14
Jun 18

Something might happen, but it might also not. All cleared up?

So… the government might “strengthen” the fishing regs. But, ya know, they might, at some point and, well, yeah… that’s about it.

Two new stories out of the Tribune on the issue.

Gov’t Mulling Amendments To Fly Fishing Regulations

and

Gov’t Told: ‘Strengthen’ Fly Fishing Regulations

That clears up all that, right?

One thing the govt. is trying to address is the mother ship issue where some operations bring in skiffs and have their crews act as guides for paying clients. That, pretty much, sounds not good. Bahamian waters should be guided by Bahamian guides. I have only seen one person opposed to that during this whole debate and any such restrictions would not be opposed by 99.8% of the fly fishing public. The 2:1 guide ratio was trying to get there, but also caught up the guy who built a home, retired, paid the duty on his on skiff and would be prevented from taking his wife out with him. Clarity and specificity here would be good to address.

Where the rest of this goes… we shall see, which is something it feels like I’ve been saying for about two straight years.


I’m less than a month from my return to Grand Bahama where I’ll be visiting East End Lodge. I can’t express how much I’m looking forward to all of this. It has been a while since I’ve had that many days dedicated to bonefish. It’s been years.

I don’t even need to close my eyes to see the flats. I straight up daydream of those waters with my eyes wide open.

Let the adventure commence!


07
Jun 18

Next up… Grand Bahama and East End Lodge

My next trip is NOT going to sneak up on me. I started tying for it last night for East End Lodge in Grand Bahama.

I’m tying some meat flies. #2’s. Some with lead eyes, some with bead chain, all with more material that two #6’s use.

The fish of Grand Bahama, to my memory and from my limited experience, are just bigger than most places. The may average around 4 pounds and I’ve seen the photographic evidence of fish will into the 10+ pound range. Hawaii, the West Side of Andros and Grand Bahama seem, to me, to be the best places to look for your 10 pounder.

This trip is going to be an interesting one. I may finally get to meet BTT’s Justin Lewis and I’ll be accompanied on this trip by Elliot Adler, who produces The Drake Cast (the Drake’s podcast, which I highly recommend). Elliot has never caught a bonefish before and he’s going to be in the waters of my first bonefish.

Should be interesting.

A Grand Bahama Bone


06
Jun 18

Kenny Karas guides the blind (me) in Hawaii

The weather was… well… less than ideal for my day of fishing with Kenny Karas in Oahu. That’s how it is, mostly. The trade-winds do their thing and the island creates its own weather (read “clouds”) and that’s how it is more than it isn’t. The winds blow, the rain rains and when you have one day to fish out of 7, you just never know what you’ll end up with. It’s an adventure.

Dark and stormy

We started early, meeting at 6, and were out on the flats a few minutes later. It isn’t a long haul, no 45 minute ride here. We waded out on the un-sun-soaked flats for a while before we found our first bone, which was uncooperative. These fish tail, which is great, as I’d have very little luck finding them with the lights out. Kenny, on the other hand, sees fish. He just, ya know… SEES fish, man. The first three opportunities I did everything right and the fish were not on the same page.

After that, I reverted to putting the fly too close to the fish and freaking them the F out. This is the land of the 9 foot lead. Eight feet doesn’t do it. Nine or nothing.

Our first pass through the flat didn’t produce and we went around to hit a different part of the flat, walking the long and skinny ridge of flat some of you will know well. By this time our early morning wind advantage was over and the clouds were unrelenting. We’d get a window of sun every 20 minutes or so that would last for 3-20 seconds. As we were walking Kenny spotted a fish, in fairly close (a 20 foot cast) and walked me into the fish.

I never saw it. It ate about 15 feet in front of us and I never saw the fish. At all.

The eat did happen though and the fish ran, dutifully avoiding a bit piling, and came to hand. It was a nice, solid and fat five pound bonefish. We were on the board.

A nice o’io on a cloudy day in Oahu.

