08
Dec 16

Bahamas Regulations – Done Deal

bahamas-marine-life

It appears this is happening… January 1, 2017, much faster than anyone thought and with much less notice than was promised. It is happening without a vote in Parliament since it was pitched as a revision to existing legislation.

This, I think, is what got passed.

The big winner in all of this is Prescott Smith. His organization, the BFFIA, looks to be the entity that will control who guides in the Bahamas. That has always seemed like one of the main drivers. The organization he leads will train and certify guides. It is a lot of power and I would not be surprised to see it abused by someone so clearly capable of carrying a grudge and lashing out at those who question him.

The main loser is, for sure, the Bahamian people, who now will have to pay the government to fish the flats, something they’ve never had to do. Water 1-6 feet in depth included a heck of a lot of water that is now off limits unless you are paying. It is mind-numbing to think the Bahamian people would accept this, but this issue seems to have attracted almost no attention from the media or from non-industry Bahamians.

The second biggest loser in all of this appears to be second home owners and ex-pats who have boats in the Bahamas. They will not be able to take anyone out with them to fish without a guide. Two people fishing is one too many, according to what I see as the regs.

For the average bonefish angler, you can still do DIY, but you just can’t use a boat. Unclear if you can rent a Bahamian owned boat, but you certainly would not be able to rent a boat owned by a non-Bahamian.

Funds raised by anglers will go half to the government and half for conservation. I’d bed a fair bit of that conservation money would go to the Bahamas Sportfishing Conservation Association, which is a hardly-existing entity run by… care to guess? Yup… Prescott. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but somehow, I think I’ll be right about it, which is math that shows only one winner (and it isn’t the Bahamas).

So, we started out with an effort to severely limit DIY and ended up with a power play to benefit financially by a few of the chosen PLP anointed. It was always about money and power to one degree or another.

How this thing is enforced is going to determine how bad it gets for the Bahamas. If some wayward flats fisherman gets put in jail for 6 months or if anglers on their own get harassed, it is going to be bad.

Lodges may see a little dip in business, as the tenor and tone of the regulations are not friendly and the intent of their creator is clearly xenophobic and malevolent, but if you were going to spend a week at Bairs or Andros South or Delphi or wherever, this will add just a few dollars to a several thousand dollar tab and you might not notice anything. It is the folks lower on the totem that will go without the business.

It has been a mess and has eaten up more time than I’ve spent fishing this year. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong on all my doomsaying. I’d love nothing more than to be wrong.


06
Dec 16

How it happens – Bahamas Edition

How could the government of the Bahamas possibly think of taking away the birthright of their citizens to go out and fish in their back yard? How could they exclude so many from coming to the Bahamas to fish to enrich a very, very few? How could they consolidate power into a few chosen hands?

Well…

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas and the guy who wants to control the flats fishing industry.

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas and the guy who wants to control the flats fishing industry.

This is how.

They are in cahoots. They are working together.

I think it is no accident that our pal Prescott here started work on a fueling station in Andros far in advance of the recent proposal to allow the Chinese in to rape assist the Bahamians with a bit of fishing. Even if that proposal doesn’t end up going through, there is certainly a cronyism thing going on there in the Bahamas with the PLP.

Pretty sad for the Bahamas.


02
Dec 16

“Restoration” isn’t what you are doing

On my google alert I saw the following headline, “Coldwell Banker Ambergris Caye: Blackadore Caye is Now Moving Forward to a Full Swing Restoration.”

Yes… see… they are “restoring” Blackadore Caye.

re·store
/rəˈstôr/
– repair or renovate (a building, work of art, vehicle, etc.) so as to return it to its original condition.

Blackadore will no be restored to its original condition, a state that it was pretty much in before Leonardo DiCaprio and his business partners took aim at the caye near some of the best tarpon waters in the whole country.

It isn’t being restored. It is being changed, forever (or, ya know, for the next 100 years and maybe longer). It is being industrialized. It is being developed. It is being taken from near pristine and made less pristine. You can’t restore something by cutting down the trees and mangroves and replacing them with buildings and docks.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

As it was.

As it was.

Below, without the over-water structures on the top, right, are what Blackadore Caye might look like soon.

master-plan-of-blackadore-updated

Restoration, indeed.

And power needs and the need to get people, including workers to and from, and the trash produced, and the human waste produced… I see no way this ends up being a good thing for the environment, the fish or the people who rely on them. This is green-washing at its worst.

If I make it back to Ambergris, and maybe on my trip to Caye Caulker, I may ask just to go by Blackadore Caye just to give them the old one finger salute.


30
Nov 16

Belizian Spring Break

From Abaco last year.

From Abaco last year.

