Oct 15

Florida vs. The Bahamas

In that latest news story out of the Bahamas the comments section provides the usual entertainment in race-card playing and poor economics.

One comment seemed to say studies showing the economic impact of recreational fishing in Florida, valued at $800M, has to mean that the Bahamas industry is worth way more than the estimated $141M because the Bahamas has more flats.

So you do the math……Also really, only worth $141M from 5 years ago! What about Permit, Tarpon and Snook value? They say the Florida Keys flatsfishing is about $800M! Wow! Now take a look at Google and look at their flats to the Bahamas’!

This, of course, is idiotic. Yes… the Bahamas has more flats than Florida does. That is true, surely. However, Florida also has just shy of 20 million people vs. the Bahama’s 400K. That’s roughly 50x. There is also a vibrant fishing culture in Florida that allows anyone to fish in just about any way they want to. You don’t need a guide to go out and fish and the guides don’t own any spots that you, the out-of-state DIY angler, can’t fish if you get there first.

The idea that the Bahamian fishing industry has to be bigger than Florida’s, solely based on square-mileage is dumb. By that measure, the economy of New York City (304 square miles) must be dwarfed by that of Kazakstan (1M square miles). Guess what… that doesn’t work either. New York City has a GDP of about $1.3T vs. $231B for Kazakstan.

The Bahamian economy has a GDP of about $8.4B. Tourism accounts for about 60% of that amount.

Telling one whole group of anglers they, and their families, aren’t welcome in the Bahamas is a very poorly thought out plan and, luckily, it is all coming tumbling down. The odds these regulations are going to pass and become law diminish by the day as more and more people wake up to the economic disaster represented by these proposals.

Oct 15

People are paying attention in the Bahamas

The argument has always been economic. Sure, there was some noise about conservation, but the idea catch and release anglers were somehow a major threat to the entire Bahamian fishery was always a bit of misdirection. It’s the economy, stupid.

Folks are paying attention and they are starting to do their own math and that math reveals what so many of us have been saying for so long… banning DIY is a great way to cut a big chunk out of the Bahamian economy.

Ellison Thompson, Deputy Director-General of Tourism, said “The question is do you want to alienate the DIYs when you look at the economic impact. You can say everyone who comes has to have a guide, but I think you would be cutting off a lot of money.”


Read the whole story here

The thing we have to keep sight of is that this was never a plan embraced by everyone. There have been plenty of Bahamians who thought this whole business was a disaster from the get-go. That’s why I’ve never been a fan of the whole “boycott” idea. Why punish the people who saw this for what it was and fought tooth and nail against it?

Sure, you can catch bonefish in Belize and Mexico and Cuba and Hawaii, Christmas Island, Australia, the British Virgin Islands, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Cook Islands, Los Roques and more. Even if the Bahamas was shut down 100%, you could still go catch a bonefish. So, you could boycott the Bahamas, but that seems misguided to me. Go where you want to go. Fish the waters that call out to you. If you love Belize, go to Belize. If you love the Bahamas, go to the Bahamas. It looks more and more likely you won’t have misguided and unfriendly legislation to contend with.

Fingers crossed and thank you to all the Bahamians who have been pro-angler. We’ll repay your effort with days walking Bahamian flats and evenings of cracked conch and cold Kalik.



Jul 15

Again… what being helpful looks like

The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust is an organization I hold in high regard. They are the stewards and watchers on the wall for the species we love and the places they live. They are, as the saying goes, “good people.”

Being that they are good people and they do a lot of work in the Bahamas and have developed many relationships there over the years, I was happy to see their more detailed recommendations for regulations to protect and preserve Bahamian sport-fishing in a sustainable way for the long haul.

In fact, it is so well reasoned and well crafted I am nearly 100% positive that these points of recommendation will be rejected, probably in whole.

Here are the recommendations from BTT. 

The fundamental reason these points will be rejected (or, more likely, just ignored) is that the move to regulate flats fishing has little to nothing to do with conserving the fisheries. Sure, there is a lot of talk about how these regulations are designed to ensure the fishery will be there for future generations, but this appears to mean “it will be here for future generations because we are going to get rid of all the anglers.”

The government has made noise about “consultation,” but they have selected the most radical people to take their advice from and have ignored the input of so many important stakeholders.

The government would do well to listen to this bit of advice from BTT if they want to find a sane way to regulate the industry and preserve the fishery for future generations, as they say they do.

I have no confidence Minister Gray or Prescott Smith will take any of BTT”s suggestions because their true motivations do not appear to align with passing sane regulations.

I’d love to be proven wrong.


Jun 15


Bone in GBI - a DIY fish.