The rest of the day was mostly Kenny seeing fish I only had the faintest notions of. We walked the edge of one flat where Kenny must have spotted 5-6 fish that I never saw. I have plenty of excuses. The lights were off, the wind was at about 20 mph and the edge of the flat was a but churned up, but despite all of that Kenny kept finding fish. Sometimes I’d see just that faint light green bonefish back, sometimes I’d see nothing.

I had maybe 3 or 4 shots that seemed like they were going to come tight, but in the end it was just the one fish that ended up in the W column.

That one fish was hard won and I’ll take it.

This was a family trip, not a fishing trip and the family part was pretty much kick-ass.

Chilling at the pool.

Much respect to Kenny. He worked hard for me and found me fish on a tough weather day. I’d bet I had 20 shots, maybe even 30 if I round up. I went 1/1 on hooked:landed and it was still a triumph.

Thanks Kenny. See you next time!


29
May 18

Sneaking up on me… Oahu 2018

I leave tomorrow for Oahu and while I’m there I’ll manage a day of fishing with Kenny.

Now, years past I would have been talking and writing about this trip for weeks. This year it kind of jumped out from a corner and yelled “SURPRISE” and I may or may not have wet myself a little bit.

These things are now fast movers. It seemed years away when I first booked the trip and now… we leave tomorrow!

Luckily, for this trip, I need little else beyond the rod/reel and shades. Kenny has the flies he wants to throw and I’m not going to get a chance to get out on my own.

Looking forward to it.

Last year I got a few on the board. Hoping to do likewise this week.


24
May 18

This is what the voice of reason sounds like

Clint Kemp from Black Fly Lodge in Abaco and the Bahamas Fly Fishing Lodge Association spoke about the regulations battle today. He didn’t have any updates or news to share, but he did have some perspective to share and I think it is worth listening to. So… here’s Clint.


07
May 18

FYI for you Bahamians

There is sometimes some confusion about what fishing regulations are like in the States.

Pretty much, in the US, you can fish where you want to fish. If the season is open and you can get on the water, you can fish it.

You don’t need a guide to fish in Florida, not even for Tarpon at the height of the migration.

You don’t need a guide to fish for redfish in Louisiana or Texas.

You don’t need a guide to fish for trout in Yellowstone.

You don’t need a guide to fish the Big Horn or the Big Hole in Montana.

You don’t need a guide to float the Green River in Utah.

You don’t need a guide to fish the Deschutes for steelhead in Oregon.

You don’t need a guide to fish for cutties in the Snake in Idaho.

You don’t need a guide to fish for salmon or trout in Alaska.

You don’t need a guide to fish for bonefish in Hawaii or Puero Rico.

You don’t need a guide to fish for rainbow trout in California.

You don’t need a guide to fish for stripers in Montauk.

There are a few places that have special regulations, usually to relieve fishing pressure or to address boat traffic issues. There are some places you are not allowed to guide, like in some Parks.

In all of these places there are large and thriving numbers of guides. I’d be shocked if Florida doesn’t have more guides than the Bahamas. Most guides don’t go through special training, although many are required to get a guide’s license, which has more to do with liability insurance  than skill. To my knowledge these guide licenses are (mostly) purely administrative. They don’t asses if you know how to fish or if you know which end of the rod to use. You fill out the form and pay your money and you are a guide. Many guides are booked a year in advance by the same clients, year after year.

People use guides in all those places. They use guides even when they can fish on their own without guides. Anglers, in the US, use guides for many, many reasons. Maybe they don’t know the water well, or they are new to fishing. Maybe they are expert fisherman and just want to benefit from the guide’s deep knowledge of “place.” Maybe they just enjoy the experience of fishing with someone who knows the names of the birds and the trees and the flowers. Maybe they only have a few days to fish a year and want to maximize their time on the water.