It is happening. In April I’m going to head to Caye Caulker with my (at that point) 10 year old daughter, just the two of us.

I’ve never been to Caye Caulker, but I’m pretty sure I flew over it when last in Belize in 2012. It seems to offer a lot of what I’m looking for. Laid back. Snorkeling. Fishing close at hand.

We’ll be staying at Sea Dreams, which was at the recommendation of Yellow Dog Fly Fishing. I didn’t book the trip through them, but they still offered suggestions and advice, which was pretty solid.

The plan, for the four days, is maybe a couple half days of fishing and a couple of snorkel outings and some hanging out in what still seems to be mostly a fishing village.

My daughter is a casualty of divorce and she is always asking for more time with me. This is some dedicated dad time and I hope a memory she holds for a lifetime.

I know, at 10, she is not going to be a hard-core angler. She’ll need breaks and diversions and, most likely, a spinning rod, and I’m OK with all of that. You have to be, going in, or it won’t work.

I am hoping to put the stick to a tarpon… a tarpon of any size. I also hope to not cast at a permit at all, as those are just not fodder for a 10 year old (or, maybe just not fodder for my 10 year old) as they require a lot of standing around, from what little I know of permit fishing.

I’m determined to have a great trip, come rains or winds or dodgy ceviche. This. Will. Happen.

 


29
Nov 16

My plug for BTT

I just gave the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust $200. If you are in a position to do something similar, I’d urge you to think about it.

This is our conservation organization. They are looking out for the fish we love and the places where those fish live (and the economies that depend on those fish as well).

They are science driven, which, oddly, puts them at odds with some people, but I’m in the “pro-science” camp (how is there even an anti-science camp?).

They have big challenges ahead of them as the earth gets warmer, development pressures increase and marine ecosystems in general come under more and more threat. We need to support these guys and their work.

Go on. Do it.

mmmmm

mmmmm

Give, and you get... of course, you get fish, which is way more than anyone could ask for.

Give, and you get… of course, you get fish, which is way more than anyone could ask for.

Norman tagging a bonefish for BTT

Norman tagging a bonefish for BTT

yeah...  what he said.

yeah… what he said.

 


15
Nov 16

Interview with Jess McGlothlin – The South Pacific

mcglothlin_2016-2055
If you have picked up a fly fishing anything lately, you probably have seen photos taken through the lens of Jess McGlothlin or you’ve read an article written by her hand. She’s got a keen eye for composition and seems to be just about anywhere where things are happening in the fly fishing world. She has Jess McGlothlin Media and is also part of the Yellow Dog Flyfishing team. I did an interview with Jess to hear about what she did down in the South Pacific. It isn’t a place you think of when it comes to fly fishing, at least not now, but maybe you will.

Jess, I’ve seen some photos you took from a fishing expedition to a location in the South Pacific. Where was it, exactly, that you went and, most importantly, how was the fishing?

I’ve been lucky enough to be on a few South Pacific trips in the past couple years. I did an expeditionary trip to Samoa for YETI and Outside Magazine this spring, but the trip that, to me, epitomizes the South Pacific was exploring Anaa Atoll in French Polynesia with a team from Costa del Mar and the IndiFly Foundation. Anaa is a small atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago, about one-and-a-half hours’ flight northeast from Tahiti.

In a word, the fishing was good. Really good. Kind of great, really. Healthy and happy bonefish (some big boys), bluefin trevally, bohar and all manner of reef fish, napoleon wrasse, and other species. I talked recently to a friend who returned to Anaa and he reported some strong GT fishing.

mcglothlin_2016-0711

mcglothlin_2016-1876

The South Pacific is just not on the radar screen of most saltwater anglers outside of a few, well known places, like Christmas Island. What do you think the potential is for that region based on your experience?

I think the potential is huge. I’d love to get back in the area and spend an extended amount of time exploring — there are fisheries that are not quite on most people’s maps yet. In the States we hear more about Christmas, Rangiroa or Tetiaroa, but after the traveling I’ve done in the past several years, Anaa is the place I’m trying hard to get back to. A variety of species, friendly locals, and a strong “adventure” element… the South Pacific ticks all those boxes. And give me undeveloped locales over tourist zones any day.

From the trip to Anaa Atoll, what was the highlight?

The final day of the Anaa trip, my photo clients looked at me and said, “You’ve shot all week, now it’s your turn to fish,” and handed me a rod. I couldn’t argue with that. I caught a bonefish and a bluefin trevally and then happy went back to the camera, more than content.

It’s rare to go to a place where there is so much photo fodder. Not so much a plethora of subjects in the traditional sense — you’re on a small island with limited inhabitants — but in terms of the sheer beauty of the place and its people. One day we took a break from fishing to spend some time getting to know the village, and ended up participating in patia fa, the highly competitive local sport of throwing homemade spears at a coconut suspended high on a pole. We just hung out and threw spears and stuff for an afternoon— how awesome is that?

