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Bonefishing in South Andros, Bahamas

Bonefishing in South Andros, Bahamas

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Published by uptownangler
Detailed story about an exciting saltwater fly fishing trip for Bonefish off of South Andros in the Bahamas.
Detailed story about an exciting saltwater fly fishing trip for Bonefish off of South Andros in the Bahamas.

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Published by: uptownangler on Jan 22, 2009
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06/16/2009

 
Bonefishing in the Bahamas:
Find out how to take a great trip like this one or about our other specialties: Fly Fishing for RedfishandCharter Fishing Louisianaat the Uptown Angler site. On Saturday April 28, 2007 the Uptown Angler Crew boarded our plane in New Orleans at 6amand was off to Nassau! We were really looking forward to trip and the weather looked great!.Beau, our captain, brought the boat from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, starting with 18 knotwind on his nose (ESE). He slept on the Great Bahama Bank and made it into Nassau to theYacht Haven on Friday about 7pm. He should be full of fuel and ready to go when we arrive.Our plan is to make a night sail leaving at about 3pm and head west and south out of Nassau over the deep water of the Tongue of the Ocean to the southern tip of Andros. Cruise time should beabout 12 hours. We anticipate finding an uninhabited part of the Bahamas (the road ends 20miles to the north) with white sandy cays and lots of wading flats around them. Hopefully wewill find many unfished to bonefish. Nassau, 2pm Saturday April 28. We landed to a madhouse at the Nassau airport at 2 pm onSaturday. People everwhere. Made it through that and took a cab to the boat docked at the far side of the island at the Yacht Haven. We didn't wait long before taking off on a night voyagedown the Tongue of the Ocean. Our destination was far South Andros near Jackfish Channel. Wehad never done this before and none of our books and maps showa good anchorage in the area.Here’s to trying new things!Other than almost running over an unlit bahamian fishing boat in the middle of the ocean, our voyage at night was uneventful. The breeze was light. The sky clear. The water was calm.As dawn broke on Sunday morning we surveyed the Andros barrier reef, third longest in theworld, for a small channel through to the inside. There are several approaches to the Coulter Cays for boats drawing less than 5 feet. The Ocean Princess drawing 5.5 feet pushes the limit onmany of these approaches, including the one we chose, just south of North Rock. A few bumpslater, we were tucked into our anchorage in Jackfish Channel and preparing for our first day onthe flats.The main road down south on Andros ends at Mars Bay. In the 20 miles below Mars Bay thereare no inhabited structures on Andros. Any prudent mariner all the way to the southern tip of Andros into the Coulter and Water Cays should be self sufficient and have built redundancy intoall critical systems. As such, we would fail the prudent mariner definition but we headed southanyway in search of adventure and big stupid fish. When planning is not one's strength, bring lotsof duct tape.Having secured our anchorage and stored sand and, more importantly, having broken out our fishing gear, we started the all too fun process of running through our pre-fish preparations.Having towed a Carolina skiff rigged for bone fishing, we added to the fishing fleet by loweringthe Mitzi Craft from the Ocean Princess topside. Rods were assembled; reels attached and
 
checked; fresh leaders attached; and flies selected for their fish-catching certainty. With toppingoff skiffs with gas, grabbing pushpoles and last application of sunscreen, we were off.We ran up Jackfish Channel into the keys and started our search for south Andros bonefish. Wewere surrounded by flats in every direction. Huge flats, some with marl and some with brightsand, pulled at our impulse to stop and fish. We fought the urge and sought to get more of a feelof where we were and, more to the point, where the fish might be. Winging around one key, wecame to another flat, and this one just looked too good. We came off the plane, pulled up themotors and started to pole. Sure enough, there was a school of mixed-size bones marchingtoward us. Eric was given the honors of first shot and he whipped a few casts out to the school.He had a take but, in his excitement, he set the hook too vigorously and popped the fly off in thefish. He quickly tied on another fly and Ben poled him back to the school. This time, he workedthe presentation just fine and he was on. With a two and a half pound bonefish in the skiff, wewere now in the game.Sport fishing in general and bonefishing in particular is filled with dogma. For example, I haveoften heard that "Bonefish move on to flats on the flood to feed and out with the ebb to avoid being trapped by falling water." Although this statement in particular seems to have some facevalidity predicting movements and locations of fish is usually mythological. After all they call itfishing, not catching. The numbers of variables that potentially could affect fish behavior arealmost infinite: tide stage, tidal flow, tidal range, wind, water temperature, time of day, lighting,underwater topography, and food availability to name a few. I have stood on countless flats thathad previously produced fish in conditions that looked perfect to me, waiting through severaltide changes for fish to arrive. I have been offered and have offered explanations for the "noshows" but I must now humbly submit that I don't have a clue. This said, I will gladly fish withthose of you who claim to know what you are doing. For some, I've come to believe that theyactually conjure up fish. But, for the rest of us mortals, it's a portion of strategy and a dose of good fortune.In fact, we have found bonefish in most every venue we have scoured – just not every spot atevery time. It seems every more clear that it's not just where you try to ambush bonefish butwhen you fish them. Tidal situation means everything when fishing bonefish. We're seeing aclear pattern of bonefish staging in a particular flat just prior to the respective tidal change.Anticipating that and positioning yourself accordingly makes all the difference. When you dothat just right, you own the fish for 60 – 90 minutes and then it's over. This is truly angling, notmerely fishing.On Monday, we set out at 8am to explore the ocean flats of the Curley Cut Cays and the easternmost part of the Water Cays. The tide was low at 6am and we would be catching it in midrange.This is not the best situation for bonefish coming onto flats, but we still fished a dozen areas before noon. Each island was picture perfect with mangroves right up to the water and huge flatsof grass, corals and sand: perfect habitat. The wading was firm. The flats were endless.
 
