Exuma- Flats Closures [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Exuma- Flats Closures

10-16-2005, 09:15 AM
Several months ago there was a lot of discussion over the closure of certain flats in Exuma and elsewhere in the Bahamas. These closures were to apply to anglers fishing without a guide.
I've seen or heard nothing about this since. I'll be going on a DIY trip in a couple of months, and would appreciate any further insight.

10-16-2005, 05:53 PM
I have heard of no such thing. There is no such thing!!

The fact is; flats will always be open. Ocean in the Bahamas are public up to the high water mark. If not Exuma you and all are always welcome to fish Acklins.

Acklins is DIY mecca; a place without pressure from guides.

Listen not to the rumors go where you wish.


10-17-2005, 10:21 AM

have you heard of this: http://www.breef.org/marine%20reserves.htm ?

According to the Bahamas Dept. of Fisheries, the current goal is to include 20% of all reef habitat in marine reserves, where fishing without a guide will not be allowed. On Andros the reserve will include the North Bight and a large part of the west side. I do not know what the marine reserve boundaries are on other islands.

10-17-2005, 03:13 PM

The Exuma marine area already exists. (no take zone) Additionally an area in the Abacos is a no take area. So we should have no concern there!

The 'Breef' organization you mentioned is non governmental. These people are not the government and don't make laws. I understand they support some of the legislations that are being advanced for their self interest, which is not alway oppose to my view.

Laws relating to 'no take zones' if enacted will come from the Department of Fisheries. (email; fisheries@bahamas.gov.bs).

There are discussions re: an additionally five 'No take zones.' I caution as I was informed, nothing has come to parliament to place these new zones into law. Off the record, if there is such a thing with this format, Bimini, Berry Island, additional areas in the Abacos, Exuma and South Eleuthera are being considered in this on going process.

Fly Fishers should understand we are 'catch and release' so the laws if enacted would do us well.

I also take this opportunity to inform, that visitors to the Bahamas are still permitted to rent boats, fish without a guides and importantly without a fishing permit. Certainly, we agree this is most lax.

Going forward things may change but it will always be for the benefit of those concerned; our guests and the residents of the Bahamas most of whom are able to vote and will have a say as to where we head as it relates to the 'no take zones.'

There will always be more than enough areas to fish in the Bahamas.

10-17-2005, 06:44 PM

going from: "I have heard of no such thing. There is no such thing!!" to: "The Exuma marine area already exists. (no take zone) Additionally an area in the Abacos is a no take area. " is a pretty drastic about-face. It would have been much easier just to reply with the location of the closed flats than to reply as you did. :tsk_tsk:

Being honest with people is often the best policy, particularly since this information is available on the web.

10-17-2005, 07:42 PM
Please note:

The Bahamas National Trust was established by an act of Parliament in 1959, which is the same year the Exuma Cays & Sea National Park came into exsistence.

I repeat, 'I have heard of no such thing.' In other words there are no new 'no take zones' other than the twelve areas that are covered by the National Trust Act of 1959.

I trust not much is being lost in the way we may say things and communicate in different areas of the world. Most of the gossip you hear in the Bahamas is not the law and never becomes law. The way I figure it, it will make very little difference to the sports fishermen coming to the Bahamas. One must always be careful when we hear of changes etc. so as to ensure we are not being 'snowed.'

Persons making use of the waters should not listen to the rumors from guides etc. on the flats.

I am sorry Josko if you feel I misled, that was not my plan.

The infor was only meant to help and ease any fears you or others may have. The areas you speak of existed for at least 46 years. Mentioned, Bahamain laws relating to visitors participation is as laxed as we will find them anywhere. Certainly, we can expect changes in the future. But for now it is as it always was!

As advanced, there will always be plenty areas to fish in the Bahamas.

'Breef' are only making recommendations to the government. Further, with or without a guide you can't fish National Parks, take or capture any marine animal or wild life, plants etc.

