28
May 16

Getting out

I love the longer days.

One thing I kind of hate about winter is the later afternoon darkening. The world seems so less full of possibilities when it is dark at 5:00.

Now, it is still light after dinner. That means I can be a good husband and father and still manage to sneak away for a bit to fling flies in the Bay.

So, I did.

The stripers aren’t here yet, at least not in numbers sufficient for me to find them… or not where I know where to look, I suppose. I have a lot more to learn about chasing stipers in San Francisco Bay, but that’s part of the process. You have to suck at something before you can be good at it.

The fish count yesterday was 0 stripers and 1 Jack Smelt.

I’ll take it.

The sun finally setting on the SF Bay in late May.

The sun finally setting on the SF Bay in late May.


24
May 16

Now Boarding

Based on a fictional story.

We will begin boarding soon.

We will first welcome our Super Elite Diamond members,

Followed by our Golden Elite Ruby members,

Our Silver Elite Sapphire members

Followed by our Bronze Semi-Elite Visa Card Holders

And then our Tin Chalice members.

We will then board families with children under two, members of the military, Nobel Prize Winners and Survivor Winners.

We then will board our Super Special Semi-Special members,

Followed by C-list celebrities, then D-list celebrities.

Then we will board those in Group 1.

After that… if we must… we might let the rest of you jerks on the plane who didn’t pay us extra money to board early. If we have room.

I’m not making any promises though.

 


24
May 16

What Bahamians Need to Know

I write this post to the Bahamian people. I am not Bahamian. In fact, I live a long, long way from the Bahamas. There are some things I think you need to know about things going on in your country you likely don’t know much about. The reason you don’t know much about them is because they are going to be pretty bad for many of you, and, given how politics tends to work, those behind the efforts aren’t too keen to really let you know what they have in mind.

Your birthright

As a Bahamian you are born into a beautiful country. Your environment may be your greatest asset. Many of you make your living from your local waters. Many of you may do a bit of fishing to put a meal on the table. Some of you may just like to go out and fish for the joy of it.

This could be about to change. A group of fly fishing guides, together with the Ministry of Fisheries, is seeking to regulate exactly who can fish and where. A license would be required for Bahamians to fish on the “flats,” defined to encompass mostly any water that isn’t too deep (less than 6′). It could cost you $100 now to go fishing in water you’ve been able to fish for free since, well, forever. You want your wife to fish too? That’s another $100.

Your birthright, those beautiful Bahamian waters, are going to be held in reserve for those who can pay, mostly Americans and Europeans staying at expensive lodges. This might make the fishing a little bit better, in the same way there might be more American Bison if we didn’t let anyone into Wyoming, but the average Bahamian loses a right to do something you’ve been able to do since there was a Bahamas.

Feeling welcome

The full regulations are aimed more at foreign anglers than they are at locals who want to go catch a snapper. They are intended to make it harder for certain types of fishermen to choose how they experience the Bahamas. To those fishermen, many of whom have been coming to the Bahamas for years, these efforts seem very uninviting. The easy going nature of the Bahamas is being replaces by something unfriendly. The regulations say “It isn’t enough for you to spend your money in the Bahamas, it has to be with us.”

This is going to result in lost business for the independent guides, for the guest houses and smaller hotels, for the car rentals and boat rentals and little restaurants. Anglers that come with their families and want a relaxing vacation with a couple days of fishing in the mix, those guys are not pleased and may not return.

What it isn’t about

The regulations are not about preserving the fish. Nothing in the regulations does anything to address habitat loss, what is most likely the main threat to bonefish in the Bahamas. When it comes to sustainable fisheries, the issue of illegal fishing by Dominican factory ships is 1,000x more important, and these rules would do nothing to address any of that.

The opposition to the regulations isn’t about having to pay for a license. Anglers would happily pay a license if it were reasonable, easy to obtain and went to support the health of the fishery.

What your visitors are saying

Here are some comments by fisherman. These are just a few. There are many, many more. It is going to be a disaster for the average Bahamian.