And, yeah, I could have stayed another month just to shoot photos of the fish.

mcglothlin_2016-3827

mcglothlin_2016-3155

You shoot some mean photos. I’m wondering what sort of considerations you take when you head somewhere so remote in order to not have the whole trip go sideways on you.

Something always goes sideways; that’s a given. On this trip, I ended up in the little atoll clinic (luckily the rotating, listing French nurse was there at the time) with toe and foot infections from coral cuts. I ended up losing both toenails and by the end of the trip I could barely fit my feet into my flip-flops for the flight home. Part of the game, and there’s no question in my mind the images were worth it.

In planning any shoot, I sit down with the client beforehand and develop a shot list so I know what their “must have” shots are. This list can be as short as a half a page and as long as ten. If logistics allow, I sit down every evening with clients while on location to review shots and ensure they like what they are seeing. Typically we do it the first day or two, then they know they’re comfortable with what we’re shooting and it’s less of a worry. It’s always a good sign when the client starts to bring beer to the photo review.

I’m lucky to travel frequently enough to have developed a “gear list” with items I know I’ll need. It varies location by location and job by job, of course, but the basics stay the same. I take meticulous care of cameras on location — in saltwater locations they get swiped down with a damp cloth then dried each night, lenses and filters carefully cleaned, batteries charged, and memory cards backed up three times then cleared. If I don’t have time to do all that and sleep, then I don’t get sleep. It’s pretty simple.

mcglothlin_2016-5801

The trip you took was associated with IndiFly. What is that program and where are they working?

IndiFly is one of the better ideas I’ve seen come into the fly-fishing community. As a photographer and writer, to me it’s the ideal combination of what really got me into photography — humanitarian work — and fly-fishing. The organization’s website perhaps sums it up best:

“Indifly is a 501(c)(3) organization protecting the world’s greatest fisheries while providing sustainable livelihoods for indigenous peoples. Indifly’s mission is focused on the conservation of natural resources, food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable livelihoods in these communities.

We accomplish our mission by assisting indigenous communities around the world transition from non-sustainable practices. Most often, through the development of sustainable* community owned fly fishing ecotourism operations. *economically/environmentally/culturally.”

Add in an accomplished, intelligent group of leaders and it becomes something special.

American anglers seem to want a good adventure that ends with a great meal and a comfortable, bug-free bed. How do you think the South Pacific meets, exceeded or falls short of that?

It depends where you are going. Where we were on Anaa, the lodging and food were excellent. We slept in well-furnished huts with real beds, hot water, electricity and all the comforts of home — really, I was quite impressed. There was even a small TV in one corner (I never turned it on to see if it actually worked). The food was very local (raw fish in coconut milk, various stir-fries, all manner of seafood, etc.) and extremely good. We even had French vanillas creamer for our coffee, and fresh eggs and homemade chocolate croissants every morning. So Anaa “exceeded,” big time. I lived nicer there than I do when I’m back in Montana.

Other places, it depends on how you set yourself up. I’ve slept on the beach and been chewed up by bugs, stung in the neck by a scorpion in my sleep, and returned from trips with my fair share of various tropical fevers. It depends of what kind of care you take of yourself, and if staying in fancy resorts is your thing, typically the lodging and food meets most American standards. Personally, I prefer to stay, eat, and work with locals as much as possible — I think it’s the only real way to get the true feel of a place and you meet some of the best people.

It feels like everything that can be discovered, every fishery that can be know, is known already. Do you think there are places still left to be explored?

I like to think so. Maybe it’s romantic or naive or silly, but I like to think there are still some kick-ass fisheries out there waiting to be explored. I can only hope I’m lucky enough to be on the teams that pioneer them.

mcglothlin_2016-2237

Do you find it hard to be behind the camera when the fishing is good? How do you deal?

“How do you deal?” — I love that. I’m getting better at it. If I’m on a big commercial shoot, I may not ever pick up a rod. The job has to come first. But it’s hard sometimes. Being out on a flats boat all day can be nice, because when the light is really awful on a bright, hot day, I can usually use that time to shoot underwater work and maybe pick up a rod.

Several weeks ago I was an instructor at a Belize On-the-Water Fly-Fishing Photography Workshop for Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures. On the first day, I was in the boat with a student and he wanted to shoot, so I fished. It was a treat! One permit to hand and I was a happy camper for the rest of the week… it’s amazing what just a short stint on the rod can do to improve morale. It’s hard to be in these places and not fish, but part of the gig. And it makes those times when I can all the better.

