins Island compatriots as we all attempt to return to our normal lives. I am somewhat at a loss as to how to describe this trip.
It all sounds like lies.
Let's try this: Bob Stockdale, who had never bonefished before in his life, (and whose casting was 100% better at the end of this trip than at the beginning) caught 46 fish for the week. That's about 8 fish per day. I'm sure he would tell you that he casted to thousands. Joe Scuderi, who is an excellent flats fisherman, ( he combines a nice casting style with a hunter's stealth) caught between 25 and 35 fish per day. Eric Berger and Scott Steinfeldt caught well over 100 fish each, and I tried to stay up with the Italian surgeon. We caught numerous 7-10 pound fish; the bulk of the fish were in the 3-6 pound range. We spotted 14 permit. Joe and I botched two shots at permit because we were having lunch and weren't prepared to cast.
The Acklins flats are hard-bottomed, composed of crushed coral and packed sand. There is very little vegetation and the fish are sometimes ridiculously easy to see. There's more bonefish habitat here than you could fish in a whole season let alone a week.
Most of the fishing was classic wading... shuffling quietly, concentrating hard, trying to peer through the water's surface. Suddenly a single, double or a squadron of 200 bonefish would appear. Many times we were tipped off by pushing water. Other times the fish appeared as silently as a thief. Make your cast, strip, strip again and suddenly a shadow of wet silver rocketed off the flat with a bit of your adrenal gland attached to your fly. The wading was in very shallow water. You could watch the fish through this gin-clear liquid as they turned and rushed towards your flies. The fish ate very aggressively and the action on the falling low and new, rising tide was nonstop. The only slow periods were at high tides when the fish spread out into the mangroves.
This is a great trip for beginners and experts alike. Beginners can stay with the guides and hone their skills on school fish, while the expert can drift off alone and stay "outside" the creeks, fishing the rocky points where the big cruisers congregate.
This was without a doubt one of the best bonefishing trips I've ever had. I kept thinking: " So this is what the Bahamas or the Keys were like 50 years ago."
The mothership is a 41 foot trimaran that has four berths - 3 singles and one double. Although certainly not roomy, it is very comfortable. The captain is a safe and experienced seaman. The vivacious and charming first mate, Robin, serves excellent meals, especially considering the remote nature of this trip. The skiffs are comfortable and well-maintained. The guides are friendly and know their areas very well. The crew makes every effort to maximize your fishing time. We we're fishing every day by 8:30am (that's fishing, not motoring to the flats) some days much earlier and we didn't quit before 5:00pm. Then, all it took was a 5-15 minute ride back to the mothership. At the end of each day, we were shoulder-weary and ready for a shower, a cold beer, and maybe even a swim before dinner. After dinner, there was time to tie some flies and recount the day's adventure. I only hope I'll get to return to Acklins Island soon. This is a fantastic opportunity for the serious flats fisherman. We strongly urge you to consider this trip.
Written by Scott Heywood