Surrounded by the most tranquil and blue waters, the islands of The Bahamas are great for fishing. These islands are all near the U.S., with the closest being Grand Bahama which is around 100 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach, Florida.
When traveling to The Bahamas with a fishing expedition in mind, it helps to know ahead of time precisely the kind of fishing trip you want to try as there are many options including spear fishing, sport fishing, deep sea fishing, and bonefishing, which is a type of fly fishing that targets bone fish.
In this article we’ll cover one of the most popular fishing trips: bonefishing. There are many islands that are conducive for bonefishing adventures in The Bahamas, including Andros Island, Abaco Islands, New Providence Island and Yamacraw Beach.
If you want to find out when is the best time for bonefishing in The Bahamas, the best islands for bonefishing and even how to choose the right boat charter, then read on. By the end of this article you’ll be more than ready to plan your fishing trip to The Bahamas.
Bonefish are a silvery game fish that can be found in shallow, warm waters near shore. These fish can grow up to 14 pounds and are often described as elusive for how hard they can be to catch due to their naturally camouflaged skin and reflective scales. Bonefishing is popular in The Bahamas as a type of sport fishing. Aside from bonefish, other common catches in The Bahamas include tarpons, barracudas, permit, jack, shark, grouper, and mutton snapper.
The Bahamas is an impressive saltwater fly fishing destination with many places you can go fishing. In this tropical archipelago there are about 700 islands and cays, and some of the best islands for fly fishing include Andros Island, Acklins Island, Mangrove Cay and the Southern Flats. Here are some of our favorites:
At 2,300 mi², Andros Island is larger than all 700 of the Bahamian islands and cays combined. Andros is divided into 3 separate areas including North Andros, South Andros, and Mangrove Cay. Each of these parts are separated by bights (estuaries) within which there are even more uninhabited islets and cays.
Andros Island is located about 180 miles off Florida’s coast and is considered the ‘bonefish capital of the world’. In Andros, it is not uncommon for fishers to make catches of 10 pounds or more. Aside from bonefish, chances are high of catching tarpon around Andros at certain times of the year. Further out into deeper waters fishermen often catch Mahi-Mahi, tuna, and wahoo.
Expert tip: When in Andros make some time to see some of the 1.5 million-acre national park known as the West Side National Park.
There are a lot of similarities in the kind of fishing experience you’ll find on North Andros and Andros itself. On North Andros, anglers may find themselves doing quite a lot of flats fishing which is a method developed in The Bahamas and Florida in the 1940s. Flats fishing involves wading in water or from a flats boat or skiff. While in the shallow water, fishers use their skills to make a catch. In North Andros, other than bonefish there are often permit, tarpon and barracuda spotted near the flats.
Mangrove Cay is on Andros Island and its capital is Moxey town. There are hundreds of square miles of flats, bays, and creeks around Andros Island that are easily accessible through this cay. Where you’ll make the best catch in Mangrove Cay depends on the tide, and because of the location of Mangrove Cay in the center of Andros, it’ll not be too difficult to move around when the tides shift. This movement increases the time you’ll be able to bonefish successfully in this area.
South Andros is part of Andros Island and in this way, much like in North Andros, there are commonalities in the fishing experiences you’re likely to have there. South Andros is much less populated than Andros Island and in fact is probably the least populated part of this area. There are hard, sand flats in South Andros that are perfect for bonefishing. They are populated with a range of marine life that fishers of all kinds will appreciate.
New Providence Island is generally the place where first time and even repeat visitors to The Bahamas choose to stay. This includes anglers who like staying in New Providence Island, experiencing some of the best fly fishing spots in Nassau, and then making their way further out to some of the other islands. New Providence Island is off the coast of Andros Island and home to the capital city of The Bahamas, Nassau.
The Southern Flats are the best place to go bonefishing on New Providence Island. Lots of fly fishers who stay in Nassau for their vacation go to this area in the hopes of catching some of the biggest bone fish, which this area is known for. Aside from bonefish, just at the edges of the flats you can sometimes catch tarpon, permit, and barracuda.
Yamacraw Beach in Nassau is an interesting place where anglers can try their luck with some bonefishing. This is a popular spot for dry fishing, which means you’ll be able to fish right from the shore. Bonefish usually swim in the swallows, and here you’ll be able to catch them using angling and bone fishing techniques that hopefully have already been sharpened from experiencing other great sites in The Bahamas.
Expert tip: While in The Bahamas, stay at an all-inclusive resort in Nassau that can help organize your bone fishing trip so you don’t miss out on the best spots!
The Abaco Islands in The Bahamas are among the more populated islands of this territory and they are located in northern Bahamas. Abaco is about 776 mi² and is often one of the islands recommended for good bonefishing. In the Abacos, one of the best places for bonefishing is in the Marls Region, while Coopers Town, Cherokee Sound, Crossing Rock, and Crown Haven are also known for great fishing.
The Marls Region is part of the Abacos and is home to a thriving population of bonefish. Marls has been described as large enough to fit Manhattan 13 times over. It is sheltered, protected, and great for bonefishing. There are extensive sand flats in this area which is about 300mi² as well as lots of mangroves. Many anglers fish from the well maintained Maverick flats skiffs. Wading is popular here.