Well written article which clearly states the outcome of passing these shortsighted “regulations”. It is abundantly clear to an outsider, the proposed regulations are are power grab attempt by a few. This group hopes to push all anglers into hiring guides, charge exorbitant fees which will enrich their coffers and in general push the DIY anglers out of the Bahamas. There is a distinct xenophobic cast to the whole business.

 

The fallout from Prescott’s selfie move will be worse, we think than anyone planned. Looking at his now shrunken by 80% BFFIA members, we see some pretty good guys caught up in this mess. Too bad.

 

I am continued to be amazed/dumbfounded by the lack of foresight by the policy makers in the Bahamas. Sure there will be lots of people that still go and fish via the lodge route. That is what I have done in the past. But I will tell you it is completely off my list for family trips or a buddies DIY trip. AND I live in Florida.

 

Simply put my wife and I go to the Bahamas every winter for a week or so, she reads and I fish – always catch and careful release.
Last year it was Long Island, during a time of low travelers as the island recovered from the hurricane.
The people we me seemed very glad we were there…

The consequence or mere possiblity of being hassled or worse for wading a flat is too much for me to risk to re-visit the Bahamas.
Frankly the whole thing is in the “hard to believe” colum.

Count me wading somewhere else. Thumbs down!!

 

What I find funny is the BFFIA wants to be part of the “policing” in all of this. Which you and I know means they will chase and harass any visiting angler that appears to be fishing on their own, even legally, until the BFFIA gets what they want: them to literally leave the water and never return again so that BFFIA and their members have a monopoly on everything.

 

I think the worst part for me is the ambiguity. I do DIY (mostly on E but was planning a trip to Cat) and I mostly bonefish but I also do blind casting. How is this covered? Definitely will look somewhere else.

 

Tell Minister Gray and the BFFIA that there is a real cost to their maneuvering and efforts to extract more dollars from traveling anglers – if enough anglers contemplating the Andros trip do as I am doing and stay away, the trip will be cancelled and $40,000 less will flow into the Bahamas this year. It’s too bad, because the pain will be borne most heavily by the lovely family that runs the lodge, not Minister Gray.

 


17
May 16

The Clock Running Out & The Quebec Connection

BTT doing work

BTT doing work

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust just recently put out a response to the Fisheries proposed regs. You can read them here.

The Abaco Fly Fishing Guide’s Association also submitted a lengthy rebuttal to the proposed regulations. Here is a link to their response (It is too long to post here, but this is a PDF of their reply).

Here is the thing. These thoughtful and well-intended responses to the proposed legislation don’t matter at all… and that underscores exactly how bad this whole situation is.

Minister Gray and Prescott Smith don’t care what BTT or the AFFGA have to say. In fact, much of what is in the proposals seems aimed at directly negatively impacting both organizations and their constituents. Abaco guides are on the outs with the BFFIA-crew and their interests are not important to the likes of Prescott Smith. Only Prescott’s interests are important to Prescott. And BTT? You notice how when BTT lists the people in the Bahamas who work with them, who help them fulfill their mission there is a stark lack of participation from the BFFIA folks? I have noticed. The BFFIA seems to view BTT, a bonefish conservation nonprofit, with suspicion and distrust and with the totally delusional idea that they could do what BTT is doing themselves (they can’t… not by a long, long way).

This “comment period” (which closes in the next couple days) is a sham because those asking for comment have no interest in hearing anyone’s concerns. Their minds are made up and all that is left is this farce of a process of consultation.

The cliff note version of my take on the proposals looks like this.

  • This is an attempt to set up the BFFIA as King Makers in the flats fishing industry in the Bahamas. Enshrined by Fisheries, the BFFIA would run the show. This is an organization which has shown nothing but contempt for their customers and those who disagrees with them.
  • This is an effort to take a birthright away from the average Bahamian and sell it off to the global elites. Bahamians forced to buy a license to fish the water out their front door is something I could not have imagined. They have no idea this is coming either.

(Really, I’m tired of writing about this stuff, but, ya know… this is kind of what it’s about right now)

Flywater Travel can take you to fish Atlantic Salmon. I totally borrowed this pic from them.

