The Tale of Tacu – Flats Fishing Turneffe Island Belize

Twenty-one years ago on Turneffe Island Belize, a few of my friends and I were on an exploratory fishing trip to this interesting coral atoll.
Read on for a story about flats fishing at Turneffe Island Belize.

Turneffe Island Lodge : Tacu Johnson and Edward Johnston

This tale starts twenty-one years ago on the Turneffe Island about 35 miles off the coast of Belize in Central America. A few of my friends and I were on an exploratory fishing trip to this interesting coral atoll.

A year or so earlier I had fished the well know tarpon flats around Ambergris Cay Belize from the El Pescador Lodge and also I had visited Ascension Bay Mexico which was located about 100 miles north up the Yucatan coast, so I was not a total stranger to this part of the world.

Turneffe Flats Lodge : Edward Johnston with a Turneffe permitWe flew into Belize City on a Saturday afternoon and spent our evening in town at the Radisson Hotel. First thing Sunday morning we boarded the Turneffe Flats Lodge transfer boat and headed for our destination.

These days Turneffe Flats takes you to the lodge on Saturday afternoon, so you don’t spend a night in Belize City any longer.

The ninety minute trip takes you past the famous St. George Keys and out to blue water.  In the craft, you run a short distance through sparkling open waters. In the distance, lining the horizon, a string of palm trees border Turneffe Islands, dazzling and inviting. As you near your destination at the Turneffe atoll, the water colors changes from the deepest blue, to azure, to aquamarine, to palest green where crystalline waters lap the white coral sand beaches.

The Turneffe Islands, Located 35 miles east of Belize City , comprise part of the largest and most biodiverse coral reef system in the western hemisphere. Turneffe is the largest of the three offshore atolls in Belize. Inside the atoll there are more than 200 mangrove covered islands, brackish lagoons, deeps creeks and expansive flats surrounded by shallow reef. Together this area supports an abundance of wildlife. The crystal clear waters offer Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, Snook, and a host of other species.

Craig Mathews was manager at the time and the lodge was quaint but quite primitive by today’s standards. Since that time the entire lodge has been rebuilt with spacious ocean side guest suites, a beautiful gathering dining area and a swimming pool.

I was to be escorted a young Belizean fishing guide by the name of Tacu. Tacu and his brother Fabian grew up around the island helping their father fish for conch, spiny lobster and some of the various species of food fish. Brother Fabian still owns the land on Turneffe where his father’s fish camp was located. Both brothers were, and still are extremely familiar with the geography of both above and below the surface of this beautiful place and know every creek, nook and cranny of the 35 mile long and 12 mile wide island.

Turneffe Flats Lodge : Pool overlooking a bonefish flat

Throughout the week we fished the hard bottomed coral sand flats of the eastern side of the island for bonefish and the deep creeks of the western side for tarpon and were successful at both, but always in my mind was that elusive permit.

I will never forget one calm morning; we eased away from the dock in the predawn darkness. The first rays of light were just peering over the coral reef. There is a large deep channel adjacent to the lodge and this morning it was full of tarpon. We motored for just a couple of minutes and Tacu cut the engine and poled the skiff as far as he could go until he lost contact with the bottom. We drifted in a slow current with the incoming tide. The surface of the water was like a sheet of glass punctuated by the backs of the rolling tarpon around us. There were literally hundreds of tarpon surrounding our boat. Turneffe Flats Lodge : Early morning tarpon fishing

One short cast and I was hooked solid. I made quick work of the fight and released the fish. I was a bit dirty from the encounter. Moments later a friend eased up in his boat and took one look at me and said “you rascal” as he knew I was already up one “poon” for the day.

Towards the end of the week there was little wind and the sea was calm. Tacu had a bright idea and decided we should visit the Lighthouse reef on this fine day and we should take the 16 foot Dolphin skiff the fourteen miles across. This action would be frowned upon these days as it was very risky, especially with the less than dependable little two-stroke engine we had, and looking back I certainly would not recommend you try it. However, at the time Tacu was determined and I did not know any better, so we went.

