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).


17
Apr 18

Almost impossible fish

On Caye Caulker at the Sea Dreams dock, the dock light makes things just work. Once the sun is down the bonefish mill around and they can be caught. The last night there I caught six before deciding to call it a trip.

However… in the daylight those fish are a different story. It is the same school of fish, or the same few small schools of fish (maybe 30-40 fish total), and when the lights are on they just won’t be fooled.

I tried some of the Hawaii tactics from last year. I tried going small, but the current would just carry the fly away before the fish could even see it. I tried taking out the flash and going neutral colors, but it seemed any fly, of any color or shape, would send the fish scurrying for cover. I tried leading the fish by 9 feet, but as soon as the fly line landed on the water the fish would just turn around and swim slowly away from the offending line.

So, size didn’t matter, color didn’t matter and you couldn’t cast within 9 feet. They really were pulling out their inner permit.

I, after a few hours of trying over multiple days, finally gave up.

Those same fish would eat a heavily weighted tan shrimp at the fringes of the dock light’s glow with savagery usually reserved for barracuda eats.

I fished at night.


15
Apr 18

Caye Caulker – A perfect family destination for my imperfect vacation

I kind of love Caye Caulker, Belize. This year was Year #2 for Spring Break and if I can avoid any legal trouble stemming from this trip, next year will be #3.

We booked this trip through Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures and stayed, for the second year in a row, at Sea Dreams, near the northern tip of Caye Caulker just shy of “The Split.” We even stayed in the same room, #5, a modest courtyard room with two single beds. The travelers were just myself and my 11 year old daughter.

Caye Caulker sits off the mainland, about a 40 minutes water taxi ride from Belize City. This year the taxi driver at the airport took it as his personal mission to get us on the boat set to depart in just a few minutes. He did. It was Indy 500 stuff. I tipped him well, but won’t seek him out in the future. We got to the port and walked on the boat and it took off. The kind of timing you see in the movies when no one is ever sitting around waiting for anything.

When you get to the island it is just another world. Shoes optional. 2-3 cars on the whole island. Kids, families and tourists walking, biking or golf-carting around. It is intimate. It is tight. It feels safe in the way the mythical 50’s sound safe.

We got to Sea Dreams, got our room, went to get dinner and then I went back to catch a bonefish off the dock… which I did almost immediately. That’s my kind of place.

The next day was a chillax day. We arranged for a snorkel trip later in the week and I strung up all the rods (a total of four). We fed the tarpon… man I love that… we went through three bags of bait. We had a day of guided fishing set up the next day with Haywood, owner of Sea Dreams.

Haywood is, to be totally clear on things, a damn fine person. His whole family is pretty awesome, as we’d find out later in the week. Haywood is pretty much the perfect age (read the same age I am) and he has an 11 year old daughter, in addition to another younger daughter. His wife co-founded the local high-school and he gushes about her very much in the same way I gush about my own wife, who I think is amazing. I like Haywood. I’d even be friends with him in real life.

Our fishing day on Tuesday started off with me on the deck, but nursing a bit of a headache that didn’t come from booze. In the back of my mind I was starting to say “Man… something is off here.” One bonefish down and my daughter got a chance to be up on deck. I relished the opportunity to sit down a bit, which is very, very out of character. I was feeling achey. My head was pounding and I needed a rest. Haywood got my daughter a snook on some live bait, which was nice, and I had to admit to the boat that I was not feeling very good and maybe she could take more time on the bow.

Me… giving up bow time. Whaaa???

A couple Tylenol, lunch and a bit of a break and I did get up and try things again for a bit, missing one or two snook grabs, breaking off a cuda and landing a couple other small cudas. But, by the time we got back to the dock all I wanted was bed. I laid down and didn’t get back up. My daughter actually got us dinner. I ate some rice, but that was all I could manage.

Haywood with my daughter’s snook

I woke up at 4:00 AM wondering if I was going to be ill. At 6:00 AM I found out that, yes, I was in fact going to be ill. Vomiting ensued and kept up until about 10:30, the tanks empty… scoured out in fact. I was not going anywhere. I was not capable of going anywhere. We were not going snorkeling. We were not doing Mayan Ruins. We were going to be lucky, super lucky, if my daughter didn’t catch whatever it was I had. The trip kicked into survival mode.

My daughter took care of me, our roles flipped. She went out and got me gatorade. She went out and bought me bananas after watching a YouTube video about what to do when you have a GI bug. She entertained herself around Sea Dreams, at the little dock, walking about the streets near the hotel. She stepped up. I was super proud of her.

