I was going to skip my annual saltwater trip this year. The beating that Grand Bahama and Abaco took kind of hollowed out a piece of me and it didn’t seem there’d be much “there” there anyway. I got a new raft and figured maybe I’d head to Idaho for that week instead.
However, after watching the trials and tribulations of the folks out there via social media (Cindy, I’m looking at you) I had another thought… maybe this is when I actually should go to the Bahamas. Maybe this is where I should spend that money and time. The Bahamas has maybe never really needed me, but, maybe now they do.
So, this May I’m going to head to Abaco. Probably over Memorial Day weekend with most days falling the week before. I’ll look at getting an indy guide and maybe trying to convince a few others to come along.
Marsh Harbor was hit very, very hard, but the further south you go, the better the island starts to look. Power and water are a concern in lots of places, but not in the south. I’ll be able to crack a cold Kalik at the end of the day and enjoy some Bahamian grub. Flights are starting to come back on-line and if you go, you’ll be taken care of and your business will be appreciated.
I’m happy to share details if you are interested in making the trip yourself, or if you’d like to come along with me as I try to figure out this post-Dorian trip.
I’ve been watching photos pop up from Abaco and things look pretty bad there. You see less coming out of the East End of Grand Bahama, but this video gives you a glimpse of what things are like. No power on the last 35 miles of the island.
With the lodges not working and no power… I’m not sure how things are going to come back.
Consider donating to the East End fund to help the people out there.
First off, I didn’t expect that much traffic. I was staying at the Aulani with the fam for Thanksgiving and needed to get to the airport flat to meet Kenny at 7:00 AM. I thought 40 minutes would do it. I was wrong.
The bell staff were also wrong that it would be “about the same cost” for a taxi and a Lyft… it was, in fact, not about the same cost at all. It cost me $128 to get to the flat (vs. $38 to get back) and I got there 15 minutes late. I hate being late.
The flat, when we got out there, was glassy clam. No wind rustled the mangroves or the water and it took about 10 seconds to see my first tail waiving at us to say good morning.
Now, it must be said, these fish are kind of assholes. They are so very, very spooky and they’ve seen some stuff, man… they’ve seen it all. They were super skittish in the sheet of skinny water and Kenny let me know it wasn’t ME they were rejecting, but more an overall disposition. Having an almost teenage daughter, I understand the mentality.
We worked hard and didn’t have too much to show for it. I had maybe 10 shots through lunch and I had maybe another 5 after lunch. The shots decreasing as the wind came up and the tails stayed down with the changing tide. I hooked one nice fish that must have run around one of the many, many coral obstacles and cut me off. It was good to feel the tug, but I was still off the board.
The day was waning. My dinner reservations were on my mind as well as questions about exactly how much traffic I might have on the way back West. I told Kenny that, ya know, if it wasn’t going to happen, we didn’t need to keep after it. Kenny said he wanted to try one more spot.
The breakers weren’t being totally blunted and so the ride out on the last flat was a little wild, a confused jumble of swells from different directions meant everyone had to hold on from time to time. To make it a bit more challenging the water was both a little deeper and the bottom seemed to be the EXACT color green of a bonefish. I was seeing phantom fish everywhere. Luckily, Kenny was seeing actual fish and had me cast toward a fish he had picked out.
“Strip long again.”
Tight to a fish and it was lightning, streaking across the flat. Backing exposed and recovered. Smiles all around. When I saw the size of the fish I wondered if I had hooked it in the ass, but it was just a strong, ocean-side fish. Not the 10 pounder, but the right species in the right place and sometimes you just need to take what the fishing gods give you.
It was a day saver and we were both pretty relieved.
You can find guide Kenny Karas here, and I recommend a day on the water with him. He’s good people and knows his stuff. This is a solid recommendation, not an ad.
So, you love Grand Bahama and/or Abaco and are bummed you won’t be able to fish there and you are wondering where you should go?
How about Grand Bahama or Abaco?
As the Waypoints podcast pointed out, there are still guides and lodges operating on both islands. While some of the major names are either down for the count (Deep Water Cay) or down for a while (East End Lodge, Abaco Lodge), other options still exist.