A word about the Quebec Connection

If you talk to the proponents of this newest BFFIA driven proposal, at some point someone may mention how great this whole thing works up in Quebec. Their license fee is, can you guess it? $50 a day. You can’t just walk out on the nearest river. There are some sections that are completely private, others that require a guide and others that you can walk out on, but only after you get your local permit from the local government.

This is what the BFFIA folks want. It mostly kills off the DIY game and consolidates access to the water in the hands of the wealthy and those who take them fishing.

This starts to fall apart though when one looks into it more.

First, before about 1980 all the rivers in Quebec were, more or less, private. The locals had no access. There was no economy dependent on the unimpeded access to those waters. There was no tangential tourism industry to kill. In the Bahamas there has been a long history of anglers coming and trying their luck on the Bahamian flats and there are a number of businesses which have grown up to cater to those anglers. Independent guides, guest houses, restaurants, car rental places and boat rentals. They all stand to lose and there was no such situation in Quebec, so the comparison is deeply flawed.

Secondly, bonefish are not Atlantic Salmon. Some of those rives may only get a couple thousand fish in a season. I’ve seen schools of fish in Andros with more fish in them than some of the best rivers in Quebec see in a whole year… in a whole YEAR. Take all the fishable water in Quebec for Atlantic Salmon and how much water would you actually have? I’d think you’d have more fishable water in a single Bahamian island. Atlantic salmon are also swimming to their death (they may survive the first spawn and head back out to the Atlantic, but most only spawn once or twice). It is a fish that requires a lot of management and is in a far, far worse state than bonefish are.

It just isn’t the same thing.


09
May 16

Bahamas Winners and Losers

If the regulations proposed by the BFFIA and Fisheries passes there will be some winners and some losers. It is worth looking at the breakdown, as I see it.

Purdy.

Purdy.

Winners:

Lodges – Yes, lodges will win in this scenario. They get rid of a great number of anglers, even locals, and get the waters mostly to themselves. The threat of harassment, the complicated license fees, the massive possible fines will keep DIY guys off the water, in large part. That means the water will be less pressured and the safest way to access any of it will be via a lodge with the lodge guides. This is the Quebec version of fisheries management.

The BFFIA – Made kingmakers by this legislation, they would get to determine who guides and who doesn’t. It puts them, and our good pal Prescott, in a position of power and authority to be able to dictate to the guiding community.

Cuba, Belize, Mexico – Those who don’t go to the Bahamas will go other places. Even if the DIY game is not the same, the animosity being created will keep some folks away, but they’ll still go fishing, just other places.

Um… I can’t see any other winners here.

Losers:

Independent guides – The folks that came with their families and wanted to grab a day with a guide in addition to a little walking around on their own will, to one degree or another, go somewhere else. Having to get two different licenses for the different types of fishing isn’t great either. There will be fewer days of guiding for indie guides.

Assisted DIY providers – A different license, a different classification and having to deal with the BFFIA make this a much harder business to run under the newest proposed regs.

Smaller hotels/guest houses – Those places the families and DIY folks stayed at won’t get that business.

Small businesses – Some of the families who come to do some fishing and other activities will go other places, so fewer meals to be sold, fewer cars to be rented, fewer Kaliks to be sold.

Second home owners – A place like Abaco has a number of second home owners, some of whom have their own boats. They wouldn’t be able to fish with anyone else unless they hire a guide. It will likely mean some interesting places will be on the market though.

Bahamas Environment – If you have fewer people experiencing the wonders of the Bahamas, you’ll have fewer people who will care if some of that is destroyed. If fishing becomes less of an economic boost, other industries will fill the void and exploit the resource and cries to stop that will fall on ears slightly deafened by the reduction in the importance of angling. People fight for what they care about and they care about the things they know.

Bonefish research – The BFFIA is pretty much openly hostile to “American” science, even if Bahamians are deeply involved. If you look at who participates with the BTT you’ll notice a conspiciuos lack of BFFIA leadership.

Anyone who has disagreed with the BFFIA – The leadership here seems to really know how to carry a grudge. I can’t imagine they would use their new powers lightly. Maybe not immediately, but I’d bet some of the opposing forces would find it harder to do business if this sort of thing gets passed.

