by Kate Senn
Flat, sparkling water surrounding 2,000 islands and cays, bank-like reefs made of coral, rock or sand provide endless fly fishing opportunities in the Bahamas. Cruising slowly over sandbanks, rock islands, shoals and coral hideaways on a flats boat, you will be dreaming of mermaids but catching speedy, salty lunkers. In addition to excellent fly fishing, the Bahamas boasts miles of water for snorkeling, sailing and beach-side relaxation.
Castaway Cay, a small island east of Fort Lauderdale, FL may host a private getaway for Disney cruise goers, but bonefish, tarpon and permit find the shallow blue waters of the Bahamas home, feeding readily on a healthy variety of baitfish, crab and shrimp prey. If you catch all three, add yourself to the Bahamas’ fly fishing grand slam club; a difficult feat but not impossible. Other species to target from surf or by boat include crevalle jack, grouper and pompano. Sharks and barracuda love light tackle too, but are best fished for with a wire leader- and lots of caution. Across the expanse of islands you will find excellent fishing opportunities, each cay, and cove as good as the next.
Premier Saltwater Fly Fishing
The Bahamas couldn’t host a number of fishing tournaments, like the Bahamas Billfish Tournament, or the Hatch Magazine Barracuda Tournament, supporting the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust without excellent fisheries. Rich in life, the shallow flats give host to a variety of aquatic species. Knowing when to go is always a factor in fly fishing, but the Bahamas hosts meritorious year-round fishing opportunities. Talk to local lodges and guides for what you are looking for out of a fly fishing trip, as they can provide the best information regarding when to book your trip.
The bahamas got their name from the Spanish, who accurately describes the archipelago as ‘bajamar’, an area with shallow waters; but to many anglers, it is known as the bonefish capital of the world. Follow massive schools of bonefish on a balmy March day, and watch them plow through water; feeding on crabs, mollusks or small fish. They pin their prey with their protruding upper lip, leaping with fury like a cat to your practice casts’ yarn indicator (for a saltwater trip let’s assume its a lot of double-hauls). Guides stand guard, watching for the feeding schools, and assist the anglers with specific directions like “40 meters, at 3 o’clock. And go!”. Without their experienced fish-spotting abilities, anglers have an intimidating amount of water to cast, strip and repeat across the shallow salt flats.
Packing for the Bahamas
Bonefish will make any 6 weight rod and reel scream, if you are adjusted to strip-setting fish, adjusting drags, burning under the hot sun, and reeling in explosive, fash fish simultaneously. However, most saltwater fly fishermen find fishing with an 8 or 9 weight for bonefish ideal, as they can cast in the wind and toss saltwater streamer patterns with minimal effort. Fishing for tarpon or tuna on the other hand, and you will be thankful to have a 10 or 11 weight fly rod on your side.
Plenty of fishing opportunities are available to the DIY angler from the surf or personal vessel, too. The miles of shallow coastlines make it a perfect playground for anglers just getting their feet wet in the saltwater game. Non-residents in the Bahamas are welcome to fly fish for free, without license, though two anglers are not allowed to fish from a skiff, or flats boat unless accompanied by a guide. Noted for both its’ deep sea and flats fly fishing, the Bahamas should be on every anglers radar as a destination fishing hotspot.