And when the fishing is good, it means I have a lot to shoot, usually in a short space of time! My brain gets clicking and busy… and there’s something just as satisfying sharing the moment with the camera in hand. I know those moments will be documented for some time to come — and that’s what makes it all work.

mcglothlin_2016-2

Awesome Jess. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Hope to share the water with you in the future (always good to share a boat with a photographer… way more bow time!). 


08
Nov 16

Deep Water Cay for sale… who has a spare few tens of millions?

Well… how about that? Deep Water Cay is up for sale. I have no idea how much something like that would cost. $20M? $100M? I have no idea.

Not too shabby... not too shabby at all.

Not too shabby… not too shabby at all.

This is a pretty historic place… the place that started bonefishing in the Bahamas. The list of dignitaries who have fished out of DWC is long… Chouinard, Brokaw, me… I mean…. wow.

Have to wonder if the pending legislation is partly to blame for this place getting put on the market. Guys bring their own boats out there and now they might not be able to go fishing on their own (although I have a feeling these guys can afford the guide fees).

We’ll see what happens.

The line is flying.

Me with a DWC bonefish on the line.


05
Nov 16

Bahamas Regulations, Episode 834

101lwn

For the love of all that is holy and good… I want this to end. But, the forces of darkness (or, in this case, the force of darkness, singular) never seem to sleep.

Happy in the Bahamas, a scene not likely to be repeated.

Happy in the Bahamas, a scene not likely to be repeated.

There is a new draft (that link should take you there) of the regulations as a result of back-door dealing from he-who-must-not-be-named.

Here are the take-aways, as far as I can see them.

  1. Oh Bahamians… look out. This idea that the Shell Man from Andros now has to pay $40 to fish the waters his father and his father’s father fished for free… that idea is back and it comes with the possibility of a $2,000 fine AND/OR 6 weeks in jail. Really, I think the average Bahamian has zero clue this is coming.
  2. BIIIIIIG Middle finger to second home owners and ex-pats. You can’t fish out of a boat with more than one person without a guide. So… if you’ve lived in the Bahamas for 30 years, you can’t take your wife out fishing. All those guys who spend the money to build or buy a house out there and pay the huge fees involved with getting a boat out there… all that is wasted money if this passes. I have to think the economic impact of second home owners and ex-pats is just nowhere on the radar of the segment of the government that is pushing this stuff.
  3. Enshrined, but not named. The BFFIA is pretty well installed as the decider of most things in this, all without being named. This sets H-W-M-N-B-N as the king-maker, without it being clearly stated that is what is going on. Of course, not like he’s not a vindictive, grudge-carrying, score-settling asshole of the highest magnitude, right? I mean… what could go wrong?

I, along with just about everyone else, thought this stuff was put to bed. It isn’t. At this point I’m not sure where it goes now or what the next steps are. I understood this was in the cabinet, and maybe it is. It isn’t law yet, I know that. But exactly where it is in process… man, I’ve lost the thread.

An interesting aside is that Minister Gray seems to be pushing a massive investment by the Chinese in Andros, all at the same time he’s pushing taking away the rights of the average Bahamian to fish their own waters for free. People are really not a fan of this latest Minister Gray ploy.

Just to be a little bit of a conspiracy freak here… who is building a fuel station in Andros? Could it be our old pal Prescott? Think he knew about this secret deal being in the works with the Chinese and his patron, Minister Gray? Doesn’t seem so far fetched, does it? The guardian of the bonefish, strips out a bunch of mangroves to put in a fueling station in Andros to service the soon-to-arrive Chinese fleets? I hope not.

 


02
Nov 16

Master Guide of Biscayne Bay passes at 91

Bill Curtis was a guide and pivotal figure in bonefishing and the development of salt water fly fishing. He passed at 91. Here’s a story about his passing from the Miami paper.

“Man was born to hunt, fight and make love. Anything else is just a complication,” he once said.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article112149762.html#storylink=cpy


29
Oct 16

Striper Real Estate

There are times you are out there, going through the motions and you just can tell it isn’t happening. There is no encouragement. There are no signs things are going to pick up. It feels a little like maybe an academic exercise, but, ya know… you stay out there. Maybe an hour passes. Maybe more, and nothing is going on.

So, you focus on your casting, on the mechanics of it all. When do you put the haul in? Where are your hands? What is the angle of the rod? Maybe let’s vary the strip a bit and see if we are picking up weeds.

And then… then something pulls back. It stays on. It shakes its head and bends your rod and your perspective and all of a sudden… you start to think… “Maybe there are some more out here.”

All of a sudden, the possibilities are endless and the water is probably full of fish.

We are a funny lot. Both half full and half empty.

striper