It was a smooth boat ride in the skiff and from the midpoint of the very deep oceanic waters you could see both islands, barely. Famous for the Blue Hole, the Lighthouse Reef is nearly as large as Turneffe, but most the area is submerged with just a few small islands above sea level.

Turneffe Flats Lodge : Edward Johnston with bonefish

The north end has a decent fishery but is too small to support a lodge or excessive fishing pressure. There is a small mangrove island with nice grass flats and a slightly larger island with hard coral flats on the north side and a deep harbor on the south side with an abundance of bonefish (at the time).

The bonefish was easy that day and we moved on the hunt for other species.

Tacu poled us along the mangrove island and spied a school of juvenile tarpon one of which we soon had to the boat and released. A short while later we came across the telltale sign of a permit feeding with its sickle shaped fins protruding from the surface.

My good friend Ted Williams was an excellent angler and also a master fly tier. Ted had success with a buggy looking fly which he used in the Florida Keys and bestowed a few samples to me. Well, I can tell you, when the permit saw that fly he jumped all over it. I was tight to my first permit and gently persuaded the fish back to the boat. I had never caught a permit on the fly and I was delighted. After a few photos the fish was released back to the ocean and we headed back to Turnefffe.

The ride back to Turneffe was pure bliss, I was in paradise and life was good! However Tacu was not finished just yet. We had to check a few other places before we called it a day.

This part of the story I have rarely told; it would be hard to convince most anglers as the rest of this remarkable tale as it was amazing. Tacu took me to a swampy area deep in the mangroves where we found baby tarpon rolling. I downsized my tackle for the little guys and started casting. A few moments later I was fast to a…..snook, and “wow’, a super grand slam, four flats species caught in one day.

Edward Johnston's first permit Tacu wanted to take me to a spot on the south side of the Turneffe island near Cay Bokel where he previously guided a client to a world record cubera snapper on the fly rod. It was late in the afternoon I was not about to consider the hour run down there and back. He did convince me to try a place nearby where we could sight fish for snapper. Sure enough, the fish were visible in the crystal clear water. I tossed a fly and watched a fine mutton snapper engulf my offering. The snapper did not willingly come to the boat, but to the boat he came.

Five flats species in one day. Hard to believe, but true.

I returned to Turneffe the following year with permit obsession. Tacu and I had a good week and caught five permit together. I was so pleased that after the fifth permit I traded places with Tacu and poled the Dolphin skiff along a grassy flat until he caught a permit on the fly.

Tacu and I did not see each other for a long period of time. Tacu quit guiding for a while and went to live in the United States. It would be nearly twenty years before we were reunited on the flats….

In the interim period I became fairly successful at catching permit and had caught exactly one-hundred on a fly when Tacu’s and my path crossed again.

On this particular trip I was with a group of anglers I normally travel with every year to a Caribbean destination. We were staying at the Turneffe Island Resort on the south side of the Turneffe Atoll. The lodge has five dolphin skiffs which would normally fish two per boat or ten anglers. That week the lodge was short a fishing guide so they brought an extra guide from Belize City. Obviously, being a good group leader, I had the fishing manager assign the recognized “house guides” to my friends and clients and I opted for the unknown guide from the mainland.

Early the first morning at the Turneffe Island Resort I was wandering around the portion of the property where the staff quarters are located. As I rounded the corner of a building I came face to face with a person I had not seen in a very long time, Tacu.

After a happy hello, I wondered what would bring us back together again. Tacu informed me that he was the back-up guide for the week.

I started contemplating the situation; I caught my first permit on the Turneffe Atoll more than twenty years ago with Tacu and here we were together again potentially for permit number 101.  The karma seemed good and I realized it was our destiny to catch that permit together, which we did and a few more that week.

Turneffe Island Lodge : Edward Johnston with a fine permit Tacu’s long absence did not affect his memory and we investigated every nook and cranny on the Turneffe Atoll. We caught permit number 101 and 102 on the second day of the trip.