Bone in GBI – a DIY fish.

I’m an optimist deep down so I have hope that the Bahamas can reverse course on the proposed regulations before even more damage is done.

Here’s another tidbit to give some hope:

Tribune Business can reveal that the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) is uniting with the Grand Bahama and Out Island Promotion Boards, plus the Marina Operators of the Bahamas (MOB), to oppose proposed amendments they fear will hit the tourism industry “like a tsunami”.

Seems like some non-fishing folks are starting to wake up to the dangers. Read the story here.

Orvis also recently weighed in on the controversy and they aren’t happy.

Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures (who have done as much or more than anyone to grow the Bahamas as a fly fishing destination in the last decade) also recently withdrew their support for the BFFIA (Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association), as that group’s leadership is largely responsible for the current fiasco (although not all of them, thanks for fighting the good fight Cheryl Bastian (she owns Swain’s Cay in Andros, a place you should consider booking).

If you are opposed to these regulations and want to avoid the guides and lodges who are driving this process, I’d urge you to ask some serious questions before you book. Ask if they support the regulations, especially if you are going to be booking Stafford Creek or Andros Island Bonefishing Club. If you hear an answer that sounds like political double-speak and doesn’t actually answer any of your questions, or punts responsibility to the government, or gives you an answer that directly contradicts facts you have plainly read with your own eyes, well, what you do with those answers is up to you.

There are a lot of great lodges out there in the Bahamas with good people who realize how damaging these new regulations would be and who seek to avoid the tsunami. Support them.

Dick Brown, author and angler I hold in high regard wrote his letter before the deadline closed on Friday. He’s a man who has also promoted the Bahamas, has shown his love of the place, the people and the resource. Here’s his letter.

To the Bahamas Ministry of Fisheries

As an angler, author, and longtime friend of the Bahamas, I would like to make a few comments on the proposal to change the policies on bonefishing in the Commonwealth. I have been an avid flats angler fishing in the Bahamas most of my adult life. I have written articles about fishing there for many U.S. angling magazines and I have authored two books on bonefishing, which are considered definitive handbooks on the sport and which feature numerous destinations in the Bahamas and many of her fine people, guides, and lodges. I also speak at national fly fishing shows each year about bonefishing techniques and how to be a better flats angler and where the best places are to go bonefishing.
I am, and have long been, a strong believer that the Bahamian people should benefit from the great resource that the bonefish fishery represents, and specifically that Bahamian guides, lodge owners and others involved in delivering the Bahamas fishing venues should benefit economically from the resource and from their efforts.  I also believe, however, that it would be a mistake to prevent non Bahamian tourist anglers–who have spent considerable years, effort, and money in learning to become proficient in flats fishing–from being able to bonefish on their own from time to time, as well as allowing them to fish with a guide. I do both and enjoy both. I would not visit a destination where I could not do both. And I am not alone.
I have had the pleasure of fishing with many great Bahamian guides over the years, some of whom have become legends. And some, like Charlie Neymour and Ricardo Burrows and others, have gone on to build their own lodges. And I have stayed at many Bahamian owned lodges. I have great respect for such enterprising Bahamian entrepreneurs. I helped Nettie Symonette with the launch of her Different of Abaco bonefish lodge at Casuarina Point at its inception and I wrote the story of her great accomplishment in opening up the marls to bonefishing on the west side of Abaco. These are pioneering accomplishments by industrious Bahamians like the great Smith family of Andros. But I also believe that many of the non-Bahamian lodge owners have made significant contributions to the Bahamas bonefish industry as well, bringing knowledge, techniques, and awarenesses from other venues and it would be a grave error to discourage such healthy partnerships with others who bring both good ideas and new guests from far away destinations. I have  fished at both Bahamian-owned and foreign-owned lodges over the years and enjoyed both. I believe the Bahamas is big enough for both and greatly benefits from both. And I hope you can find a way to continue to accommodate both.
One last point. Research and protecting the bonefish fishery has never been more important. The sport depends on it. And it is a joint venture. We have all come a long way in understanding what is needed to protect this great resource thanks to the efforts of pioneers like Don Erdman, Doug Colton, Roy Crabtree, and more recently,the researchers at Bonefish Tarpon Trust and others. This is a time for Bahamian anglers, guides, and lodge owners to grow closer not further apart in their partnership with U.S., British, French, German, and all other foreign anglers, interests, and research partners to the end of all working together to protect what may be the greatest light tackle and fly fishing game fish on the face of the earth. It is a time to work together, not apart.
I hope we will.
Respectfully submitted,
Dick Brown
Author, Fly Fishing for Bonefish