Here we were at the end of the line ñ the last major island in the Bahamas without a bonefish lodge. As we stood on this deserted beach looking out at the waters of this unexplored island, we were filled with a mixture of nostalgia for what was and elation at what was to come. Throughout much of the last fifteen years, we have doggedly explored the Bahamas. From the well-traveled, legendary flats of Andros and Abaco to the unnamed and unfished creeks and marls of Inagua, Acklins, and Ragged Islands, we have tried to leave no bone unturned.
Now, we had finally come to Mayaguana... and here we were on the north shore of this beautiful island looking out at a picture perfect creek. As bonefish tailed in front of us to the ancient tune of curlers breaking on the reef, we were all more than ready to begin our explorations. What we found was quite surprising.
Since we were in the southern Bahamas, we expected to find good numbers of school fish, but not as many singles and doubles as you might find on Abaco or Andros. We expected quantity over quality. What we found was just the opposite. If you expect to rack up big numbers on Mayaguana, it may not happen. Our biggest day number-wise (from seven fishermen for six days) was 15 fish. A few days, we caught only two to four fish each. But if there ever was a destination where the fish were truly big, this was it! Our fish averaged over five pounds. We caught many in the eight to nine pound range and everyone in our group caught at least one fish in the ten pound range. Our group (organized by Pittsburgh's premier fly shop, The International Angler) was very experienced and well traveled. These fishermen (with resumes that included Mexico, Los Roques, Belize and many islands in the Bahamas, as well as Christmas Island) agreed that they had never been to a spot where the fish were consistently as big as on Mayaguana.
Beginning our explorations on the island's north shore at Curtis Creek, we used three beamy and stable canoes complete with push poles and paddles to access the channels, flats and bays that collectively created the creek system. We did not see big numbers of fish in this creek, although sign dictated that huge numbers of fish must enter this area at certain times. This beautiful creek is rich in crabs and shrimp and the fish we caught were naÔve and eager to please. We often used no-eye patterns to tailers we spotted on the edges of the bars and flats. Our weather was not always conducive to easy fish finding. Clouds and wind scuff made seeing fish difficult, but once a fish was found, it more often than not ate our blind gotchas and mini-crabs. At one mile by two miles, Curtis Creek is not a huge area. If this fishery is to be preserved, angler numbers will have to be religiously limited.
On the island's south shore at Abraham's Bay, we found even bigger fish! This area has been fished by only a handful of anglers. The big bruisers found here did not just "take" a fly, they at times charged our flies. These were not the cute bones of Ragged or Long Island, but the predatory bullies one finds on Andros or Abaco. With flat triangular plates on the top of their heads that framed large menacing eyes, these big bones barged onto a flat like a group of jacks ñ juiced up and ready to take whatever they wanted.
One day my partner Stan Stein and I caught 8 fish. None were under 25", one fish measured 28" and Stan hooked and lost another fish just as big!
Not big numbers true... but to see fish this big scream off a flat dragging your fly line further into your backing than you've seen in a long, long time definitely plants the seed for future trips to Mayaguana.
In our opinion, Mayaguana would be a great choice for intermediate anglers looking to practice on big tailers or for experts looking for that "fish of a lifetime". If considering this destination, it must be remembered that although local fishermen are being trained to help spot fish, guides in the conventional sense simply are not available. There are, after all, only 250 people that live on this island. That is not a large labor pool from which to draw.
Our accommodations and meals were reminiscent of Sandy Point or Acklins Island 10 to 15 years ago. The rooms, while air-conditioned and very clean, were not fancy. Meals were made with Bahamian and not American tastes in mind. While we chose eggs and bacon for breakfast, conch stew and boiled fish were also available. We had to ask for toast, but when cheerfully served, it was a delicious thick-sliced, homemade delicacy. For dinner, we had BBQ chicken, breaded pork chops, grouper fingers, mutton stew and steamed conch usually with cole slaw or potato salad. Meals were a bit rough around the edges, but always delicious and plentiful. For adventuresome anglers, the meals and accommodations are just fine.
With no trained guides, no traditional flats boats for transportation and all the fishing done while wading, this is a spot for eager, in-shape and motivated anglers only. As they say... this is not a spot for whiners or anglers looking to blame anyone but themselves for their successes or failures. When and if you go to Mayaguana, you should bring good skills and willingness to go with the flow. For some, this spot will be heaven... for others, it could be an exercise in frustration. Call us, we are happy to go into greater detail on what makes this destination right or wrong for you.
One last thought: if a week of this fishing style is just too long, it is possible (with flights on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to Mayaguana which continues on to Inagua) to arrive on a Friday, fish 1/2 day, then all day Saturday and Sunday. You can then fly to Inagua on Monday (15 minutes) and continue your adventure by sampling that remote island's excellent and more traditionally structured fishery. Since the flight leaves Mayaguana at 10:30 on Monday, you could fish Inagua 1/2 day Monday then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. You could then return to Nassau on Friday. This would be a great week on two very remote and productive islands.