Every day we would look for migrating tarpon and finally found them mid-week. These were not the huge migratory tarpon, but rather smaller fish from the reef in the 20-60 pound range, which in my opinion are the perfect fun size. Later that week we caught permit number 103.

An incredible story, but true. And that’s the Tale of Tacu! Stay tuned as the saga continues!

With regard to our trip to Turneffe Island Lodge that particular week with Tacu – I would have to say it was one of our best trips ever. Not just remarkable fishing, but all around. Our group averaged 3.6 permit per boat for the week. (18 permit/5 boats =3.6 per boat). This compares to some of the best trips we have had at Ascension Bay. Our best week to date at Casa Blanca Lodge at Ascension Bay was 30 permit divided by 10 boats which equals 3 per permit per boat for the week.

Worth mentioning is our colleague and fellow angler Peter Merriam who experienced some great fishing at Turneffe Island Lodge for that entire week  and came very-very close to a Grand Slam.

Turneffe Island Lodge : Phil Clark with a Turneffe Island permit***

In Twenty-one years I have visited the island eight times, each for a week, including the last four years in a row. The graceful manatee can still be seen gliding lithely throughout the atoll. The pelicans, wading birds, and seagulls are there performing their avian wonders.

The large schools of tarpon are not as plentiful as in the past, but you can still find tarpon if you look for them. The huge bones that used to tail on the Oceanside flats are harder to find, but again there are plenty of bonefish to cast to including the rare and elusive golden bonefish. The permit fishing is holding up and the experienced angler will be successful. And occasionally you will score a nice snook. Turneffe is still a premier saltwater fly fishing and that’s why we continue to return.

***

On the southeastern side of the atoll a five story hotel is being built on a sliver of picturesque costal land with sand dredged from a beautiful ocean side turtle grass flat. The building silhouette is a visual distraction you can see from miles away in this pristine environment. On the interior side, a channel has been dredged for a marina. The dredging has reduced precious ocean habitat and nursery areas for a multitude of  species.

Turneffe Island Resort : Larry Fuller releasing a nice permit The cruise ships heading for Belize City pass the island displaying a striking form and a spectacular sight at night, but pose an ominous threat over the fragile ecosystem.

Will a visit to Turneffe in the future be similar to a trip to Biscayne Bay with the Miami skyline in the background? As of this writing, thankfully, as a result hard work from many concerned people, I don’t think so.

Recently, the Turneffe Atoll, has been designated a Marine Reserve by Belize’s Government, thanks in large part to the hard work of Craig Hayes, owner of Turneffe Flats lodge and the folks at the Turneffe Atoll Trust..  This sets aside 325,000 acres of this unique ecosystem for environmental management, scientific research, sustainability, as well as species protection and promotion of catch and release sport fishing.

Two fish spawning sites were recently chosen as Turneffe Atoll Marine Reserves. Dog Flea Caye Marine Reserve one of the largest spawning sites for Nassau grouper in Belize, and Caye Bokel Marine Reserve which is a large spawning site for mutton, cubera and yellowtail snappers, permit and other species.

Will I return? The answer is yes, as long as the fishery holds up. Would I still recommend Turneffe as a world class fishing destination? The answer is yes and with active management I believe the fishery will improve.

***

We would like to arrange your next trip to Turneffe Flats Lodge, Turneffe Island Resort or one of the other fine lodges in Belize.

Edward  Johnston, of Leisure Time Travel,Inc. has visited Turneffe Atoll eight times (last trip April 2012) and has caught 18 permit on a fly at Turneffe. Why take chances with your precious time? We’ve been there. Remember, There is no substitute for first-hand experience.

Tight lines !

Edward Johnston

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.