10-18-2005, 08:24 AM
Thanks Felton for the first hand information, your input is very much appreciated.

I used to fish Exuma a lot, mostly out of Peace & Plenty and hence always guided. My experience was that things started coming to a head when a few wealthy people from the mainland began inviting their friends over and taking them onto the same flats used by the established guides. If I had been an Exuma guide I would have been pretty upset myself. Human nature being what it is, things spiral out of control, misinformation becomes de-facto law and the world is never quite the same again. I have heard of people being informed by officials at Exuma airport that it is illegal to fish for bonefish on Exuma without a guide. This is, of course, completely false. In my experience, the quality of fishing in the heavilly guided Southern flats of Exuma isn't a patch on what it was 10 years ago and the decline started long before the DIY issue came to a head.

My advice to anyone going to the islands on a DIY trip is to do a bit of homework first. If there are established guiding / lodge operations, find out where they are, get a map and go fish elsewhere. There may be nothing illegal about fishing DIY on a guided flat but you will probably get harrased and I wouldn't count on the local authorities having much sympathy - I could be wrong of course.

As Felton points out, there are endless flats to be fished in the Bahamas and some Islands, Acklins in particular are very friendly for the DIY angler.

10-18-2005, 05:13 PM
I didn't interpret Felton's post as being unclear or deceptive. Certainly marine parks are nothing new to the Bahamas. I read his response as simply trying to clarify.

However I share some of Josko's concern that the establishment of additional no-take areas could easily be hiding other initiatives which have clearly been seen, heard and experienced by visiting anglers.

I would have a few questions for those who are in charge of these new initiatives:

a) does no-take also mean no catch and release fishing with say a single barbless hook of less than 1/2 inch gape?

The precedent is that in several countries a successful C&R program has provided a balance between anglers and protection of resources.

b) does this initiative support guided fishing by commercial charter while prohibiting private exploration of the fishery - or are all anglers treated with the same rules?

The earlier rumors were that only guided angling was permitted while DIY would be outlawed. I fail to see the relevance to protection of species in this.

c) what are the short, mid and long term goals for these areas over time?

d) who is driving this initiative and why?

10-18-2005, 06:20 PM
Felton, I'm sorry if my reply seemed too agressive - but I see a lot of lodges, guides and tourism officials try much too hard to sweep this pending legislation under the rug. My info,. comes from Michael Braynen and Diane Claredge. Michael is the director of the Dept. of Fisheries and Diane heads the Bahamian marine mammal survey - I met with them in May while exploring permitting options for some shark-related research, and we ended up talking at length about he MPA legislation. There's also plenty of press releases to substantiate efforts to close 20% of bonefish habitat to unguided fishers. For instance, http://depts.washington.edu/mpanews/MPA5.pdf

A good question is: what has been acocmplished to date? I kjnow a bit about the goings on on Andros, since I've been working out of the AUTEC base frequently for the past decade or so. There is currently a large area south of High Cay closed to fishing. The MPA proposal, put together by the guides' federation, is to declare the North Bight and much of the west side as MPA's. While the legislation is still pending, it has become decidedly unpleasant to fish these areas without local guides.
Another issue here is the rather drastic drop in bonefishing lodge occupancy since 9/11, and a corresponding increase in DIY fishing (on north Andros). Many of the flat access points are available on the web, and people are taking advantage of this and relatively low-cost accomodations available to DIY anglers. This has resulted in a significant rise in 'flats vigilantism', to the point, where it is downright unpleasant to fish flats like Young Sound, and 'Outer Banks' without a Bahamian guide or 'protector'. Similarly, guides seem to have divided up fishing territories amongst themselves. I was not able to get an independent guide to take me Stafford creek, as he was worried about possible reprisals from Prescott Smith and his cronies. I have been 'buzzed repeatedly on a flat (which I've fished at least twce a year since '94) by a guide coming well within 3' of me repeatedly at top speed. A guide's skiff was torched in March '05, allegedly because of 'fishing someone else's flat'. It has become decidedly unpleasant to fish Andros without a guide.

