Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Crooked and Acklins Islands Feb.10-17 First Three Days

We had such a great trip last year to Crooked Island, we decided to try a trip in February and escape the winter weather. All our travel arrangements went smoothly and we arrived without incident. Once on the ground, we could see that any evidence of hurricane Joaquin in 2015 is slowly fading away. Perhaps not in the islander's memory, but at least in the look of the island. Roads have been repaired, sea walls built, buildings razed or repaired and the mangroves are sprouting new shoots. 

Our guides and long time friends Clinton, Kenny, Michael, and Elvis seemed in good spirits and back to their normal activities. We were delighted to see things on these two beautiful islands getting back to the way they were.

Given the weather report for the week, we knew we were in for some challenges wind wise. The prediction was for good amounts of sunshine, winds steady in the 20-28 knot range, a few squalls, but nothing that would destroy our fishing opportunities. The report was accurate; it was windy, but "sunny enough" all week.

Mike looks for tails.

As soon as we arrived, we stashed gear, built rods and headed out to a small creek I wanted to check out. Our first afternoon was unguided, but even under cloudy conditions we almost immediately picked up on a few tail. Mike Schwartz waded in on a soft bottom and hooked a bone on his first cast! We caught a few other medium sized bones over the next couple hours. This was a great way to warm up and we were hopeful this was a harbinger of things to come. These fish were fat and very hot, obviously well-fed and energetic in the cooler February water temps.

On our first "real" day, Mike and I took off for Acklins to fish with a guide unfamiliar to me. The wind was howling at the ferry dock where we met our guide O'neill. O'neill had inherited the Bossman boat that was a beamy monster. It is not good in chop... bouncy and wet it wallows putting the guide at a distinct disadvantage. The winds didn't let up all day. Despite these winds and our less than optimal craft, Oneill managed to put us on some fish and it turned out not to be a bad day. This would turn out to be the worst day for Mike and me. But over the course of the day, we did figure out our proper positioning in the wind and worked hard to decipher where the fish wanted to be.

On Day 2, John Riggs and I headed off with Kenny Scavella to the south side of Crooked and the creeks inside Old Woman Cay. Kenny dropped us off and then ran the boat back to an outside deeper channel. Here it would stay afloat if the strong breeze blew the water out of the creek. John and I slogged through some soft stuff, then the bottom firmed up nicely. By the time, Kenny got back to us, we had both hooked up and fish were streaming to the back bays of our creek.

I had a fantastic few hours of fishing in the most shallow recesses of the creek (see video above). Tails, nervous water and white sand made for easy spotting and it was fish after fish during this session. The sun did hide behind the clouds at a few inopportune times, but all in all it was great morning. John, Kenny and I finished up the day at Nunya Flat and added a few fish to our daily total before we left ready to get a shower and enjoy a cocktail before dinner.

On Day 3, I headed back to Acklins Island with my old friend Steve Peskoe and a guide I've known since he was 18, Elvis Collie. Elvis lives in Lovely Bay on Acklins Island. We met Elvis at the ferry dock on the Crooked side of the two islands. Steve, Elvis and I motored up to the "fingers" on the outside of Snug Harbour. Elvis parked the boat and we walked across some hardpan to reach some small bays on the interior of the "fingers". On the way, Elvis pointed out some holes that were very soft, yet well camouflaged by muck. They had suddenly appeared after the hurricane Joaquin a few years ago. Elvis rightly warned us that one could twist an ankle or worse if you were not careful to step around these booby traps. Not one to dwell on the negative, Elvis marched us forward, obviously intent on getting into an area where bones were riding the rising tide intent on reaching the recently dunked tiny, tan crabs that were seemingly everywhere.

Steve and Elvis took one side of a small bay and I took up a position on the other. We immediately saw fish and soon Steve was casting at a large pod. As I waded forward, I could see Steve was constantly hooked up! I wasn't doing too bad myself and in order not to spook their fish, I waded to the next "finger over". It was a beautiful narrow bay and I caught fish after fish after fish. Incredible! These fish were in very shallow water and with consistent sunshine I had a superb morning!

Steve and Elvis eventually made their way out of their bay as they kept pace with the falling tide. I was doing the same in my bay and soon we all reached the outside. Here, we waded about 500 yards apart weaving in and out of sandbars and tiny cays dotted with small mangrove bushes. We were always into fish. 

We eventually made it to Elvis' Beavertail skiff, ate lunch then motored to a huge flat bordered on one side by a sandy cay. The fish on this flat were bigger and much tougher to find under increasingly hazy, windy conditions. The fish were nervous and edgy perhaps from the breezy, cloudy conditions. Steve and I hooked a few, but the challenges offered by this flat humbled us after our easy morning. That's the way it goes and frankly, that's the way you want it. If it was always easy, it wouldn't be such an engaging sport. Take the easy times when they come for the tough times are just around the corner!

Next: Part Two
Days 4,5,6