531 N. Citrus Ave. Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474) 1-800-771-2202

All photographs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2013 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2013

Turneffe Island Resort : Tacu Johnston with a very fine Turneffe Island permit

Copyright © 2013 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2013

Abaco Lodge – Report on bonefishing Great Abaco Island

Abaco Lodge has top quality accommodations, incredible food, a perfect, unspoiled location on the Marls of Great Abaco Island and world class fly-fishing for bonefish, all combined in an ideal tropical setting. If you are interested in bonefishing at Abaco Bonefish Lodge – read on!

Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island : Bahamas
We quickly ascended eastward from Orlando. Our pilot leveled out the jet-prop at cruising altitude and pulled the prop rpm back for a nice ride. Soon we are on the Florida coastline just north of West Palm Beach. The vastness of the deep blue Atlantic was before us.  Seemingly tiny looking ocean going freighters are plying the high sea between their ports leaving white foam trails in their wake.

Fifteen minutes later we are above the west end of Grand Bahama Island. The little Bahama Bank and miles of expansive flats, creeks and mangroves cays are clearly discernible. I have been there many times, searching for that elusive grey ghost, but not on this trip.

I had not finished the drink the stewardess provided when we start descending over the east end of Grand Bahama Island. Mores Island is visible in the distance and the coast of Abaco is perceptible on the horizon. We come in low over the vast Marls of Abaco, props are at max and the gear is down on our way into Marsh Harbour International. A short screech of the tires and a fine smooth landing; we are at our bonefishing destination.

Abaco Island Bahamas : AbacoLodge

I make several trips to the Bahamas each year to visit the various fishing lodges as it is just so simple to travel to many of the Bahamian Islands from my home near Homosassa Florida.

Traveling to the northern Bahamian island of Great Abaco is no exception. There are many commercial airlines that fly daily from Florida, starting in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami, directly to Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco. And fortunate for some anglers, I included, Orlando Florida currently has a direct flight to Marsh Harbor as well

I have mentioned the ease of traveling to the northern Bahamas in previous post: It just isn’t necessary to go to the other side of the world to have great fishing. You can take a direct flight from the east coast to Florida, then a quick jump over to Marsh Harbor.  That’s it right there.  There is no need for a charter flight, no need to spend the night in Nassau, Miami or anywhere.

Nice bonefish : Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island

Oliver White is patiently waiting just outside the exit door at Marsh Harbour International Airport. After a quick greeting we are on our way in Oliver’s pick-up truck. His constant companion, Bono, a rather large German shepherd is in the back.

Oliver White, a pleasant young man, is a talented entrepreneur, well-traveled angler and a gracious host. Right now he is running one of the nicest small luxury bonefishing lodges in the Bahamas.

Abaco Lodge opened in 2009 has been nearly full during the October to June time of year ever since and there is a good reason why. The accommodations, cuisine and fishing operation create quite honestly, an all-inclusive bonefishing vacation spot at its finest.

Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island BahamasThe lodge is only ten-minute drive from the airport and is situated on a picturesque site overlooking the “Marls of Abaco” on the western side of Great Abaco Island.  The Marls have long been known by well-traveled bone fisherman as one of the most exceptional and productive fisheries in the Bahamas.  The vast area encompasses literally hundreds of square miles of prolific bonefish flats, creeks and mangroves cays negotiable only by shallow draft skiffs. The angling pressure is light and spread across a great expanse and as result; the bonefish are not as wary as those found where the fishing pressure is much higher.

Oliver pulls his truck off the pavement and right up the rocky driveway to the lodge. Bono jumps out of the back and ambles away to a nice shady spot with a good vantage point of the property.

The understated elegance of the place is obvious. You enter the main lodge through a large open-air well-appointed lanai which radiates simple elegance. The central gathering area has window walls taking in the full view of the Marls, exposed wood ceilings, and a unique reclaimed wood floor with a pickled sanded finish which together set the theme for this unique fishing lodge.

After a quick orientation, Oliver grabbed my gear and showed me my room which is only a few steps from the main lodge.