At around 10am, I motored into an island that had another smaller island just off its shore on theocean side. The separation between the two was only twenty feet. The water was knee deep andthe tide was still running out. I approached from the east and could see a huge flat on thewesterly side of this cut. Both islands had mangroves right up to the water. What I saw wasseveral thousand bonefish stacked up on the flats on the western side trying to move through thislittle cut. The fish were over 100 yards deep. With a Deep Water Gotcha I caught over a dozen bones there. Each catch would stir up the group. But after I landed the fish, within a few minutesthe fish were stacked up again. The beautiful part of this fish was that the fish would movethrough in groups of about 50 or so. Most of these fish were in the 2-3lb range and the largestone was a 4-5 pounder.The best tide for fishing bonefish on flats is the rising tide. But the tide must be caught earlywhen it begins to flood the flat. That afternoon the tide would be low around 1pm. But this areadrains so much territory that the tides are often off by hours. For instance the ocean may be lowat 1pm, but the ocean flats are still draining water from the interior 2 hours after that low. Near our morning bonanza spot we decided to wait for the tide change. The flats had drained dry andwe were sitting around on our flats boats waiting. I even took a 30 min nap while waiting.At 5pm the flats were drained and the tide was slack. Nothing but dry flats everywhere. We hadstacked out near a channel that runs from the ocean into the interior flats, splitting two hugeocean flats almost in half. That is where we anchored our boats in order to get close. The waitwas worth it. As soon as the water started to rise the fish started to stage in the deeper water. Thisis fishing in the shallowest waters, as the bonefish push onto the flooding flat. Stream after stream of schools moved onto the flats. Each school was tailing. What you say was pods of  bonefish tailing slowly as the water rose. The opportunities were incredible. I picked a bead eyedCharlie that Alec had given me (get the name later). I matched the bottom color which wastanish. I fished on my knees in order to get close enough to cast to the fish. With water onlyankle deep, my profile was spooking the fish before I got close. Still some fantastic hookups inthis shallow water though: I landed 4 good fish and had another 3 break off.After a good day of fishing it was back to the mother ship for shower and dinner; and of course,rum and tonics. The next morning, 15 miles off the South West Coast of Andros, had all of the promise of a new bride. After a pre-dawn double-shot coffee, two bananas, and a heavy coatingof SPF 50 on all exposed parts, the skiffs were loaded with fuel and fishing gear. The game planincluded morning exploration of the extensive flats on the west side of the Water Cays, middayfishing on the western flats and then an afternoon rendezvous with the Ocean Princess. This wasa particularly ambitious plan since, due to draft constraints of the Ocean Princess, the rendezvouswas to take place at a GPS coordinate 12 miles out into the Great Bahama Bank.The flats on the east side of the Water Keys get really skinny at low water, too low in fact for our Carolina Skiff, Poule d'Eaux, that can usually float in only 4 inches of water. The "usually" partrefers to the normal state of affairs with both transom plugs in. Tuesday simply refused to beusual and so as in many great fishing trips it started out badly. Within 20 minutes of leaving theOcean Princess, we were stuck on a hard marl flat with more water in Poule d'Eaux than on the

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