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North Bight of Andros Island, Bahamas 05-04-1999

In early May, Angling Destinations was invited to fish in a bonefish tournament using two lodges out of Cargill Creek on North Andros. After years of fishing on more remote islands away from the main stream, we were shocked to see how things had changed since our last visit. Here is our report:

"The bonefish are still here, big fish, lots of fish. But they are also educated. They know the sound of the fly hitting the water and often spook when the line begins its arc. If they don't leave and if you make a perfect cast, they often simply inspect the fly, determine whether it is a 4 or a 6, then, as if to irritate you, move on. You may get 20 shots in a day and not have one fish pick up your fly. These places are well advertised and well marketed and if you were a neophyte bonefisherman, you might think this is just the way it is.

There are at least 6 lodges each sending out up to 8 boats every day in the general area of the North Bight of Andros. With all these lodges and all these boats pounding the flats each day, an interesting subculture has developed. The guides don't want to motor to the more remote flats (or are told not to) where the fish are less educated, and they stick to a rather leisurely schedule. They want to be in at 3:30 p.m. and seem to be disinterested in whether or not you have had a successful day. They seem conditioned to expect meager results. They do their job in a workmanlike fashion. That is about the best you can expect. I was actually pulled off a flat at 3:15 p.m. while I was surrounded by tailing fish. On one flat, I counted 9 other boats and that included a boat that pulled in 100 yards ahead of us to pole down the same shore- line.

I asked our guide 'is this the way you guys bonefish' and he said 'Yes, sometimes you can see 16 boats here and there are days when over 25 boats leave the creek.' No wonder the fish are so sophisticated. Americans make it worse with big tips paid regardless of where they are taken. There is no cause and effect here. Abominable behavior is still rewarded. If this is your introduction to bonefishing, it is a wonder anyone ever comes back to the sport.

On the second day, at our insistence, we motored to a flat that I had fished many years before. The guide reluctantly burned the gas. Here at least, the fish were catchable. But you still had to spot them a long way off, lay out a long cast well ahead of the lead fish and wait for them to swim over your fly. A subtle twitch brought three big fish for the day, each over 8 pounds. Our guide showed a glimmer of excitement and got quite talkative - maybe he too was just bored by too many fishermen stalking too many smart fish." SSH Journal, May, 1998

What's the solution? As saltwater fishing becomes more popular, more resorts will ignore the carrying capacity of their local waters and opt for short term gain over long term conservation. The in-the-know angler can only come up with two solutions: get better and stay ahead of the pack. There are still plenty of destinations that are protecting their fishing by limiting the number of anglers they take per week. These same resorts are not only willing to motor to the more remote areas, but are insisting on this as a way to not only please their clients, but also to rotate their flats.

We encourage these lodges and their guides to make some necessary changes. If not made, anglers will look elsewhere to seek more service and better value for their fishing dollars. Forewarned is forarmed!



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