I feel people should be aware of this and know what they are heading into. Again, muy experience is limited to Andrtos and I don't know how it extrapolates to other islands.

And Juro, this is not a conservation issue, it's all about preserving the dollar flow to lodges and Bahamian guides.

10-19-2005, 09:51 AM
I think right now Acklins is way different than Andros or Exuma, where DIY anglers run head on onto a thriving guide based economy, one in which the guides and lodge employees are the top earners locally. Thus either have the ear of the powers that be or are the powers that be, along with the lodge owners.

The reality is that lodges in the Bahamas are, with rare exceptions, owned by foriegners, buy supplies, equipment, fuel and foods directily from suppliers in Nassau or Florida ( Using "connected lawyers" and payoffs to get around customs, work permiting etc ), minimizing the flow of direct dollars into the local non-guide community.

DIY anglers on the other hand stay at guest houses, eat at resturants, rent cars, buy gas, shop at local markets. The folks on Eleuthera recognize this, on Exuma they do not, or seem not to as the guides are the sqeaky wheel. Acklins is at the cross roads right now. If a bunch of DIY'ers start hitting the northern flats near the lodges every day there will be trouble. If they stay out of the way and make a effort to fish the more remote areas the guides ignore, while spending money at a variety of establishments, things will be cool. Hire a local guide for a day or two and ask to fish an area you would not on your own, make it clear that you would'nt dream of fishing those areas on your own. Chances are he'll suggest some great spots to walk into that he never fishes with clients.

This is not at all a knock on guides and lodges, I love using them...I am one. But if the Bahamas is to maximize the bonefish dollar, DIY anglers will play a huge part in helping the Family Island economies. The two can co-exist as they do every other place.

As for the effect on the bonefish... when bones are pressured by flyfishermen they react by getting harder to catch, not a reduction in numbers. See Turneffe Flats, Savhana Sound, the Keys as examples. When they are netted...they can't react, they just become rare. Thus as more DIY dollars flow directly into local communities, chances increase that the netting will not be ignored or tolerated.

My fear is that such restrictive legislation and protectionism will be pushed as a "conservation" measure. The local guides will be asked, as the local experts, which flats should be "protected", and presto...they have privatized the ocean in favor of the lodge owners/guides.

10-19-2005, 06:12 PM
[QUOTE=Adrian]Thanks Felton for the first hand information, your input is very much appreciated.

"I used to fish Exuma a lot, " Adrian, do you still fish Exuma with or without a guide? I know fishing Exuma used to be part of your winter fishing with your friends from UK but haven't read of any trips recently and wonder why? Are you fishing for bonefish and permit elsewhere and would you care to reveal why? What has happened on Exuma in the past two years after the forming of the "guides association"? Any word? Comments appreciated Thanks.

10-20-2005, 01:12 PM
Flysully - its sort of a long story but in short:

About three years ago, myself and a friend did an independently guided trip to Exuma. We stayed at the Palms at Three Sisters and spilt our time between Cely Smith and Abby McKennzie. Both independent guides fish the North end (Barraterre) of the Island which is what we were looking for. It was a pretty good trip but having been there so much, I started to get "itchy feet".

In the meantime another friend got hold of some land and developed a bunch of homes for resale on the Bahama Sound side of the island. I spent a few days with him in late 2003 but the weather sucked and I still got eaten alive by mosquitoes - which is why, I guess, there is planty of land for sale on the "leeward" side of the island. :lildevl:

My last couple of trips to the tropics have been to Baja and the Keys - both Kayak oriented and not totally flyfishing (but that's another story :lildevl: ).

The proximity to the USA is both a blessing and a curse for the Bahamas. Having experienced the Keys under very tough conditions I am tempted to head that way again but Acklins and Eluthera sound great also. Stories from the Brits about a place called Weipa in Australia have me looking at trip logistics.

There's a lot of Ocean out there and only so much time to explore....