Main Lodge at Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island

Each angler has their own private single-occupancy room. The ten top quality rooms are stylish and simply decorated in a minimalist fashion with a Queen Anne bed frame with comfortable mattresses covered in fine linens, end tables with lamps, sitting bench, and writing table. All the rooms have ceiling fans, mini-split air-conditioners, and private baths with plenty of hot water. Eight of the quest rooms have balconies overlooking the water.

Oliver’s good friend, Captain Clint Kemp, likes to say “You can’t control the fishing, but you certainly can control the food”. Oliver makes sure of that; simply, the food is incredible here.

A fully stocked bar featuring premium selections of liquor, red and white wine, domestic beer, juices, sodas and other appropriate mixers and garnishes is open for your pleasure.

After an exceptional diner washed down with fine Argentinean wine, Oliver, the other lodge guests and I gathered around a fire pit overlooking the Marls and watched a beautiful sunset on the endless Bahamian horizon.
Typical Bedroom at Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island

The next morning I woke from a very comfortable bed eager to explore a day on the flats. And I say explore as it would take you months just to be acquainted with this place. The smell of coffee made from freshly ground beans permeates the main lodge. After a made to order breakfast I grab my gear and head for the boat dock, which is less than twenty-five steps from the main lodge.

Fishing

Oliver is at the dockside with his companion Bono surveying the scene.

Neatly tied to the floating dock are a fleet of “hard core” Hells Bay Waterman skiffs with 50 HP outboard engines. And before you wonder about the horsepower, I can assure you it is more than sufficient.  These light boats run shallow, pole with little hull slap and will get you into the skinniest places possible. The boats are equipped with padded seats with backrests, bow mounted leaning bars and coolers to ensure your time on the flats is as comfy as it is enjoyable.

I asked Oliver about the tides: “The tides in the marls are tricky. As you get further in the tide is almost negligible. All that really matters for us on this side is the wind as it literally overpowers the tide. If it’s blowing from the west we get incoming water all day”.

Marty Sawyer-  one of Great Abaco's legendary guides I was surprised to learn, Marty Sawyer, one of Abaco’s legendary guides and I would share a fine sunny day together.  I first  became acquainted with Marty back in 1993 while he was a guide for Nettie Symonette at the “Great Abaco Bonefishing Club”, then renamed the “Nettie’s Heritage Club” and now disbanded. Back in those days, all of Nettie’s guides came from the English Loyalist town of Cherokee Sound which is about twenty-two miles south of Marsh harbor.

The Bahama Islands are primarily known for their bonefishing, and Abaco is no different. There are the occasional shots at permit, tarpon, barracuda, jacks, and sharks. Most of the fishing in the Marls, with its soft, muddy flats is by boat.

Marty is extremely familiar these waters; he grew up commercial fishing for lobster and conch, knows the area like the back of his hand.

Marty shut down just a few minutes from the lodge and within a short time we were in bonefish. The fishing was steady all day and I’m not sure how many bonefish we caught as I just didn’t keep track, but there were a lot of them in the 4-6 pound range.

There were a couple of remarkable incidents for which I shall mention:

We were probably a good 30 minutes west of the lodge and poling along a mangrove island, with several adjacent islands semi-enclosing a large pool of water of maybe 40 acres. There were two deeper main green-blue channels entering and exiting the lagoon. We noticed a massive push of water across the deeper part of the flats. I said to Marty I thought they were dolphin, not the fish, the mammal. Marty said “no, those fish are huge permit”. Now, I know a thing or two about permit as I have caught more than a hundred on a fly, but I never saw anything like that.Abaco Lodge : Edward Johnston with a fine Abaco bonefish

Marty, quickly pushed us into the path of the stampeding permit. I always have a permit rod rigged ready and my first cast was right on the money, but it didn’t draw a strike. One more casts and another refusal. The permit were on a mission and would not be enticed by a crustacean imitations, however, as always I was thankful to have had genuine shot. That’s permit fishing.

