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Ragged Island, Bahamas 02-10-2000

Let's face it... it's getting harder to find great flats fishing in the Bahamas. You know - those kind of spots that ten years ago, seemed like they were everywhere. Places where great schools of bonefish prowled the flats and where the occasional permit snuck up on you from behind. Spots where every tidal eddie held a huge barracuda and where every blue hole, channel and cut held an amazing array of baitfish and snapper. This is what we all seek - those untrodden, unmapped and unfished flats, reefs and cuts that hold the mother lode.

In early February, Angling Destinations hosted an exploratory trip to the new Ragged Island Bonefish Club. We all hoped that just maybe we could stumble upon one of those untouched spots where the bonefish were not only plentiful, but stupid. We were not to be disappointed. From the first moment we entered the water, we were into fish. Sure, we had some slow moments, but it is also safe to estimate that over 600 bonefish were caught and released by the seven of us for the week. That fact alone would have made for a highly successful trip. But what made Ragged Island truly exciting for us were the opportunities and availability of other species from permit to sharks and snapper to ladyfish. We caught huge 'cudas on surface poppers.We hooked lemon, blacktip and even spinner sharks that jumped like supercharged tarpon. We caught mutton snapper and Nassau grouper in the deeper cuts between the smaller cays. A significant number of large permit were sighted (often on the backs of rays), a few were casted to and several were hooked... a 27 pounder was even landed. We didn't even get to the endless patch reefs and holes on the windward side of the islands or beyond to the tremendous blue water opportunities that lie almost immediately offshore. In the calmer spring and fall months, this area must be incredible. The lodge has on hand over 20 spin and bait casting rods from 8 lb. to 25 lb. rigged and ready for guest use, so there will be no excuses for not sampling this fishery on our next visit. Let's just summarize by saying the fishing was truly exceptional and we all left Ragged Island with broad smiles on our sunburned faces.

The bonefish club is housed for the time being (until a new facility can be build on the north end of the island) in a local guesthouse. Rooms are clean, well-serviced and air-conditioned. Our meals were delicious and plentiful. Since you could order whatever you wanted from cracked conch to grouper fingers and steak to lobster, we heard no complaints. A full-service bar has a satellite TV, pool table and a well-equipped tying bench. The owner of the club repeatedly delineated the club policy, "Whatever you want we will make it happen, but if you don't tell us, we can't read your minds." Since many of us had traveled extensively in the Bahamas, we were initially skeptical of his "whatever you want" policy. But by the time we left, we were true believers. Let me give you a few examples: Our gear was carried to the boats each morning by the guides and brought back to the lodge and cleaned each evening. We were outfitted with hand-tied wire shark rigs when, following a dinner conversation, we quietly expressed a desire to experience the spinner shark fishing discussed. The meal service staff was exceptionally friendly. They called us by our first names and asked us each evening if we would like an extra helping of their homemade desserts. Get the idea? Let's just say we lacked for nothing. But what was perhaps the most exceptional event that occurred each day was that we fished as long as we wanted. We were in the boats at 7:45 a.m. and many of us would not return until well after the sun was set. And even more remarkable, there was no grumbling from the guides. Conditioned to guides wanting to be back at the dock at 3:30 p.m., it doesn't take long to calculate that a few extra hours a day adds up to a full day of extra fishing over a week. Talk about cost effective.

A quick word about the guiding. There are 59 people that live on Ragged Island. Obviously, that doesn't create a huge labor pool from which to draw aspiring guides. But given this fact, our guides were all adequate and one was very good. We have no doubts that given the commitment management has made to this issue, all guides will be well-trained in relatively quick order. But at this point, it is only fair to state that one must not expect highly experienced guides on Ragged Island. Personally, we'll trade expert guides for stupid fish any day. Just give us a guide that is friendly, hardworking, wants to learn and has the ability to put us on fish and he can expect a healthy tip at day's end. We had this on Ragged Island.

Written by Scott Heywood

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