A view of my bedside table shows I was on the Fluids train.

Fluids… it is all about the fluids.

Later in the afternoon she told me she was going to take a bike out. It was a comment over her shoulder as she walked out. I wasn’t in shape to chase after her to talk more about it. She’s not a hugely experienced bike rider, but the streets are sand, everyone’s out, there aren’t cars… seemed OK. A while later Haywood came in to tell me she’d fallen off a bike and she was OK, but did I want to take her to get checked out by a Dr? I put some clothes on and went with Haywood and my daughter to the private Dr. She checked out pretty quickly and we went back to Sea Dreams and I went back to bed. Haywood stepped up there. He was huge.

My allowing the girl to fall off a bike in Central America is likely going to result in legal paperwork getting served here at BotB World Headquarters in the coming week or two. Not looking forward to that. So goes joint custody.

Later that night Anna even ate dinner with him and his family. I wasn’t going anywhere. They took her in for the evening. It was pretty much pure awesome, just a family helping my family out when we needed some help.

The next day my stomach was still off, but I was feeling, oh, let’s call it 50%. I could at least go out and get breakfast and lunch with my girl. Her bike fall had injured her shoulder a bit and so there were some activities that were just not going to be workable. Our vacation options were pretty much down to walking around, eating and watching island life go by.

There was some fishing in the evening… thank the fates for dock lights, and that was pretty much it.

The last night we were out on the dock and I set Anna up with a fly rod and a heavy shrimp fly. The fish were eating the fly without it being moved, but she wasn’t connecting. I hooked her some fish and she got to land them and we got to enjoy a little bit of what the trip could have been. It was a really nice few moments.

The island is just a wonderful place. There are activities a plenty to sign up for, even if we didn’t get to participate in much of it this year. It is just a great place to be, even if you are puking your guts out.


05
Apr 18

Bahamas vs. Belize

Watching Buccaneers and Bones just now and they are having a Bahamas vs. Belize comparison.

I’ll be heading to Belize for the 4th time on Sunday. That’s going to be great.

Later this summer I’ll be heading to the Bahamas for trip #8.

They are just different places. It isn’t really fair to compare the two, but, let’s do that anyway.

Bonefish – The Bahamas wins this one. There may very well be 5 pound bones in Belize, but there are many, many more 1 pound bones. There are Bahamian islands with small average sized bones, but the Bahamas also features monsters, ten-plusers. The Bahamas is just such a pure bonefish fishery, it isn’t really a comparison. So many flats, so many islands and the bones are just THE species to chase.

fat backed bonefish

Tarpon – There ARE tarpon in the Bahamas, but you don’t head to the Bahamas to go tarpon fishing. Belize is going to win on that front. That’s where I caught my first tarpon and where I lost my first larger tarpon. Tarpon are what make Savannah Caye a well known spot and there are other known tarpon spots in Belize as well.

The final piece, the tarpon.

Permit – Ya know… I don’t know. I’ve heard some great stories of permit fishing in the Bahamas, but if you want to catch your first permit, you are more likely to go and have success in Belize, so, I’m going to say Belize. Belize is where I caught my first (only) permit, although I certainly have seen some in the Bahamas as well (big ones too).

Grand Slam – If you are looking for all three, you are going to head to Belize. I’m proof you can make that shite happen.

Beer – The beer of Belize, Belikin, isn’t even 12 ounces. Kalik and Sands take this one.

mmmmm

Guides – Toss up. I’ve had some amazing guides in Belize. I’ve had some amazing guides in the Bahamas. Generally, the Bahamas is known for bonefishing guides and Belize is known for permit guides.

Freddy, doing his thing at Abaco Lodge

DIY – There is just more area in the Bahamas. You can DIY in Belize, sure, but you just can’t beat the square miles in the Bahamas.

Snook – Belize… not many snook in the Bahamas. Sure, there are some, like this one from East End Lodge, but you are much, much more likely to get into a nice snook in Belize.

My Belize Snook

I love Belize. I love the Bahamas. This year is a very, very good year, as I’m going to visit both. The very best situation is when it isn’t either/or, but both.


03
Apr 18

Just a few days out – Belize Spring Break 2018

I’m at the point where I’m excited, but I also know high expectations are a killer.

