By Justin Lewis, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust
Hurricane Dorian devastated Grand Bahama and Abaco. The most destructive hurricane to ever hit The Bahamas, it destroyed homes and businesses and displaced thousands of people.
After the dust settled, I got a lot of questions about how the marine environment and the fishery fared after such a powerful storm. As Bahamas initiative manager for Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT), I keep an eye on such things. After several surveys, getting out fishing and hearing reports from other anglers, it appears the inshore and offshore fisheries weathered the storm well. There are plenty of big bonefish and permit on the flats, the reefs are full of snapper, hogfish and grouper, and the offshore tuna and mahi bite is great.
The northern Bahamas remains one of the world’s foremost destinations for anglers. With lodging and charters recovering from the storm and Covid-19 restrictions beginning to ease, now is a good time to plan a trip. Fishing pressure is down, and the islands could certainly use an economic injection from anglers.
One of the great things about these islands is there’s no need to travel far or break the bank for incredible fishing. The main islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama sit on the Little Bahama Bank and give access to more than 5,700 square miles of reefs and flats with an easy run to productive offshore waters.
For a quick weekend or family trip, you can’t beat access by air or sea. Commercial flights are 45 minutes from Miami or Fort Lauderdale, and a boat ride is just two to four hours, depending on your destination.
Fishing the northern Bahamas offers some of the greatest variety of sportfish anywhere in the world. In the same day, you can catch bonefish on the flats, spearfish the reefs for hogfish and lobster, and then head offshore after dolphin and tuna.
Seasons: Right now, the winter bite is on. High-speed trolling the drop-off is producing big wahoo. Spearfishing is also good for hogfish and lobster.
Come spring, late-season wahoo will be around, and the dolphin and yellowfin bite really picks up. Blue and white marlin are also popular spring targets around Abaco, and bonefish and permit can be phenomenal on the flats.
Summer is time for multi-day trips targeting tuna, hogfish, grouper, snappers, bonefish and permit. Deep dropping and spearfishing are particularly good in summer.
Mangroves: While the fishing remains stellar, mangroves were heavily impacted by Dorian. Mangrove habitat is an important nursery for many fish species, and it is vital to protect the coast from erosion and storms.
BTT found that 70 percent of the mangroves on Grand Bahama and 40 percent on Abaco were lost to the storm. BTT is collaborating with Bahamas National Trust, Friends of the Environment and MANG to restore mangroves on Abaco and Grand Bahama. Check out www.bonefishtarpontrust.org for info on this project.