Thursday, May 22, 2014

Last Two Days: Sea Hunter at Acklins Island, Bahamas 2014

The last two days were a pure joy… and why not… our home rocked gently in electric blue waters at one of the most remote anchorages in the Bahamas, we were fishing flats rarely visited and our weather, although windy, was sunny and clear. The only "less than perfect" moments happened when were we headed north to reach the flats. In doing so, we had to round (at Salina Point) a long exposed shore. With the strong 20 mph winds, the heavy chop slammed the skiffs diabolically.  To avoid being totally drenched, we donned raincoats and pulled our hoods tight. Going home wasn't so bad as we were running with the waves.

On Thursday (Day 5) I fished with our guide Reno, Steve Peskoe and "EZ" (Earl Zagrodnik). We fished Roker Bay and the flats north of Roker Cay. I hadn't fished these flats since I was on the Commander liveaboard with Dave Sloan at the helm fifteen years ago. I remember beautiful creeks, large firm flats and lots of hefty bones. Not much had changed.

As usual, I bailed out of the skiff early so Steve and EZ could fish with Reno. I began my day on a large hard-bottomed flat that was fed by a picture perfect creek. White sand beaches, palms leaning out over the sand and a perfect bonefish habitat had me convinced I was on the verge of a "boneanza"! I ended up taking a long hike thru this creek system that looked like bonefish central, but to no avail. The cries overhead from an osprey supported my assessment, but both of us were not getting the results we expected. And if my osprey couldn't spot any bones, how the hell did I have a chance!

After walking out the other side of the creek having seen exactly zero (as in zip, nada), I waded back along the ocean side and by the time I got back to where I had started, I had covered many miles, seen no fish and was totally baffled. The creek, the outside shore and the flat outside the creek were beautiful... there should have been fish everywhere.

I did notice the water temp was unusually cold, especially for May, but it wasn't THAT cold. Anyway, by the time I had finished my big circle and gotten back to the flat where I had first bailed out of the skiff, Steve, Reno and EZ had pulled up in the skiff and were now wading towards the creek mouth. I waded towards them and almost immediately a bone swam by. WHAT the hell? I had made this big hike and now I see a bone right where I had started. Then another bonefish swam by, then a small school, then it was like someone had flipped a switch and pegged the dial at 10. It was kinda weird! There were fish everywhere and over my left shoulder the osprey was holding still in the wind. He must have been amazed too. We both were just gawking, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
We all caught a bunch of bones, then the spigot was turned and things slowed way down. Reno suggested we head to another creek. It too was gorgeous. The bones were less plentiful, but we still caught fish and some were in impossibly shallow water. I love hooking these shallow water, backs-out-of-the-water bones. The rooster tail kicked up on their first run is thrilling. It's amazing a bonefish can be so fast with at times a third of their body out of the water.

Eventually, I crossed from the creek to the ocean side and hooked a huge barracuda on my walk back to the skiff. The big 'cuda's take was frighteningly violent (it seemed especially so when you are standing in waist deep water 15 yards away). This barracuda was so big he eventually sawed through my 40 lb.Tyger wire tippet. Even that was perfect… I didn't want to handle this monster anyway! 

Jim uses a barracuda for bait

A big mutton snapper… delicious!

Doug had everyone showing it off but himself

In the late afternoon, we returned to the Sea Hunter to enjoy conch fritters and a superb dinner of Jambalaya. After dinner, we fished off the back of the Sea Hunter with fly rods and spin gear. A pack of big-eyed jacks were camped under the boat. We hooked many and only landed a few. We chummed them up with rice left over from supper. A fly dangled in the midst of these leftovers was immediately scarfed up… at least for awhile, but then being jacks, they wised up. Most of the big-eyed jacks we hooked either reached the coral below or eventually sawed off on the ship's hull. We also hooked a number of big mutton snapper, but only Doug Jeffries landed one of the big ones. This fish was destined to become snapper fingers the next night. In addition, we caught numerous other snappers and reef fish. It was a lot of fun.
Day 5 was a great day… we all crashed early... pretty well exhausted from our long fishing day.

Let's see if you are paying attention!

EZ… with more bait

Horse-eyed jack

Squirrel fish

Our last day was how you put a cap on a trip…
For me, it was the perfect day. In the morning, we walked and walked and walked, but saw no fish. Then Fidel, who was getting a bit frustrated, took us back to our starting point and we moved the boat a mere 200 yards. As if on cue, a few schools showed up. Jim Woollett, Steve Peskoe and I each hooked up numerous times, but Fidel wondered where the bulk of the fish were? Fidel muttered and fretted again, then signaled us to jump in the skiff. We quickly motored to a long shallow shoreline not far away. It was a good call!

This shore offered a classic and quite beautiful flat. When the tide got high enough, it would flood onto a hard pan of packed sand dotted with small mangroves bushes. At this tide level though, there was water only in a basin below this hard pan and from the moment we got out of the boat, bonefish were following the pan's edge. No doubt this pan was their landmark. Big schools, small schools, groups of 5, 6, 8… pick a number, streamed by. It was like a bunch of high school cliques headed for the cafeteria at lunchtime. It was nonstop and thrilling. Sharks were everywhere and they were very aggressive. Every bone I caught was chased by a shark, some were eaten.

You can tell the size of the shark from the bite mark

Soon, I waded out of the water, left these fish to Jim and Steve and hiked 500 yards away. When I stopped, I caught six or seven solid bones usually from the dry hard pan while I was hiding behind a bush. I hauled these fish out onto the hardpan when caught, chased off the sharks that were circling and quickly released these bones so they could swim another day. Most of these bones were caught literally within inches of the shoreline. At one point, I cast to a school of four and hooked a fish, but the hook pulled. These fish were moving fast contouring the shoreline so I crossed a point, caught up to the quartet and actually hooked another in the group. Perfect!

Eventually, Fidel caught up to me with the boat.  Steve and Jim were with him. They had experienced great non-stop action too including a double. Now that's they way you end a trip!

We motored back to the Sea Hunter, washed the salt from our rods, and before we could break them down and pack them away, we were underway, rumbling back to Landrail Point. It would take us a bit over 5 hours. We anchored in the dark with the lights of the village in the distance… the perfect end to a great trip!
Soon, it was back to the airport to begin the journey home.

Boots drying… a sad scene
Back to reality?



  1. That big mutton snapper was mighty tasty. I always love the massive tail on those fish. Strong, strong fish and easy to see why they aren't often landed. But the fish I remember is that monster of a jack that took my fly. I was purposefully trying NOT to hook the big one and had twice pulled it away from him. Then he came out from under the swim deck so fast I couldn't react in time. The sheer power in that fish was instantly amazing and frightening. My first thought was "Oh shit, the big one got it." My second thought was "There is no chance of landing this fish on my 9 wt unless we could get in a boat to chase it." My third thought was "I need to put a halt to this right now before I lose my entire fly line." All three of those thoughts happened in a second and half and by then I could see backing through the fly line. I bet that fish weighed 40lbs or more.

  2. This is exactly as I remember it Doug. I wan't quite so analytical and precise though… I went more like this for me
    a.) "Holy… the Oh shit!"
    b.) We're in trouble now!
    c.) Better Doug than me!
    it all happened so fast!
    I knew this was a huge jack and with props, flats boats, the Contender I thought it would take a miracle to land the fishh. I oly wish we could have seen it.

  3. Like the big Jacks! Pound for pound one tough animal for sure. And the picture of that Mutton Snapper got my taste buds watering, I think they're one of my favorite fish to eat.

  4. Me too! As Mike, the captain said, that mutton is a real trophy!