Not great weather

As fantastic as last year’s Caye Caulker trip were, the day of fly fishing was mostly washed out. I got one nice snook to hand before the storm enveloped us in it’s dark and watery embrace. We spent at least an hour in a hut trying to stay out of the rain. It was not, in pure fishing terms, a super day, although it was still a wonderful day in terms of being on the water with my daughter.

This year should be easier with Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures making sure I’m in the right place at the right time and taking care of many of the getting-there logistics. With the airport on Caye Caulker out of service for repairs, they are making sure I’m getting met at the airport and taken to the water taxi and getting picked up at the dock. Nice service.

I have one day of fly fishing coming up in Belize. Other days will be ruin tours and snorkeling and hanging out. I have just the one day with a guide and we’ll have to keep my daughter happy at the same time.

It could rain hard again.

There could be thick cloud cover and the fish could be hard to see.

Wrong tides… that happens when you don’t have a week of fishing.

My daughter might not be feeling well.

I could get stung by something in the turtle grass and have agonizing nerve pain that keeps my from sleeping at all the night before (as happened during my honeymoon to Belize 5.5 years ago).

There are a million (ok, a few dozen) things that could go wrong.

So… I won’t get too excited.

Need to mentally slow play this.

But still. I’m excited. Jittery (and only on my first cup of coffee).

Can’t wait to get down there and I don’t have to wait long.

 


01
Apr 18

Trump reveals abandonment of Puerto Rico part of Conservation Plan

The Trump Administration announced today the rational behind their abandonment of storm ravaged Puerto Rico. Surprisingly, the reasoning was focused on conservation.

Trump released the following statement:

“The Puerto Rico, I hear, is fantastic. My son, not Eric, the other one, the good one, loves to do fishing, he says to me, “Mr. Trump,” he calls me Mr. Trump,” he says to me “Do you ever wonder what it would be like to fish back in the 1800’s?” and I say to him “No,” but it gets me thinking, right, because I’m a great thinker, maybe one of the best thinkers, everyone is saying so, like on Fox they said that this morning, I think, well, if they didn’t say it, someone else did, maybe Carson, and I was thinking I can make Puerto Rico just like it was back in the old days before Russia and back when America was Great, and we are making it great again, you can be sure of that, and I thought, “No power!” Right? So, bam, big storm, not that storm, I mean the hurricane storm, comes and wipes out a bunch of infrastructure and, BAM, now it’s just like it was in the 1800’s and maybe Junior will get down there to fish for a bit and he can tell me what it was like to fish in the 1800’s. So, it is really about, ya know, the fish, #respecttheresource, and I think all these leftists and the failing Washington Post and all that, that they should say Thank You for what we do. I just think they should say Thank You and that’s what I think should happen because I don’t think there has ever been an administration that has done something like this, this forward kind of thinking about going back and the greatness and the people are going to love it.”

At last, the mystery is solved.


30
Mar 18

BTT Shares Concern About Grand Bahama Refinery

Yeah… I agree. This sounds like such a bad project for the things I love.

Justin Lewis in the Bahamas

An open letter by Justin Lewis from BTT

The Rt. Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis,

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) is an international non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of bonefish, tarpon, permit—the species, their habitats, and the larger fisheries they support. We work in a broad geography that spans the Caribbean Basin from its easternmost anchor in the Bahamas. Locally, we have worked for many years in the Bahamas, collaborating with the Bahamas National Trust, anglers, guides, fishermen, and other leading NGOs. Studies have shown that the flats fishing industry in The Bahamas contributes in excess of $141 million to the Bahamian economy annually, making it a valuable sustainable natural  that benefits thousands of Bahamians, especially in rural communities.

The Island of Grand Bahama is an area where BTT has placed significant effort and continues to do so because of its expansive healthy flats habitat and thriving recreational bonefish fishery. It is where I, as a native Bahamian working for BTT, am based. Years of research by BTT and our collaborators has identified habitat loss and degradation as the greatest threats to bonefish and their habitats. Developments involving dredging, sand mining, and other manipulations of nature pose a significant threat not only to bonefish but a range of other environmentally and economically important species and habitats.

We received the news of the recently announced OBAN energies development in East Grand Bahama with great interest due to its potential impacts to the flats, coral reefs, and deep ocean—our most valuable natural resources—not only in that area, but along the entire southern side and eastern end of Grand Bahama. The OBAN plans to construct a large oil refinery and storage facility will require significant dredging, which will pose risks to our local marine environment and threaten fresh water aquifers. The 250,000 barrels of heavy crude oil slated for daily production also deserves closer scrutiny. Heavy crude oil is similar to bitumen, which comes from the oil sands of Canada, and has caused significant environmental issues there. Heavy crude emits three times as much CO₂ as regular crude oil and even coal and contains large quantities of heavy metal contaminants and sulfur.

