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June 10, 2013

Offshore Fishing Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas

A Bahamas offshore adventure to the Abacos pays off big.

[The Abaco island chain lies at the northern end of the Bahamas island nation, and offers a wealth of both inshore and offshore ­opportunities. Green Turtle Cay sits among the eastern barrier islands about two-thirds of the way up the chain, in proximity to many differing saltwater habitats.]

The sudden hole in the sea, where the center ’rigger bait had been, got our attention. Before I could shout “Big fish!” 50-pound monofilament melted off the reel. Within seconds, a lit-up blue marlin tail-walked across the ocean. Carl Grassi grabbed the rod and I slowed the MARC VI, retrieved the other lines and teasers, and kept Grassi taut to his fish. As we closed to within 50 feet, the fish hunkered down at the surface. I grabbed the leader to make the catch, then throttled forward with the autopilot, and Grassi fought the fish alongside for the release. It was 2:30 p.m. on our first day of fishing, and our trip had already been made.

We were 34 miles offshore of Green Turtle, over the Great Abaco Canyon, and in addition to the blue marlin, we scored dolphin and an 11-pound tripletail that day.

Shallow History 

The day prior, we had run 180 miles from Palm Beach Inlet to the Green Turtle Club Resort and Marina. I’ve visited Green Turtle several times for some of the largest bonefish in the Bahamas. From the white-sand flats off New Plymouth to a couple of rocky, ocean-side cays, there’s usually a sheltered place to find them here. Legendary Abaco bonefish guide Ronnie Sawyer has put me onto numerous big fish in the area, and even a 15-pound mutton snapper on the flats, but I’d promised myself to someday return to Green Turtle and fish the lightly pressured offshore waters. 

Offshore Delights

Offshore fishing from Green Turtle can be rewarding when the major pelagics are migrating over the ­high-profile bottom structure along temperature breaks. The migratory dolphin, tuna, and white and blue marlin sweep past the Abacos chain, as is evident by the catches chalked up out of Boat Harbour, Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay and Walkers Cay, when it was operational. Granted, the more-popular bottom structures might be farther east, like the Mushroom, Jurassic Park and the Bridge, but Green Turtle has the Great Abaco Canyon, a nearly vertical formation of rocky cliffs and sediment-covered slopes. Depths range from roughly 5,000 to 11,000 feet. Forage species abound along these slopes and steep walls, attracting dolphin, tuna, and marlin. 

We trolled along a series of 1- to 2-degree surface-­temperature breaks, from the canyon’s “shallow” ­5,500-foot slope out over the primary drop to 10,000-plus feet. 

Our seven-bait spread consisted of large ballyhoo rigged on 300-pound-test fluoro leaders, capped with a small chugger or straight-cut head. We pulled these on outfits spooled with 50- and 80-pound monofilament, and pulled ­Williamson mullet daisy-chain teasers up close off both sides of the boat. While working a broad, shallow-to-deep trolling pattern, we scanned the surface for debris and monitored the radar for birds. A floating board we discovered gave up two dolphin and an 11-pound tripletail.

Green Turtle offers closer-to-shore trolling, too. Again, seek out surface-temperature breaks, and weed lines rich with bait, rips and, of course, working birds. As for the prime trolling seasons, the last week of April through the second week in May is the most consistent for dolphin. White marlin are more prominent from the end of April into May. And while blue marlin are possible at any time between April and July, June offers the most consistent action. Winter through early spring here means wahoo, sometimes pushing 100 pounds. Though not as consistent as other Bahamas hot spots such as Matanilla, Freeport and San Salvador, yellowfin tuna show up here from mid-June through early July. Blackfin tuna are reliable along the edge in front of Whale Cay between April and July.