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November 18, 2013

Acklins Island Offers Anglers' Favorite Game Fish on Foot

Acklins Island — a quiet Bahamian island that offers anglers an opportunity to chase one of their favorite game fish on foot in the skinniest water you can imagine with scenery untouched by the hand of man.

In the late ’60s, the Rev. Newton Williamson Sr. and his late wife, Ivadell, noticed tents pitched on a sandy beach near their home in Pinefield on the island of Acklins. Newton and Ivadell learned that these tents belonged to travelers who by and large  trekked from the United States and were in pursuit of bonefish. Newton and Ivadell answered the knock of opportunity by offering meager but authentic hospitality in the only way they knew how — Bahamian style. They built a small guesthouse on a plot of land overlooking the flats and enjoyed great success right off the bat. News of the fantastic bonefishing spread, as did the authentic Bahamian hospitality that has become a key aspect of their business to this day. It wasn’t long before the couple realized that they needed to expand and that additional help was needed. Newton’s youngest son, Garron, had taken an interest in fishing at a very young age, and because he already knew the flats of Acklins like the back of his hand, it only seemed natural for him to join his parents as the head guide of their operation. Garron also brought his wife, Lavonda, on to assist Ivadell in housekeeping and kitchen tasks. The additional help yielded fantastic results, and the small family staff expanded the facility into the Grey’s Point Bonefish Inn of today.

When we arrived at the lodge, Lavonda and Garron welcomed us warmly. In an instant Doug and I felt completely at home. 

Garron wasted no time whatsoever — as soon as we dropped our bags in our room, he led us outside to the deck and pointed out various areas right in front of the lodge that he wanted us to fish on our own that afternoon via his canoe. Regretfully, Garron told us that he wouldn’t be able to join us for the afternoon session or the next day (Sunday). Like his father, Garron is a man of the Lord, and he was giving a sermon at his church, Joshua Kingdom Ministries, but he assured us that his friend and partner O’Neil Williams would be able to have us on fish all day — something in his voice told us he was quite sincere.

Schlink and I did as we were told, and in a matter of minutes we were stepping out of the canoe onto a white-sand flat within sight of the lodge. Straightaway, Doug and I both saw reflections of the late afternoon sun glistening against the tail of a bonefish. Since Angler Adventures arranged the trip, I offered up the first shot to Doug. He stripped out about 60 feet of line, made a stealthy approach and delicately presented his fly. The fish refused but didn’t bolt, so Doug water-hauled and made another shot. Through the viewfinder of my camera I became excited as I noticed his line hand extending far beyond that of a feeding strip, which told me that the fish ate and he and I were in for something very special in the coming days.

In the morning, Newton transported us to the ramp, where our guide, O’Neil, waited. Doug and I piled in the boat and were quickly on plane heading to our first spot. The sky was blue and winds were light. O’Neil stood by Doug’s left side, and I trailed behind with the camera. Just as Garron had told us the previous day, O’Neil had us in fish almost right away, but because the water was ankle-deep at best, our targets were extra spooky. After several refusals, Doug and I came to the realization that we were going to have to go old school and lengthen our leaders, scale down our tippets and use weightless flies. With the correct recipe, our hookup ratio increased. By the end of the day, we managed to land a few solid fish and were both more confident for the next day — for we now knew that, in the skinny of water of Acklins, stealth in all things was necessary. 

Garron wanted us to get an extra-early start the following morning in an effort to beat the heat.