Bahamian guides are no different. People choose to fish with Bahamian guides for many of the same reasons. You can let people choose how they want to fish and so long as people aren’t hurting the fish or the flats, many, many, many will chose to fish with a guide (and anglers are not harming the flats, by and large, as DIY anglers can only access a tiny fraction of the flats a guide with a skiff can access). I love fishing with a good Bahamian guide in their home water where they know the tides like the backs of their hands and can find fish even when the wind is howling and the lights are off. That’s worth a lot, and American anglers know that, and will pay for it, if that’s the kind of angler they are.

You want to regulate your own industry. Great. However, you also need to understand your consumer, the buyer of your product. No company can just ignore their consumer and then demand that they continue to buy their products. If you alienate your buyers, your buyers will go other places and become someone else’s buyer. That’s not a threat, that’s just how markets work.

In your particular case, the buyers of your products really don’t like being dictated to because they are rarely dictated to when pursuing their hobby in their own country. If you roll out dictates to them in your country they may not react well. I’m not talking about buying a license here, I’m talking about DIY. Almost all anglers have to buy a license in the US, but this is a fast and straightforward process, often done on-line or over the phone or through a business which is open on the weekends and holidays. We make it easy. It isn’t a barrier. There are also some places that don’t require a license, like Hawaii.

Bookings last year were up in Belize, from what I understand. Were your bookings up? I’m not talking about what someone told you about their bookings… I mean your actual days on the water. Did you do more than you did last year?

If your days were down last year, I’d bet the businesses who rely on the DIY anglers were hit even harder. The guest houses and the car rentals and the restaurants and shops. You start aiming at your anglers and it isn’t just the guides who suffer, it is all the other folks too, your neighbors.

It is true that Eastern Canada has some very restrictive rules on guides. They are the outliers, not the norm.

Regulate your industry, but know your decisions and how your decisions are communicated impact the willingness of your consumers to consume your products.


06
May 18

Minister for Fisheries issues crazy pants press release

“It was then agreed, among other things, that only Bahamian citizens should be permitted to be licensed as guides and authorized to offer guiding services for the fly-fishing industry; and that visiting anglers engaged in fly-fishing activities be required to use the services of a licensed guide.”

“As a consequence, I am happy to reiterate the continuance of the Flats Fishing Regulations, 2017, and I look forward to the input and continue support of stakeholders as we move this process forward.”

So… this came from Minister Wells (minagriculturemarine@bahamas.gov.bs) and it appears to contradict the Prime Minister, insisting the regulations ARE still in place and NOT suspended.

Additionally, the press release was either crafted with a great deal of care to say something pretty important, or it was crafted with absolutely no care and makes a huge implication without understanding what it had done. The statement says “…visiting anglers engaged in fly-fishing activities be required to use the services of a licensed guide.” That doesn’t call out the 2:1 angler:guide ratio for boats, but just says if you are fly fishing in the Bahamas you are going to need a guide. That’s DIY folks. That’s been what these guys have been after the whole time. So… was that just super careless or was that the first big announcement of DIY as a fight out in the open?

Truth be told… I have no idea. These guys were supposed to be the good guys, but they don’t seem to be all on the same page. This is a page straight out of the BFFIA playbook and a massive step backward for the industry and all those who care about the Bahamas.


02
May 18

“reliably informed” on the Bahamas situation

And so it continues. The PM on one side, the Minister for Fisheries on the other.

Here’s the latest article from the Tribune.

Some thoughts.

These folks claiming the sky would fall if the regulations are revoked… I mean… that would just revert to the situation the flats have been in since, I don’t know, Bahamian Independence.
The threats to fisheries of the Bahamas go something like this…

  1. Over-harvest of conch and lobster.
  2. Poaching from foreign vessels (like from the DR).
  3. Increased demand for unsustainable catches by countries who are buying into the Bahamas in a big way, like, oh, let’s say China.
  4. Development that destroys nursery habitat or impacts spawning aggregation sites.
  5. Netting.
  6. Global Warming.
  7. Lionfish.