Green Turtle Cay is one of the beautiful cays of The Bahamas that could be just the right type of location you need for some great fly fishing. This island is off the coast of Great Abaco and is about 3 miles long and half a mile wide. As such, this is not a populated island, but it is great for diving and fishing. You can get to Green Turtle Cay by ferry or boat. Once on this little island you’ll find three saltwater flats which will be perfect for fly fishing. Great Turtle Cay is known to have large populations of bonefish and barracuda off the coasts.
The Out Islands of The Bahamas consist of all the islands that are away from the more populated parts of The Bahamas. Most of these islands are uninhabited with extensive and uncrowded sand flats that make them ideal for bonefishing and also fishing for tarpon and other types of fish.
Crooked Island and Acklins Island are part of a grouping of islands in a shallow lagoon called the Bight of Acklins. These islands are to the southeast of The Bahamas. Crooked Island and Acklins Island have over the years remained mostly untouched which makes them great for nature excursions and fishing. The Bight has lots of mangroves that are filled with bonefish. There are sometimes tarpon, permit, snapper, mackerel, jacks, grouper and sharks here also. Bonefish in this area are on average 3-4 pounds, but often catches can be up to 10-pounds. The hard sand flats in this area are ideal for wading which can increase the odds for a catch.
Long Island in The Bahamas is known for its vibrant coral reefs, beautiful white sand beaches, dramatic cliff sides and exciting fishing opportunities. Long Island is also known for being the home of Hamilton’s Cave, the largest cave system in The Bahamas. This island is between Great Exuma and Acklins Island and many anglers include this stop on their fly fishing schedule. The flats here are part of the appeal for anglers who really want to make a great catch. Aside from bone fish the waters of Long Island are also good for catching jacks, snappers, tarpon, barracuda and sharks.
When planning a bone fishing trip to Long Island you can stay at this incredible all-inclusive resort in Exuma — you’ll easily be able to make tour and charter arrangements to Long Island through the resort.
Expert tip: While on Long Island make some time to visit Dean’s Blue Hole which is the second deepest blue hole at 200m (660ft) deep.
Saltwater flats fishing is something that is a big part of Bahamian culture. Fishermen from this region know the islands and the surrounding waters well, so it's a good idea to go with an experienced fishing guide for a fly fishing adventure. If you go with a guide, your chances of making a significant catch can be greater and you might spend less time fishing in areas that may not be conducive for your objective. You may also gain some new insights on how to catch bonefish from a local guide. If it is your first time fly fishing, a guide is definitely recommended.
Expert tip: When fishing in The Bahamas remember that National Marine Parks are off limits for any kind of fishing.
Chartering a boat for bonefishing gives you more freedom especially if you want to do more than wading and dry fishing. If you want to get a boat charter, it is imperative to find the right one for your fly fishing adventure. To do so, there are some general guidelines to follow.
The first of these is to find a charter that is close to where you’re staying. This will help you avoid having to wake up even earlier than you need to for your fishing trip just to make your way to the boat. There are lots of charter options in Nassau which can accommodate either half or full day tours depending on your preference. Half day charters are usually around 4 hours while full day charters are generally 8 hours. Overnight charters are an option as well if you want to spend the night on the boat.
Once you’ve determined the kind of fishing trip you’ll be going on, it’ll be easy to find the right boat charter. With that said, it is important to ask the charter about the fishing opportunities they offer. You might also want to find out if other activities are included other than fishing, like snorkeling tours, sightseeing, beaching, or sunset tours and cruises.
Another thing to consider is how big your group is. This will help determine the kind of charter you need. If you will be on your own, you may just be able to get onto a shared charter. Larger groups are better off with a private charter.
Smaller charters will cater to about 6 people max, while party charters can fit up to 60 people comfortably. While shared charters may be more affordable, you may not get to spend as much time as you’d like bone fishing, or go to all the places you have in mind. For this reason, sometimes a private charter is best.
If you’ll be staying at a resort in The Bahamas you can ask the tour desk about chartering a boat and what you’ll need. You may be able to charter a boat with or without a crew in The Bahamas, but without a crew you’re likely to need a special boating license. You may not need a special license if you have a captain and crew on board, so this is something to consider.
Quite a lot of stalking will be required to catch bonefish during a fly fishing expedition, and for this reason, it is important to choose the right time to go. The best time to plan a fly fishing trip to The Bahamas is November if you’re looking for a big catch, although you can expect a good catch anywhere from November all the way upto February. Some people from this region say these months are a great time to catch record-setting bonefish.
The increased odds of catching bonefish during the ‘winter’ months (when cold fronts tend to pass through making way for cooler water temperatures) has something to do with the fact that the bigger the bonefish, the better they are able to adapt to changing water temperatures.
During the summer months (late June through August), bonefish tend to move to colder, deeper waters of the flats which means this isn’t a good time for bonefishing in The Bahamas. Although this isn’t the ideal time for bone fishing, if you’re in The Bahamas at this time, you’ll be right on schedule to fish for tarpon and permit from May through mid-November. It’ll be harder to catch these during peak bone fishing season so this is something to keep in mind.
With the help of an experienced fishing guide in The Bahamas, you can have an enjoyable fishing experience any time of year.
The cool, clear waters of The Bahamas are great for fishing year round as there’s different seasons to catch different types of fish including bonefish, tarpons, barracudas, permit, jack, shark, grouper, snapper, and many more.
If you do decide to go bonefishing during the months of November to February in The Bahamas, expect to make a big catch! Don’t be shy to bring your catch back to your all-inclusive resort and have the chef prepare it for you. The resort will help you plan the best bone fishing adventures in The Bahamas.