The average Bahamian – It has always been the case that the average Bahamian could walk out on their local flat, maybe right in front of their home, and fish. This changes that. Is that water considered a “flat?” Well, pay up or you can’t fish there. Considering how much of the Bahamas could be considered flats, that is a huge part of the country. I can’t imagine the local Bahamians have any idea they are about to have one of their birthrights stolen from right under their noses.

 

It is important to note that the proposed legislation does not outlaw DIY fishing, it just makes it much less appealing. The multiple licenses, the draconian fines, the possibility of being harassed on the flats, it all makes it likely to keep some people from heading to the Bahamas. Some business will continue to flow, but other business will dry up.


07
May 16

Thinking of Florida

It is tarpon time in the Keys. The migratory ocean-siders are doing their thing, pausing at the bridges and moving with the tides and the hopeful are waiting and searching for them.

It seems I now do this about every two years. A trend that looks like it will continue in 2017. Last year I got the Keys Beat Down and went 5 fishless days before a small act of redemption in the Glades. Somehow, I’m still up for trying again.

Next year it looks like a conference I’ll be attending will be held in Ft. Lauderdale right about this time. That means I’ll be able to wrap up the conference and slide a couple hours south to complete my biennial tarpon hunting.

I have to say… I’m already a bit excited about it, even after the demoralizing smack downs the Keys have dished out. There is just something about being there and seeing those fish sliding through the water, prehistoric, massive, sleek and powerful.

I’ll be planning this trip from now until I get on the deck of whatever skiff I’ll end up on.

Adrienne got the photo. I got the photo of the photo.

The only pic I have of a fish I broke a rod on in 2013.


28
Apr 16

Everything Fly Fishing TV Should Be – MOTIVFISHING on Animal Planet

Fly Fishing doesn’t always have to be the quiet sport. There is a lot of adventure in the game, depending on how you play it and no one has played it in a more adventurous way in recent years than the MOTIVFISHING crew.

I like flyfishing fishing shows because… well… fishing. However, even one of my favorites like Buccaneers and Bones is a bit stale. OK, that show is like week-old-beer stale, but it is still at least filmed in places I love and there are bonefish. That’s not nothing.

One of my big complaints about Bucs and Bones is it takes something inherently exciting and makes it dull. Piped in reel sounds and iffy casting and a celebration of the good things that come in the greying years. I’m sure Lefty is a great guy and all, but that doesn’t need to be the punchline of every season/episode. I couldn’t even tell this season from the last. It’s like watching golf, but in a really pretty place… and with bonefish.

Enter the MOTIVFISHING crew. Adventure and excitement and suspense and guys younger than 50 and a whole new take on what travel and fly fishing even means.

Fly fishing TV might never be the same again… and here’s to hoping that is true.

I’ll be watching.


25
Apr 16

Just for some perspective

A special fish. My first DIY fish. Not big, but my own.

A special fish. My first DIY fish. Not big, but my own.

The proposed fines for fishing without a license in the Bahamas of $5,000 (not to mention the possible 3 month jail time) is, to put it bluntly, nucking futs.

Here’s some perspective:

For Florida – According to the Fish and Wildlife Commission website which by the way is very detailed and confusing….. fishing without a license is a level one violation and is a non criminal infraction. The fine is $50 plus the cost of a license; the saltwater license is $17.00 however non resident is $47.00. – A la Google

 

The California DFG has hundreds of regulation pertaining to sport fishing (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/regulations/).  To to keep it simple, we focused on violations and the associated fines, which affect bass anglers. To start, fishing without a valid license will cost an offender $100 ($25 if that person can provide proof of a license in court).  Catching and keeping an undersized fish will cost $100 and an additional $20 for every fish under the size limit the game warden finds in your possession.  Having caught and kept more than a limit of a specific species will run an offender $100 (this fine various by species).  For example, a white sturgeon violation is $500 and another $20 for each fish over the limit.  Fishing with two poles, without the $13 validation stamp will net a $100 fine. – http://aaronlesieur.com/bass-fishing-articles/the-department-of-fish-and-game-know-the-law/

 

And… let’s talk about a three month prison term for fishing without a license. It doesn’t sound like a great place.