A couple of hours later, Marty dropped an anchor in a small cove by an interesting rock abutment covered with indigenous small trees and shrubs. While enjoying our picnic lunch in this beautiful spot I noticed a small tarpon causally swim by and proceed to a small mangrove nook at the end of the little bay where we were located. You just never know what you will see out there. I can tell you, on a previous trip, just north of where we were that day; I hooked several small tarpon in the 20-30 pound range and landed one.

Oliver is waiting for us at the dock. “Well, how did you do” Oliver asked. I replied “It was an OK day, we caught a few”, however, the Cheshire grins on Marty’s and my face gave it away. Oliver knows better, it is a rare day when you stalked the beautiful flats of the Marls of Great Abaco without catching plenty of bonefish.

I dropped my gear, grabbed a beer from the bar and found a nice spot to relax by the pool overlooking the vast expanse of the Marls. What a great place and what a great experience we had today.

Tomorrow I will fish with Captain David Tate. Abaco Lodge rotates its guides every day so you enjoy a variety of different fishing experiences. Every guide has his favorite spots. It will be hard to match today encounters, but hey, we’re fishing the Marls and you just never know how the day will unfold.

Hells Bay Waterman skiffs at Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island

Activities and Things to Do

Taking a non-angler on a fishing trip may seem to be a fairly reckless move. However, fear not, you are safe here.

Some people are under the impression that Abaco Island is out of the way and there is nothing other than fishing and boating to do there. Quite to the contrary, if you are looking for genuine natural outdoor experiences there are a lot of things to do.

Tourists can embrace the relaxed culture and feel like locals. Abaco Lodge is only 10 minutes away from Marsh Harbour, which has many shops, restaurants and marinas.

So here are some easy things to do: Relax, read a book and recharge at Abaco Lodge’s refreshing pool with the convenience of being close to your room. Go shopping and have lunch in Marsh Harbour. Rent a bicycle, a scooter or a car and explore Abaco, but whatever mean of transportation you choose, don’t forget that Bahamians maintain the British custom of driving on the left hand side of the road!

Deconstructed Tiramisu : : Enticing Flavor Combinations : Abaco Lodge

Bird Watching – Bring your binoculars and enjoy the outstanding variety of birds to be found on Great Abaco and the surrounding islands. The Abaco Islands are rich with bird life and several areas have been set aside as preserves. The interior of the island is lush with Bahamian pine trees and here you will find the habitat of the Abaco parrot

Day trips for the more adventuresome:  My family and I have vacationed in the Abaco Islands for more than thirty years and have enjoyed all the activities listed below.

Beaches – The Abaco’s have some of the finest beaches in the world, most of them completely deserted. Go to one of the rental boat companies in Marsh Harbour and captain yourself across. While you’re there, grab your snorkel gear and explore the pristine world class elkhorn and staghorn reefs just off the Beaches or scuba and discover the many offshore wrecks and caverns.

Take the ferry from Marsh Harbour and spend the day Nippers Beach Bar & Grill on Great Guana Cay.   Nipper’s is open 364 days a year. Stop by for the music and fun, mix with the locals, tourists and cruisers. Everyone’s here but there’s plenty of space to chill at Nipper’s, too.

Ride a 20 minute ferry from Marsh Harbour and spend the day at Hope on beautiful Elbow Cay. Rent a cart and explore the island. There are lots of things to do to keep you busy. Be sure to visit the famous red and white striped Elbow Reef Lighthouse; probably the most recognizable landmark in Abaco.

Abaco Lodge : Great Abaco Island BahamasTake the ferry from Marsh Harbour and spend the day at Man-O-War Cay. Watch how the English Loyalist descendants still build boats by hand, walk around town, take a stroll on the beach or rent a golf cart and explore. Man-O-War is less touristy than the other islands. Do you enjoy snorkeling? Visit Fowl Cay underwater park – A national underwater sea park.