Additionally, the silt created from the large amount of dredging to be done would be carried by prevailing winds and currents to our beaches, aquifers, the flats, and coral reefs along the entire south side and east end of Grand Bahama. Any future oil spill would follow the same path.  Directly in harm’s way would be the Lucayan National Park, East Grand Bahama Protected Area, and the Northside-Gap National Park, which protect important bonefish spawning aggregation sites, bonefish spawning migration pathways, and bonefish flats that support the economically valuable fishery.

In consultation with other stakeholders in the Bahamian flats fishery, particularly in East Grand Bahama, we write to urge the greatest care in assessing this project and its environmental impacts. Topics that should be considered while conducting the environmental impact assessment should include: likelihood of an oil or other chemical spill; if a spill occurs how would it be contained, and where would the resulting pollutants be transported by ocean currents and through the aquifer; what will be the impact to the natural resources that support the travel and tourism industry; what will be the economic costs to the flats fishery due to the loss of anglers; will safeguards be in place in case the project fails or ceases operation.

Thank you for your consideration. As always, please consider BTT an information resource for bonefish and flats conservation efforts. We stand ready to provide assistance—please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Justin Lewis

Bahamas Initiative Manager


11
Mar 18

Me and my favorite fly – Reverse Glassback Hot-Nosed Gotcha

Yeah… not professionally done, but, ya know… here’s a go.

I love this fly. I end up tying it when I don’t know what else to tie. I have this fly in many, many sizes and variations. I usually start with this fly in some form and I’ll fish it all day if it is working at all.

Seems like, maybe, I should have turned the phone over on its side?

Enjoy?

 

 


04
Mar 18

The most threatened island in the Bahamas… Grand Bahama

I caught my first bonefish in Grand Bahama. I had my last family trip with my mom on Grand Bahama Island. I caught my first DIY bonefish in Grand Bahama. I had my first cracked conch in Grand Bahama. I’ll be adding to those memories when I head back to Grand Bahama in July.

It is a bonefish paradise.

It is also an island under some significant threat.

There are the existing insults to the ecology of the island like the mining operation on the north side of the island.

ugly

There are also the cruise ships and the garbage and spills that come with that. Cruising is not so green. Here’s a report card for cruise ships and it seems like many of those earning F’s also happen to make stops at Grand Bahama.

There are other threats on the horizon.

Those include a second oil storage facility to the east of the current tanks. This project is supposed to dwarf the existing storage. I’m pretty sure I’ve fished (and caught fish) very close to where those tanks would go.

The existing tanks on GBI.

Additionally, on top of the storage is a proposed oil refinery. An oil refinery… on the coast of an island not infrequently raked over by hurricanes. I mean… what could go wrong, right? 250,000 barrels a day in processing capacity.

Luckily, the figures behind the deal are totally, like 100%, totally, very much beyond reproach (sarcasm).

There was also a cruise ship port slated for the East End (or, eastern side, it is unclear to me) of Grand Bahama, although that project got inked and then hardly mentioned since. So… who knows. If it happens it 1. wouldn’t make a lot of sense for me given the location (although it would make sense for the government who would like to not have everything controlled by the Port Authority, a private company that owns a hell of a lot of what is in and around Freeport), and 2. would certainly be less than awesome for the fishery.

This all comes at a hard time for the island with the current close status of the Grand Lucayan, which removed about 59% of the island’s available rooms and about 1,000 jobs. The economic impact is probably greater as many of the businesses that depended on the economic hub that was the Grand Lucayan have taken significant blows to their incomes. There is an LOI in place for a new buyer, but, as many things are in the Bahamas, the details are somewhat murky, lacking a clear process or outcome. You know how much economies love uncertainty.

Jobs may be on offer with the various projects, but it does hit at the sustainable resources that are the heritage of the Bahamian people.

There is a lot of wonderfulness in Grand Bahama. There are miles and miles of pristine coastline and miles and miles of pristine flats. Even if all these projects happen the fishery in Grand Bahama will still be amazing, but it will also probably be slightly less than it is now.

One saving grace may be that these plans are grand in scale, scope and cost and while men are capable of coming up with grand plans, they are often only capable of implementing half-grand plans.