I’m sickened by all of this.

There are many kinds of fishing that won’t be impacted at all, of course. Taking a party boat out to fish a reef, or trolling for Wahoo, those are fine. If you want to fish a lodge and do nothing else, you are fine, just have to pay a bit more. Lodges might see some drop-off, but not much. Deep sea folks shouldn’t seem much of a dip. The independent guides should be worried and the sectors of the economy that cater to the DIY and family trip anglers should be furious.

I have to say, one of the most striking things for me, and more striking than the $5,000 fine, is that these regulations would prevent local Bahamians from walking out their front doors to fish. It makes the whole thing elitist to a striking degree. How many simple Bahamians have $100 to throw at a license. There was a recent story about how a shocking number of middle class Americans could not find a way to pay for a $400 emergency. In the Bahamas, where the minimum wage is $4.00/hour, that situation has to be worse.

These regulations would take a national resource, a birthright for Bahamians, and would restrict it to well-to-do tourists.

The only way the average Bahamian is going to be OK with this is if they have no idea it is coming, and I have to think they don’t.


22
Apr 16

Fish the Bahamas, Go to Jail

It pains me to have to write this, to keep having to write these posts about what everyone should know are just horrible, horrible ideas.

There is a new draft of the regulations out, this time put out by the Ministry of Fisheries and since they have pretty much had a monopoly on the worst ideas, you can imagine where this is going.

This does not ban DIY, so if that’s all you care about, you are in the clear… kind of. However, if you mis-calculate and end up committing an “offense,” well, the fine is up to $5,000 with the added possibility of three months in Bahamian jail. Doesn’t that feel welcoming?

Illegal

Illegal

You can still rent a boat to go fish, as long as you are the only one on it. A boat with two people required a guide, or, $5,000 and 3 months in jail.

fines

Native Bahamians are required to buy a license to fish the waters right in front of their own homes.

Everything is catch and release with a limit of one in possession, which, of course, is not catch and release. (UPDATE – I think I got this one wrong. Similarly to how Florida struggled with the definition, this just means you can be holding one for a photo, so the fish is in your possession, but you don’t keep it.)

To make matters worse, the proposed regs enshrine the place of power of the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, run by Prescott, who should be disqualified from being 100 feet from anything involving fly fishing based on how poorly he’s handled this whole thing.

I’m hearing stories of independent guides really hurting as anglers just go other places. This isn’t going to help. This is the dumbest bunch of regulations in one place, at one time, in the modern history of the Bahamas.

I cannot imagine that the average Bahamian has any idea of the power play going on here, or how their lives and businesses would be impacted by this. The place I visited on Abaco earlier this year would be pretty much shut down and that family would lose at least 50% of the income they get from tourists, if not more. I bet they haven’t been consulted here. They would be blind-sided.

You can’t promote your industry by threatening your primary customers with three months in jail. Who does that?

I’m not sure who you can write or complain to at this point. I’d urge you to maybe give a call to your Bahamian friends, the places you stay, the business you frequent, and tell them that something evil this way comes and the hurt is only just beginning.

This would be a disaster.

stakeholders and Interested parties

Please see the attached draft regulations for the
Fly Fishing industry.
 
I am directed to forward the attached draft for your
views and/or comments (if any).
I am to request any response on or before 19 May, 2016
Angela Albury
Michael T Braynen
Director
Department of Marine Resources
P O Box N 3028
Nassau, Bahamas
To help ensure that I get your email messages, copy to michaelbraynen@yahoo.com

18
Apr 16

Cool boat for sale. Memories not included.

I saw Eric was selling his boat, an Ankona 17′ that is super unique.

I got to fish out of that boat with Eric last year. It is a great boat for the back country and I wish I were on the thing right now looking for snook or reds or, god forbid, tarpon. Florida haunts me a bit. This boat was one of the best parts of that last trip.

It just doesn’t get much better looking than this thing.

eric boat