Take the ferry from Treasure Cay and spend the day at the Green Turtle Club on Green Turtle Cay. Visit the historic settlement of New Plymouth, a quiet 18th century village by the sea, with its museums, garden, shops, restaurants and pastel-painted clapboard homes that remind one of a turn-of-the-century village of the New England coast.

Location and Getting There: The Abacos are a 130 mile crescent shaped string of Bahamian islands located approximately 200 miles east of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and 75 miles northeast of Nassau Bahamas. With nearly 50 square miles of landmass, Abaco is the second largest island in the Bahamas.

Abaco Island has direct flights from Florida to Marsh Harbour. It is also possible to fly via Nassau; however a direct flight from Florida is by far the easiest. For current flight information click here.

For Rates at Abaco Lodge click here.

To return to the Abaco Lodge main page click here

Recent Photographs of Abaco Lodge

and more Photographs are here

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.
531 N. Citrus Ave. Crystal River, Florida 34428
352-795-FISH (3474) 1-800-771-2202

All Photographs by Edward R. Johnston, except photo of Oliver white by Adam Barker and green bonefish by Brian Grossebacher
Copyright © 2013 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2013

Great Abaco Island : Bahamas : Sunset at Abaco Bonefish Lodge

Deep Water Cay – Luxury Lodging & Excellent Bonefishing at Deep Water Cay Club

Deep Water Cay Club – Fly Fishing Paradise Found!

Part One

Deep Water Cay has benefited  from  many recent changes, including major reconstruction and modernization of  the property, structures  and equipment . Now, more than ever, there are many more reasons to visit Deep Water Cay Club than just to experience the impressive Lodge and the outstanding bonefishing. Translation: your wife will like this place! If you are interested in Deep Water Cay  please read on! 

Luxury Lodging & Excellent Bonefishing at Deep Water Cay Club

It was the near end of summer vacation and my son Aaron would be off to college soon. Aaron and I were thinking where we could go that was really cool. We settled on a split week; half a week at Deep Water Cay Club on Grand Bahama Island and the other half at South Beach in Miami. Bonefish and bikini’s; sounded good to me, so the deal was sealed. 

I have mentioned the ease of traveling to Grand Bahama Island in previous post: It just isn’t necessary to go to the other side of the world to have great fishing. You can take a direct flight from many cities on the east coast to Ft. Lauderdale, then a 40 minute jump over to Freeport.  That’s it right there.  There is no need for a charter flight, no need to spend the night anywhere.

First discovered by Gil Drake and A.J. McClane in the 1950s, Deep Water Cay has been recognized by well-traveled anglers as one of the premier bonefishing locations in the world. Anglers who visit Deep Water Cay can add their names to the Who’s Who of shallow water angling history such as Ted Williams, Joe Brooks, Curt Gowdy, Lefty Kreh and many other contemporary celebrities.Deep Water Cay Club Directional Sign

Getting to Deep Water Cay is easy. You can take a taxi, but we preferred to rent a car at Brad’s located at the Freeport Airport .  It’s normally a one-hour car ride to McLean’s Town, however, we stopped  along the way and viewed places of our interest including North Riding Point, High Rock and Pelican Point.

We left our rental car at the McLean’s Town dock and called the Lodge. A sturdy launch was dispatched to pick us up and within minutes we were on the island.

I should mention; on the afternoon that we arrived, three private charter planes full of excited guests landed on the club’s private 4,000 foot  paved airstrip.  You clear Bahamian Customs right there on the island which saves some time. This is the way to go if you have a larger party of four to six anglers as the cost is reasonable when spilt accordingly and only a little more compared to commercial air plus a taxi.

Deep Water Cay received a new lease on life when it was acquired by a new ownership group in late 2009. A great deal of money has been spent upgrading the new Deep Water Cay Club to restore the tropical island paradise to its former glory.  Believe me, it shows!

Aaron and I had visited Deep Water Cay in the past, but the change that greeted us was impressive.Without a doubt, I am sure there was a look of amazement on both of our faces when we caught sight of the new grand entrance, the major additions and amenities that were added to the property. To a large extent, this property was not just remodeled, it was rebuilt.

