As we pulled into beach- and rock-rimmed Calabash Bay, I could not have cared less about casting for bonefish. All I wanted to do was gape at the way the shallow waters changed shades of jewel-tone green according to shifting clouds and white sand or rocky bottom and shoot pictures.
But bonefishing is serious business in the Bahamas’ Out Islands, and so as soon as Capt. Maurice Rahming spotted what he called “smokes” – cloudy waters where bonefish were feeding and stirring things up – we were casting off the boat’s stern.
The Reluctant Fisher Catches Bonefish
Call me “The Reluctant Fisher,” because I have always considered the sport of fishing, to paraphrase Mark Twain’s golfing analogy, a good boat ride spoiled. After pulling in four bonefish and a small Nassau grouper off the sand flats in remote Long Island, however, I started to “get” it. A little.
Funny, though: All my career writing about the Bahamas, I have heard how difficult it is to get a bonefish on the line. It pays to hire a charter guide, I suppose. I buddied with a fishing writer to head out of Stella Maris at the north end of the old-Bahamian island with Capt. Maurice. Summer is best for bonefishing, he told us.
In Your Bucket Because…
- Catching a bonefish is the ultimate Bahamas water sports accomplishment.
- If you don’t like fishing, the scenery is well worth the while.
- Great for fisher-folk and ordinary humans who love the water.
Cast, jig, reel, repeat. That drill went on for about 15 minutes before I felt my line tug and heard the zing that would become music to my ears.
Bonefish like to run with a hooked shrimp, and this one had me circling the boat, reeling when I could, letting it run when it felt like it, and finally pulling in about a 2.5-pounder. I followed that with a couple of 3-pounders within 15 minutes.
That was fun! So, what’s so difficult about catching a bonefish?
Not all that much when you have a guide like Capt. Maurice, who obviously possesses some sort of super-vision to detect those phantom “smokes.”
I learned from the fishing writer that the more difficult style of bonefishing involves sight-fishing, fly tackle, and getting into the water – and we saw some determined bonefishers out doing that sans success. Capt. Maurice employed the easier spooling method from his 18-foot Fly Craft boat.
We moved out of the bay into the skinny, skinny waters of Cape Santa Maria Beach, where the white sand bottom seemed to make the water disappear altogether, as though we were floating above it on air, not water. The clouds lined up above the treetops like marshmallows on a skewer toasting in the warm Bahamian sun.
The famed fishing waters in Glinton’s Sound yielded zero, and we moved around to another spot. Green turtles poked their noses at us, sting rays skimmed across the bottom, and a small shark wiggled past our boat. With all that action, who cares if the fish are biting?
Well, evidently the fishing writer and the captain do, and so we moved on.
I caught my fourth and final bonefish before heading to elegantly old-island-styleStella Maris Resort for a rum punch party, conch fritters, a steak and fish barbecue, and tales of catching fish – a conversation in which I could now actually join, expert that I’d become in just one day on the water.
- Long Island is considered a hotspot for bonefishing, but most of the Out Islands offer it. Andros, Bimini, and Exuma islands are particularly known for their bonefishing captains and lodges.
- Capt. Maurice Rahming, 242-338-5077, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Stella Maris Resort, 242-338-2050, 954-359-8236 (U.S.); www.stellamarisresort.com