Mangrove-laden tidal creeks and marshes span several football fields. Photo: Boats.com
The view of South Andros Island from space shows how the green mangrove vegetation is separated from the various shades of ocean blue by a thin band of sheer white. These are the 100s of square miles of tidal flats surrounding the island, one of the best places in the Bahamas, and therefore the world, to hook a bonefish. The Andros South lodge is a fantastic place to stay and chase them.
Located in Kemps Bay about 10 minutes south of the Congo Town air strip, Andros South lodge is a compound of a few light blue single-story buildings and sandy footpaths right on the water. It has 10 single occupancy rooms, so each angler who signs up gets his own digs. The rooms themselves are spartan: a queen bed, a doorless hanging closet, a wall-mounted air conditioning unit, and a bathroom with a standup shower. There are locks on the doors but they are unnecessary. Most of the time staff employees park the lodge van with the keys still in the ignition. The rooms are just for sleeping; every day is structured to put in maximum time on the water.
The staff prepares a buffet-style breakfast every morning at 6:30, where anglers also make their own lunches to pack in the cooler of their assigned guides. The van to the flats skiffs leaves at 7:30. Once you step onboard, things kick into high gear.
In person, the flats that look so narrowly defined from above seem endless. There are mangrove-laden tidal creeks and marshes that span several football fields. They hold the crabs, shrimp and crustaceans that bonefish run onto the flats to eat when the tide is moving. Andros South caters to fly fishermen, but light tackle anglers who prefer spinning gear or bait casters are welcome. Whatever gear you use, a bonefish will put it to the test.
The name of the game is sight fishing. Spot the fish, cast to it, hope it eats, and hold on. Bonefish can sustain 30-mph runs across the flats, making your drag sing, and creating a rooster-tail spray as the line rips through the water. And here’s where it gets down to why you’re paying all this money to fish for them. They are the same color as the sand and marl of the flats; sighting them on your own is, at best, a challenge. The guides of Andros South have decades of combined experience. If they don’t see a fish it’s not there. You may think you see them on your own, and wind up casting to a bunch of rocks.
Whether you’re wading on the flats or standing on the bow of a skiff, your guide will put you in the best possible position to make a cast. After that, it’s up to you. Bonefish feeding in inches of water are skittish creatures, attuned to any changes in the surroundings and wary of the sounds you make, which by the way, travel four times faster in water than air. Keeping quiet is a good idea. If you make the cast, and the fish thinks your fly or lure is fleeing prey, and turns on it and eats it, then takes off like it’s wearing a jet pack…well, there’s not much in all of fishing that compares. Experiencing that over and over again, under the tutelage of these top notch guides, is what makes Andros South worth the price of admission.
Non-fishing activity at the lodge revolves around one central location, a tiki bar called the Slack Tide. Fishing usually wraps up around 4:00 pm and every angler makes his way to the bar by 5:15 or so for appetizers like conch fritters and gratis cocktails. One of the hut’s support posts has a built-in opener for bottles of Kalik, the official beer of the Bahamas. If you’re lucky, one of the guides will stop by and mix up a local concoction called Sky Juice, which will put you in an even better mood than before.
There’s not much to do off site. Andros is the largest island in the Bahamas, but it’s the least populated. No matter, because all you’ll really want to do is chase bonefish all day, then go back to the Slack Tide and talk about it.
Fishing for bonefish brings $141 million a year into the Bahamas, according to the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, a nonprofit conservation group. Lodges like Andros South are a big reason why. For rates, availability, and booking, visit the Andros South lodge website.
AUTHOR: Pete McDonald is a contributing editor to Power & Motoryacht. Previously, he spent 11 years on the editorial staff of Boating. He has won multiple writing awards and holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. His website is www.overboardboater.com.