The waterfront looked considerably different than it did on our previous trip. The old rickety wooden dock for the fishing skiffs was gone and replaced with a modern heavy duty floating dock secured by large stout pilings. A new Tiki Bar with a thatched roof flanked the marina to the west and a matching dock station and kayak shack bordered to the east. Right in the middle is the impressive new two-story Welcome Center.

As we marched up the walkway, Bill and Lisa Culbreath, the managers of Deep Water Cay were there to greet us. To say they are a lovely and gracious couple would be a huge understatement.  Bill and Lisa are exceptionally friendly and congenial. They immediately put you at ease and their good-natured kindness make you feel like you are home throughout your visit.

Welcome Center at the Deep Water Cay Club
We signed in at the desk in their Welcome Center which has a first-rate Gift and Pro Shop. The shop has a sizeable array of gear, larger than found in some fly shops I have visited. You will find a good selection of hats, technical outer wear and sunglasses. The Pro Shop is fully stocked with quality fly gear including Sage rods, Tibor reels, SA fly lines and a excellent selection of flies and terminal tackle. If you forget anything at home, don’t worry, you’ll find it here.  And just in case, they do have gear for rent.

The boatmen carted our luggage up to our comfortable little bungalow. During the short stroll to our room we admired the mature well-tended landscaping and caught a glimpse of curly-tailed lizards scurrying about and resident birds, some of which you will not find any place else.  The air-conditioned one-bedroom cottages are fitted with two full beds, a refrigerator, coffee maker, walk-in closet and a private bathroom. Each has a front porch has a southern exposure overlooking a shallow bonefish flat on the flipside of the island. The rooms are conveniently situated equidistant from the clubhouse, welcome center and docks.

If you prefer, comfortable private houses with multiple bedrooms are available if you want more room and privacy, or if you are traveling with your family or close friends. These homes are spacious and include full kitchens, dining areas, living rooms, and beach-front verandas. The folks at Leisure Time Travel  can help you choose from a variety of guests house options to suit your parties needs!

After we unpacked and freshened up a bit we ambled over to the Clubhouse which is the main gathering place at Deep Water Cay.

Happy hour was underway. An appetizer of conch fritters accompanied our drinks. We chatted with some of the folks who had been out on the water that day and cheerfully shared their adventures. One young couple had a fantastic time; in addition to catching many bonefish, the wife hooked and landed a very nice permit. They plugged their camera into a flat screen TV mounted above the bar so everyone could see their pictures onscreen. Nice touch! Dining is excellent at Deep Water Cay Club

The dining is impressive. The tables are attractively set with white linen tablecloths, beautiful bouquets of flowers decorate each table and diners are pampered with attentive service. You will enjoy favorite island dishes and an ample supply of fresh locally caught seafood, including fresh fish, conch and lobster. Everyone seems to loves the dining style and ambience in the lodge.

There are numerous other amenities to enjoy onsite including a billiard room, game room, fly tying area, gym and infinity pool. Adjoining the club house is the poolside Barracuda Grill overlooking the water. The activity list is long and includes nature walks, bicycling, tennis, boat tours, deep sea fishing, kayaking, paddle boards, diving, snorkeling or just hanging out under an umbrella at one of the small beaches. Wireless internet is available.

You will find a Deep Water Cay Club video here.

Ok, enough said; Let’s get to the fishing! If there is a heaven for fishermen, this pristine piece of Bahamian paradise is it.

Scroll down to the next post to read part two or click here

If you have been there then you know already, if you haven’t been, then go now! Just remember, Edward Johnston told you so……….Book now for the rest of this year and/or reserve your spot in 2013. Please feel free to call us with any questions you may have.

Call us now at 800-771-2202 or 352-795-3474.

For package rates click here.

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc. 531 N. Citrus Avenue Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474) 1-800-771-2202

All Photgraphs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2012 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2012

The Welcome Center at Deep Water Cay Club