Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sea Hunter: Our First Full Fishing Day

A rare morning windless morning in the Bahamas
Up bright and early, we headed back into the flats system that snakes out of Atwood Harbour. The morning was dead calm. Not a ripple marred the surface of the flats and not a breath of wind cooled the sweat on my brow. Calm mornings are unusual in the Bahamas and rarely last very long. Anglers must savor them when they do come and we did.

 A few thunderstorms bookened the flats, but posed no immediate threat. While Mike Kotrick wandered off with our guide Reno, Jim Woollett and I waded up a channel that appeared to open up into a bay. I waded the shoreline hoping to find some fish eagerly moving up with the tide. Instead, I found quite a few bones lying utterly motionless, laid-up in the numerous pale turquoise potholes that pockmarked the mangrove edge. 

The potholes not yet covered by the tide
These hard-to-see fish presented me with a classic angling conundrum: Is it or is it not a fish? I found myself often muttering...
“That can’t be a fish, can it?”  
“It could be a fish or maybe it's the bottom it's not moving” 
“It's a fish cast!  You'll be pissed if you don’t! ”

Nice solid fish were lying completely still on this calm morning

Each and every time I fretted over one of these unmoving “maybes”, it turned out to be a bonefish. It went like this... after a brief conversation with myself, I would toss a fly onto the beautiful white sand near the pale hole or if there was enough room, into the depression itself. Then my “maybe” became a slinky form, often quite large, drifting towards my fly. Soon my lack of clarity got straightened out in a hurry!

After I waded this channel, and picked up enough fish to already call my day a success, Jim joined me at the outlet to a bay where I could see dozens of bones stacked up waiting for the tide to turn to enter the bay. At times, I could see dozens of fish tailing, but the flat was so sticky and soft, I couldn’t wade to them without: 
a.) making so much noise climbing up and over the soft hummocks that I pushed the fish off into deeper water. 
b.) risk sinking waist deep into the very sticky undulating goo that perhaps I would never emerge again.

Voracious blue runner
I did manage to catch a couple smallish bones and a beautiful little blue runner that peeled out of a pack to take my fly like a bluefin trevally. But I was frustrated having these bones so close and not being able to reach them. It was driving me crazy so I eventually left the area to rehydrate in the boat and decide where to go next. The rest of the day was either lots of fish on very soft bottoms or no fish on very hard bottoms. Eventually, It drove us a bit crazy, so we called it quits when the tide hit high. We motored quickly back to the Sea Hunter for showers, cocktails and dinner. Great day, but we thought our next bonefishing should be on the west shore of Crooked where we knew both hard bottomed flats and good numbers of fish more often intersect. As soon as we were all back onboard, it was decided we would head back to Landrail Point where we would anchor for the night.

The guys watch the sunset from the upper deck...

As we chugged along at seven knots with the wind and seas off our stern, Sea Hunter Captain Mike Riffe gave us the weather report for the morrow: light winds (up to 7 mph), and the possibility of some rain, but nothing too threatening. He thought it would be a good day to go out to the Diana Banks. It would be about a 20 mile run in the Sweet Jessie. We would need to be off by 5:30 AM if we wanted to go.

… as we start back to Landrail Point
It didn’t take much to convince us. Soon we scrambled to string our 12 weight rods and pack big bluewater streamers and poppers. I told the guys to make sure they had their raincoats and we tossed in some spools of straight #69 wire and packages of barrel swivels. With any luck, we would get into some dolphin, wahoo or yellowfin tuna. We asked for a wake-up knock at 4:45 AM then we all retired hoping to get some shut-eye as the Sea Hunter rumbled along pointed back towards Landrail Point. The last thing I remember before sleep overtook me was the anchor chain’s rat-a-tat and then the wonderful silence as the Sea Hunter’s engine went still. 
Next: Our bluewater day!


  1. I've got just what you needed for those soft bottomed flats you can't wade. You need to give one a try (ISUP)

    1. I thought of you when I was trying to pull my leg out of the muck. Your board would have been a welcome sight indeed!

  2. Wait .... it was calm where you were? It was never calm where I was. At least I don't think it was. I don't remember calmness. And how come every time I cast to one of those unmoving, stationary "bonefish" it turned into a little fly snatching cuda? You need to teach me that trick.

  3. Aint' that the truth about those small Cuda's. Then there was the time I see this "Cuda" coming in to me that is just too big to be a bonefish, so I throw my steel leader cuda fly contraption rig over the bend of the bonefish fly and start casting to it. After wondering why this "cuda" didn't smash the fly like he shoudl have, I suddenly realize it's a 10lb plus bonefish giving me the hairy eyeball at 30 feet.

    Needless to say he kept swimming and I felt like an idiot

    1. I did that on this trip. I thought the fish was a shark. It turned out to be the biggest fish I saw on the whole trip.
      I know that "I'm an idiot" feeling!

  4. My friend on another unnamed Bahamian island this spring casted at what he thought was a cuda and caught a 38" bone. He forgot to take a photo of it. Had he done so, it could have been the second largest IGFA bonefish caught on a fly! He says he feels bad about it but on the other hand, who really cares about the second best!

    Good to know bones can "sit" still. Always more to learn. That is an amazing photograph with the gray flat, gun metal sky and the perfectly composed and camoflagued bone in the middle! Sureal, almost like a Salvadore Dali painting, the fish dripping like a melted clock and all!