 

 

 

754. Impact of catch and release bonefishing.

 

But, yeah, by all means, let’s put in place some ill-thought-out regulations to regulate issues that don’t exist and let’s throw in some xenophobia, some protectionist propaganda, some fear mongering and let’s also ignore all those concerns voiced by the people who actually contribute financially to the industry.

Also… let’s make it hard to get a license (like not making it possible to get one on a weekend or holiday).

Way to go guys. Bang up job.

Cindy and the Abaco guide’s association must be tired of constantly having to issue rebuttals to this sort of idiocy. I don’t envy them.

Here is to hoping the PM wins on this one. Also, let’s hope Fisheries loses this bit from their portfolio and it heads over to the cooler heads at Tourism.


28
Apr 18

Bahamas Regulations – No one knows what is going on, basically.

Remember last week when things seemed to be kind of settled? Well… hold on a sec.

Turns out the Minister for Fisheries is not on the same page as the PM, according to this story from the Tribune.

The problem here is Minister Renward Wells. He’s the one overseeing fisheries and he’s from Andros. Being from Andros he’s influenced by the very strong pro-BFFIA sentiment there and appears to be buying into some of their utter nonsense. Minister Wells seems to be insisting that provisions like the “2 anglers, one guide” rule for boat is in-line with regulations in Colorado and Montana, which is, of course, a complete and total fabrication.

You want to put three friends in a boat and have them row down a river in Colorado (or Montana or California or Wyoming or Idaho) without a guide you can certainly do that, as many, many, many (that’s THREE manys) anglers do. Of course, I doubt Minister Wells looked into such matters himself, just taking BFFIA talking points as truth. To take a position like that, that such a provision is similar to other places, you have to just not look into it at all. It would take about 2 minutes on Google to figure out that is total nonsense.

You can also fish for reds in Louisiana without a guide. You can also fish for tarpon in Florida without a guide. There is no State in the US where you are required to use a guide or to have a 2:1 ratio. It isn’t a thing, no matter what the BFFIA says.

Now, I thought once the PLP was out we’d be past this type of utter and complete shite, but… but… Andros vs. Abaco/the rest of the Bahamas is kind of like the Urban vs. Rural divide that used to be a driving force in American politics.

The position of the PM seems pretty clear.

Clint Kemp, president of the newly-formed Bahamas Fly Fishing Lodge Association, yesterday became the second person to confirm to Tribune Business that Dr Minnis said the regulations had been suspended when he met with industry representatives three weeks ago in Abaco.

“I had a face-to-face conversation with the Prime Minister no longer than three weeks ago,” he revealed, disclosing that Darren Henfield, minister of foreign affairs, was also present. “He [Dr Minnis] confirmed the regulations have been suspended pending further review.”

The corrosive effect of the BFFIA seems to be lingering, doing nothing positive and sewing discord, kind of like what Taco Bell does to my digestive tract with similar end results.


23
Apr 18

Bahamas Fishing Regs Suspended

News out of the Bahamas, according to the Tribune, is that the fishing regulations have been officially suspended. This comes as the math starts to look like a 20-40% decline in bookings in the wake of the BFFIA’s push for regulations on flats fishing.

Abaco Bonefish

I mean… yeah… of course.

Suspended is not “totally scrapped” and really, they were suspended anyway (although I had heard some rogue guides/individuals in Andros had been trying to police the regs anyway). Maybe it will come back. Maybe it will be better. It could certainly have been worse, as the original proposals were.

The PLP is playing it according to the script, saying the govt. is abandoning the flats and creating an open season on their fishery. It was their hard work which was responsible for the 20-40% decline (and that’s bookings, not DIY, which I’d guess was down even more). I guess if they want fewer people coming to the Bahamas to fish, that does, in some way, lead to less pressure on the fishery, kind of in the same way the Chernobyl accident helped create a defacto nature preserve.

Time will tell. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Myself? I’m looking forward to heading back to Grand Bahama, the island where I caught my first bonefish, and fishing out of East End Lodge this July (yes, it will be hot, but there will be cold beer and likely a strong breeze).