10-20-2005, 06:30 PM
Thx, Adrian, for your comments re Great Exuma and your future flyfishing encounters, if even in your thoughts and plans. I guess most vacation/flyfishing locations eventually wear themselves out, as they did with us, and we all look for different spots to fish in the future. Great Exuma had some good fishing but we weren't happy with the apparent "reserving" of certain flats for special clients of the elite guides for when they arrived, thus, steering us on the guide boat to other flats which we knew weren't productive. These flats proved at the end of the day that they had few bonefish, as well as the wading flats nearby, and we just got tired of that "scene". We'd get back to the lodge where certain clients were "high" on the fish they'd caught and looked at us like we just didn't know how to fish because our guide hadn't shown us much of anything that day. Lots of fish for them, few for us. Few bonefish even shown to us. Can you imagine wading on a flat for two hours on a hot afternoon, with the guide telling you constantly, "they were here yesterday" and not seeing even one bonefish? After an hour, the guide never even suggested getting back in the boat to try another location? So, we stopped fishing at Gr. Exuma and went on to other locations, kind of like you've done. Quite possibly, the new guides assocation will help rectify these observations and lead flyfishermen to more prolific flats.

Geordie Shanks
11-17-2005, 09:57 AM
A friend and I went to Exuma in March of this year. We got there on a Sunday morning and had a full week of guiding with Garth Thompson starting on Monday. As we were there early, we decided to take the ferry over to Stocking Island and "bone up" on our casting a little and try to get our bonefish eyes on. When you live in the Rocky Mountains and fish for trout all the time, you can lose those eyes pretty quick.

There is really only one decent flats over on Stocking Island, and there were a bunch of bluehairs over there wading around so we weren't taking it too seriously-mainly just tooling around and throwing a few casts. Suddenly, one of the locals started to yell at us from the shore telling us that the flat was closed. We talked to him and he changed his story from "the flats are closed" to "its illegal to fish without a guide". He was obviously a part time guide or knew a guide and hated to see some cache go unspent. We argued with him briefly then explained we had a guide for the rest of the week, and he backed off, but the whole experience left me feeling pretty pissed. Those locals are pretty protective and I can see how some of them will try to pull one off on us tourists.

Garth put us with Drexel Rolle for the week and we ended up having a killer time. If anyone tells you the flat are closed, tell them to cram it.

12-06-2005, 09:03 AM
It seems these Internet discussions of the proposed changes were very much noted in the Bahamas, along with decisions of several groups to go elsewhere because of this issue.
The sense I got alst week at Andros was that a: guides federation has advised guides not to discuss this issue, or feign ignorance when pressed; b: there is a perception that the decision (to close some flats to DIY fishing) may well backfire as far as overall tourism income is concerned; c: we are likely looking at a more thorough decision process, i.e. the original knee-jerk proposal wil likely not go through without objective discussion.
I'd say this is one case where discussing the issue on forums such as this one will likely have a long-term beneficial result.

Dble Haul
12-06-2005, 09:35 AM
b: there is a perception that the decision (to close some flats to DIY fishing) may well backfire as far as overall tourism income is concerned

That's the first thing that popped into my mind. Putting anglers off of certain areas may just prompt them to vacation and fish elsewhere, away from the Bahamas completely.

12-06-2005, 10:02 AM

What new information prompted your recent comments?

12-06-2005, 10:05 AM
Well, I was on Andros last week and had a chance to talk to a number of guides, lodge operators/staff, and other folks involved in the tourist industry.

12-06-2005, 07:08 PM
An interesting development...

Thanks for the update Josko!

12-08-2005, 06:07 PM
Closing flats to anglers isn't going to prevent anybody that wants to fish them illegally from going there. The vast majority of anglers that will follow these laws are practicing catch and release anyway. So all this does is hurt the tourism industry by chasing away law abiding vacationers.

My next bonefish trip may have to be to Cuba. I think I'll get along with the Communist laws better... :devil: