My first DIY trip to Acklins
I met Joe, Lou and Adam at a bar at the Atlantis Marina on Paradise Island, Nassau on the Friday evening and after a few beers we went to have a look at the Aquarium. It is really amazing to see tarpon, bones and a lot of permit swimming around with a load of sharks. It is well worth a visit. The rest of Atlantis is like being in Las Vegas and seems somehow out of place in a fishing trip to an almost uninhabited island.
We met each other next day at 7.00am at Nassau airport and it was amazing how many anglers there were waiting for the flight. In the queue we were told that they would only allow 44lbs of baggage per person and that any excess would not be allowed on the plane. When I got the front of the line I put my bags on the scale – 74lbs. Good heavens or words to that effect. After pleading with the check in guy I finally had to pay $29 and he put a priority tag on my luggage. Phew! I had got away with it.
We boarded the plane and just before the door closed a Bahamas air guy got into the plane and told us that we must change planes so that the luggage and passengers could all get on as the one we were on was too small.
I thought that was great thinking on their behalf but when, after 15mins, we got onto the other plane we found that it was the same type as the previous one.
On landing at Spring Point Acklins we discovered that no one on the plane, apart from the people who put their carry ons into the hold, had any luggage. We were assured by the Bahamas air people that another plane would be coming at 1.00pm with the luggage. I don’t think that many people actually believed them. We decided to check out our accommodation and have a look around.
We had met Bill at the airport who said that the fishing the previous week had not been too good but gave us a lot of very useful information and maps of the fishing places. Thanks very much.
We filled up the car, found the grocery store, which was very well stocked so we needn’t have brought all the excess baggage food with us from Nassau. We also bought a case of Kalik and then off to the water plant, which was closed. Joe and Lou went in search of the plant manager who they found playing Dominos in the airport bar. As per instructions we bought two 5 gallons jugs of water and a bag of ice and noticed that the plane was coming in, it was 12.00 midday.
We eventually got out onto the water by about 2.00pm. We fished one of the inside creeks by and we actually caught some fish.
Back home shower then Joe and Lou pick up dinner from Kathy.
This is the start of our daily routine.
We would have dinner and then as Lou would put it retire to the lounge. Where we would drink rum, smoke cigars and listen to all kinds of music from my iPod and solve the problems of the universe. No topic was either too big or too trivial we covered: religion, politics, women, music, philosophy, you name it. Fishing was also included but not too much.
The following 4 days we had strong north east winds gusting up to 30 mph. This effectively meant that there was no tide on the Bight side of the island and fish were not moving into the creeks. However by moving around we managed to catch a few fish every day.
On the Wednesday Bob Berquist suggested that we might fish by one of the Cays and that it was a walk of about 2 miles this sounded like a good idea as we were beginning to doubt what the “ridiculous” aspect of Acklins really meant.
We parked at the access point and Joe and I marched along the beach thinking that it was “only” 2 miles. After about half an hour we kept saying to ourselves it must just be round the next point however after just over an hour’s forced march we got there and sheltered from the sun under a tree and waited for Adam and Lou to arrive.
We then waded the flat alongside the Cay for 4 hours in one direction. We did not find any schools of fish but there were a number of singles to keep our interest up. We did manage to catch a handful of fish though. We trudged back up to the top of the flat and shared out any food and water we had brought with us. We didn’t take much water and no lunch as we thought we were not going very far. – Big mistake.
At this point I could hardly walk, my left foot and my right foot were both giving me problems.
I noticed that at the top of the flat the tide had gone out a little and sent Joe and Lou off to explore. I rested my feet and then decided to try to make the walk back. Luckily my feet were not so bad walking on dry land and the walk back only took me an hour and 45mins. Adam arrived soon after me and Joe and Lou about half an hour later.
They had apparently found a couple of big schools at the top end of the Cay.
That evening in the middle of our lounge discussions there was a knock on the door and in came a tall guy with a big white sack – no it wasn’t Father Christmas as he had no beard. He sat down and motioned that he wanted a cup of water. He then pulled out a half finished bottle of Bacardi out of his sack and stated drinking it. We tried talking to him but all we could understand from him was “Ken” and “white man”. His name was apparently not Ken and it looked as though he was set in for the night. Adam was starting to look worried. So Joe went next door for advice and David, Bobs friend, came in and persuaded the guy to leave. We obviously christened him Ken as we did our pet mouse who would eat peanuts with us in the evenings.
Bob told us that we could fish the next day with a guide called Willy if it was not too windy. Next morning we woke up and it was still blowing 20-25 so we decided to not try that option. That day we tried every place could think of without going on a death march.
We found and caught a few fish but still nothing fantastic.
That evening in the lounge we discussed our options for the next day. Joe and Lou wanted to go on another death march back to the Cay. I said my feet weren’t up to it and Adam was feeling tired. We put off the decision until the next day and lit another couple of cigars and opened yet another bottle of rum.
Friday, our last day fishing, was bright sunny and calm. What a surprise. Joe and Lou wanted to go for a death march so Adam and I dropped them off. They had made the right decision as on comparing notes at the end of the day they found a “ridiculous” amount of fish whereas Adam and I found a few schools that were either deep in the mangroves or very spooky.
Our last evening together we consumed a large amount of rum which ran out just before midnight. We then went out looking for a bar but everywhere was closed.
My summary of the trip was that it was perhaps one of the least successful fishing trips I had every been on but one of the most enjoyable. I had a great time with some great people.
What did I learn?
Not too much new stuff because I learned a long time ago that fishing is always dependant upon the weather and if the man upstairs is not playing then there is not much you can do.
Acklins only showed its possible potential on the last day. Enough however to make me feel that the fishing there could be out of this world.
What would I do different next time?
Local knowledge is very important. I would like to go with an Acklins veteran.
Use of a boat would mean that the death marches were unnecessary.
I would bring more rum with me. We only drank 6 or seven bottles in the week and Adam didn’t drink any.
Great report Pete. There's no accounting for the weather. Probably would have been better off with this weeks new moon tides. One thing I learned 2 years ago was to travel light. I had a big canvas duffle with all my gear in it. Because it was oversized it didn't make the flight from florida to Nassau. Consequently I had to run down to customs in the am to collect my bag, which came in on a later flight, then run to the other end of the airport to catch the plane to Acklins. Running with this awkard duffle hanging off my shoulder resulted in some tweaked muscles in my lower back. Pretty much had me in pain all week and tried to ruin my fishing. I figured out that once upright and walking in a staight line I could deal with it, though the soft flats like Delectable bay and Pestall were brutal. Any torsional stress on my torso would want to bring me to my knees. Anyhow, dispite that experience I had a great time and fell in love with the place. Been there just once but, in my mind, it feels like home.
Great report Pete.
Definitely a quintessentially Bahamian experience. :smokin:
Get those feet healed up good and proper! You're in for some serious walking when you come over to the Cape in June :lildevl:
great story pete, I felt like I was there in the cottage with you guys
the weather seems to have put the damper on things but it says something that you guys still found the enjoyment in it... it says you're hardcore and not just tourists.
If only the fish count makes the trip is it really an adventure? Not for me. My most memorable and exhilarating outings have been those where the challenge seemed insurmountable, but victory gained in one sense or another.
One day on my last visit the fish were mudding in a hole and it was literally one cast after another. For the first dozen or so it was fun but after that I would be looking down the horizon for something a little more interesting even as a fiesty bone was yanking the rod in my hands.
Another day I fished a coral head laden flat where each head had an abundance of crabs and gobies living in them. There were double digit bones that I could not trick visiting these coral heads in waist deep water in a circuit looking for a sustantial meal unlike the smaller bones. But one crunch of the coral under my shoes and they were gone. Consistently over 10#. I observed their pattern and crouched like a snake behind one and waited for an eternity until they came toward my stake out. Just rising high enough to clear my fly line for a cast was enough to send them to the next coral head, and again moving my feet a hair created the telltale crunch and they bolted off. I never hooked any of them.
I came back far more fascinated over the latter, in fact those 'graveyard' fish haunt me still.
You'll be glad to hear that the weather has changed...it's raining with the winds now. Can't last forever.
Wouldn't be a true death march without a bit of pain. A least there were fish at the end of the trail.
My wife has found a novel way of bonefishing in the wind this week, she lets me cast and she reels them in. She out fished me ten to one with her meathod today.
Thanks for your help Bob.
Juro. If I ever make the trip, I'm tempted to take the Mailboat and a set of tandem yaks purchased in Nassau to toss in the trucks. Seems the way to go. Just need a safe place to store them for the groups that follow. Rent them out and they pay for themselves. One could land in Nassau and just hop on the next boat........sameday. Boat ride to Acklins is 12 hrs. so one must sleep on deck with the baggage. No weight restrictions. Sound ridiculous?
Has anyone reading this truely explored the Bahamas the way the folks that live there do? I am very curious about this. When I was on Andros, I met an Italian that uses mailboats frequently. He said it was one of the best parts of his adventurous nature and very affordable. Not totally reliable and very slow as is life on the islands.
The mailboat is more like 18-20 hours, and not a place I'd want to spend ANY time on, nor do very many of the locals anymore! Nor would you be able to just hop of the plane and onto the boat. It takes frieght on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then leaves sometime on Thursday to arrive Saturday by way of Crooked and Long Cay... unless it is diverted somewhere else on a charter or has mechanical problems etc.
Some guys had a Kayak here earlier this year and hardly used it. The issue is covering ground to get to places on different tides, not crossing deep channels etc. When the wind blows I can't imagine having to paddle back with the light fading. The key to fishing Acklins is a good boat or strong legs, and with many of the best flats 10 miles or more from any access point I prefer the boat!
The DIY guys have not been finding great numbers of fish lately, partly due to the weather, but also due to the fact that the same flats have been pounded almost daily for weeks. If you are coming over, be prepared to hoof it to find fish and rest the easy to get to spots. Harry Creek looks like a watering hole for buffalo there are so many tracks, and the Delectable fish are acting like they are from Ten Bay! This is not lost on the local guides who fish those areas when the weather gets rough, and serves to reinforce what everyone has heard coming out of Exuma and Long Island. Fedel, on the other hand has been doing great business taking frusterated DIYers out and getting them into unpressuered fish! One other heads up, DIY is just that! The lodges are not pleased to have DIY folks droping by asking to use phones and computers, asking where to fish etc. Acklins is remote, be prepared to be out of touch for a week and figuring it out on your own. It's amazing how many folks show up wondering why Verizon does not work!:chuckle:
There is an internet connection at Felton's now, but the phone has been out for several weeks. The internet may or may not work at times.
To me its sad to hear that the attitude of the guides on Acklins is changing. I made a trip there in 2002 and didn't encounter that. When planning a return trip in 2004 I was first made aware of the move to ban DIY in the Bahamas. I don't want to get into that here.
I guess the more popular a place becomes the more it changes. When I was there, on a solo trip, in the fall of 2002 there were 2 fishermen flying in with me and none flying out. I fished for the whole week, 3 days guided and 3 days on my own, and never saw another fisherman. I think I was the only fisherman on the Island for part of that week. Even though I had limited experience bonefishing, and this was my first trip to the Bahamas, I had little trouble finding fish and they were wild and eager to eat.
I remember some of those fish but the thing I remember the most is the challenge and the great feeling of accomplishment I got from meeting the challenges. To be all alone on a those flats can be humbling and a little frightening at times. Especially when there is a large shark moving back and forth between you and your canoe.
The first afternoon there I took off in a canoe accross the bay with the wind at my back, pulled into a creek and fished up it. Think I caught a couple of fish in the creek then on my way out I found them tailing as the sun was going down on a flat at the mouth of the creek. It was a beautiful sight seeing those tails flickering in the low sun. So paying little attention to the falling sun, I chased tails till I figured it was time to head back accross the bay before there was no sun. I learned a lesson. The wind was now in my face and it was more than a struggle to get back. Going into the wind I made little headway in the direction I needed to go. So I just started paddling the quickest direction to shore and ended up maybe a mile below the lodge. From there I waded the edge of the shore towing the canoe behind me finally getting there as it turned dark. I'm a surveyor and I have walked many miles through the woods swinging a bush axe but I don't ever think I have been as tired as I was that day. Funny when I look back now that was the highlight of the trip.
I didn't mean to suggest DIY'ers aren't still welcomed here, it's just that the pressure is being felt by the fish and thus the guides. (Right now there are nine DIY folks fishing) There are some locals that think everyone should be guided, others are happy for the business at the stores and bars. Kathy has turned the meals into a great extention of her business. A nice mix is to hire a guide for a couple days to get to the more remote areas. DIY'ers should remember that the lodges are here to do business, not help them out. By not fishing the same places each day perhaps problems can be headed off. It's hard though, as most folks are here for six 1/2 days of fishing and don't think of the cummulative effects of the pressure, and are tempted to go back to the spots they have found fish. Three days of pressure on a flat often means at least a week before the fish feel comfortable enough to come back in in numbers. What a lot of folks don't understand is that these fish will use flats many miles apart. On calm days I have watched schools move three miles from a certain bay we fish
to feed in creek to the north. They have plenty of options on where to feed!
Your canoe story is right on. This is no place to be stuck out for the night. We always leave a daylight buffer for any problems coming in. No 911 here!
Bob. That answers my questions. Thanks for chiming in. Even if the kayaks could be transported and used for the longer stretches otherwise walked, they are still tons of work to paddle into a strong headwind. I just like the idea of having the storage for emergency supplies. If someone takes ill or breaks a bone they would appreciate having the paddle. All the more pressure on the fish though. Thanks for your insight on this. Looks like one of the last bonefishing frontiers close to the USA still has some time left before it gets really clobbered.
I love the trekking on foot as much as a magic carpet ride on Bob's sweet flats machine. There are some spots where I wished I had a yak handy but not many. I won't go into details but primarily where the road access comes to a channel that doesn't open up to flats for a few hundred yards or to reach an island or point that requires a long circular wade pattern, etc.
On the topic of footsteps I am extremely cautious about where I make footsteps not because of visibility to other humans but I don't like to mar the paths of moving fish with mudlines in these slow moving tides, add visual distractions, or change the way bones react on their cautious approaches. It bugs me when people track right through the lanes.
Looks like the DIY will not last too much longer. Economic pressures seem to be taking hold. I'll have to try and get one trip in before things change on Actklins.
Bill. Most seem to want to be there when it's cold here in the states in February March and even April. I've heard great reports from those that have visited in the fall, particularly November. Yes.....the fishing is very good here during those months and that may be a good reason to head to Acklins in the fall. Less popular then and the flats have been rested over the hurricane season. Spoke to one guy last year that went right after a hurricane and he said it was outrageous. Almost too easy.
Bob. Can you add to this? Your input has been very much appreicated. Thank you. If and when I go I will have saved enough money to spread around as much as possible. The last time I went to Andros I bought along something the kids said they needed. Basketballs and hoop nets. A local sporting goods store was going out of business and I bought twenty undersized balls for under $50 and enough nylon nets for all the courts on No. Andros. The guy I left them with to disperse had tears flowing as he knows most of the kids in the area. What an awesome feeling. We pumped most of them up before I left and headed for some of the courts. If you could have seen the look on those happy faces.............
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