I have a boat now. It isn’t going to see much, if any, saltwater, and it won’t see a bonefish ever. It takes a lot of effort to put together… yes… put together, and then take apart. But, it’s a boat. I’ve made it to 45 without having a boat and you’d be well within your rights to say I don’t have one now. It’s rolled up in my garage at the moment and in pieces.
It’s a raft. A 13 foot raft with a fishing frame. I call it the green goddess. I don’t have a trailer. I have to strap the frame to the roof of the car in pieces and the rest has to make it into the back of the Highlander. I’ve managed to get it out twice now. Once on a shakedown cruise with a couple buddies and once with my dad and a buddy. Fish were caught. I stayed on the oars. We did a short drift I’ve done probably a couple dozen times in my life, but had only rowed once on my own before now.
It was hoped I’d get my dad out in this and maybe it will happen. His reactions have slowed, his casts have gotten shorter. It was hard for him to get to the lane or stay in the lane. He missed fish and his back hurt, but he got in the boat and out of the boat without injury, which maybe is what victory looks like at this point.
The drive from here to Redding to float the Lower Sac is about three hours and it is about an hour to assemble the raft and about 5-6 hours to fish. Then an hour to break-down and three more to get home, where I have to unpack the frame, at the very least, so some tweaker or opportunistic scavenger doesn’t make off with the aluminum tubing. Long days. Maybe I’ll learn the Yuba, which would reduce the drive by an hour each way, but the Lower Sac and her rainbows of unreasonable size are closer to my home waters and, to the extent I know anything, they are what I know.
I’m contemplating taking my daughter down the S. Fork of the Snake this summer, or at least doing a couple drifts out there with her. Kind of depends what girl I have at that moment, which is hard to predict. She’ll be 13 and sometimes hates being in the car (that’s about a 900 miles roadtrip, so…) and other times she’ll barely talk to me and others she’s still my girl who wants to fish and hang with her dad and look for snakes and frogs. I don’t know what planning looks like for a fishing trip with a 13 year old. These are the known unknowns.
I also need to get my 5.75 year old boy out in the raft. Maybe in the flat water of San Leandro Bay, right by our house. I haven’t figured that out yet, but I will.
So, don’t call me Captain just yet, but I have a raft and a frame and I’m figuring out how to use it… where everything goes, what needs to be tighter, what needs to be left at home. Hoping I see a lot of water in the green goddess and that I get to share that water with my friends and family until I tear a shoulder loose or get a bulging disk.
I got to visit DWC a few years back and can attest to how nice the place was. The facilities and the guides and the boats were all top notch. Such a lot of history has come through that little island on the East End.
Elliott was out there with me in 2018 and caught his first bonefish out of the East End Lodge. He interviews Rob, co-owner of East End Lodge about the state of the Eastern part of Grand Bahama. It’s bad. People are suffering. There are lots of ways to help (money is most in need).
You can also bid on a dozen flies I’ll be tying up through Josh Mills’ “#dozenfordorian” effort that has raised about $18,000 so far. Just put in a bid… it is currently at $75. To be clear… not the flies on the hat. New ones.
This is the place I’ve spent the most time bonefishing. My first fish came from right near McLeans Town on a trip with my dad. I caught my first DIY bonefish on a little flat on the East End. My last vacation with my mom was on Grand Bahama, which is also when my wife and I began to suspect she might be pregnant. I fished out of Deep Water Cay and visited Water Cay Lodge. After my mom passed we went on a family trip to Abaco and got to see Abaco Lodge. I took my daughter down to fish with the only female guide in the Bahamas. I fished out of Abaco Lodge again before heading up to Little Abaco. I fished for a week out of East End Lodge and enjoyed rum and fishing with Rob and Cecile.
Damn… a lot of good times in that area just leveled by Dorian. Abaco Lodge was destroyed. No word on status of East End Lodge, but I’m not optimistic. Deep Water Cay appears heavily damaged. I understand that just about all the guides and staff are accounted for in most of the fishing lodges, so, that’s good, but they’ve all lost so, so much.