BAHAMAS BONEFISH VACATION

SWS Senior Editor Heads To The Abacos in Search of Bones and the Perfect Piña Colada

Tailing bonefish are one of the reasons Alex Suescun traveled to Abaco, Bahamas.
Abaco bonefish often cruise so shallow that their tails and their dorsals are exposed.Alex Suescun

SWS Senior Editor Alex Suescun shares some of the great sights that made his Bahamian vacation memorable, and based on his experiences, he recommends where to fish for bonefish, where to find the best food and drink, and how to best get around if you travel to the Abacos.

Hopetown is a small town in the center of Elbow Cay, Bahamas.
The Bahamian flag waves in the breeze over the center of Hopetown in Elbow Cay.Alex Suescun

WELCOME TO HOPETOWN

Where does someone unwind on a beautiful beach with warm breezes and turquoise waters, within walking distance of good food and tropical libations, and NO crowds? Alex Suescun says Elbow Cay, Bahamas. He and his wife recently spent a week in Hopetown, a little settlement in the middle of the small island, just six miles across from larger Marsh Harbour in Great Abaco.

If you head to Abaco, don't forget your fly rods and wading booties.
Abaco's gin clear water is the perfect backdrop for every visiting angler essentials: a fly rod, wading boots, and a cold Kalik beer.Alex Suescun

THE MISSION

The trip was to include not only relaxing by the ocean, but also chasing bonefish with a fly rod. Alex had been to the Abacos several times, and was confident that it was a great destination to do both. So he packed his tackle and wading booties, and convinced his wife to tag along. No arm twisting was necessary, but she insisted in also searching for the best piña colada on the island. Again, no arm twisting was necessary.

The bonefishing in Abaco, Bahamas, is world class.
The clear water of most Bahamian flats makes it easier to spot bonefish, but it also enable the fish to detect boats and anglers better.Alex Suescun

LOOKING FOR BONES

Abaco is renowned for its excellent bonefishing, and Alex had sampled the action in various parts of the island in the past. To help him and his wife make the most of their fishing time, Suescun contacted Blackfly Lodge in Schooner Bay (Great Abaco), where manager Clint Kemp was happy to set up guides and arrange for transportation from Marsh Harbour.

Robert Albury guided Suescun and his wife in Moore's Island on day one.
Blackfly Lodge's experienced guides and East Cape skiffs were instrumental to the success of the mission.Alex Suescun

PROFESSIONAL HELP

Abaco is renowned for its excellent bonefishing, and Alex had sampled the action in various parts of the island in the past. To help him and his wife make the most of their fishing time, Suescun contacted Blackfly Lodge in Schooner Bay (Great Abaco), where manager Clint Kemp was happy to set up guides and arrange for transportation from Marsh Harbour.

Scores of bonefish are joined by permit and mutton snapper on the flats surrounding Moore's Island.
When the weather cooperates, a run to the fertile flats surrounding Moore's island is a must.Alex Suescun

MOORE'S ISLAND

Suescun had fished Moore's Island once before, and he couldn't wait to go back. Light wind on day one offered the best conditions for his wife to connect with her first bonefish on fly, and the bones soon showed up in droves. And with 20 to 25 mph winds in the forecast for the next couple of days, Mary wouldn't have a better chance. So the permit and muttons of Moore's Island would have to wait.

Moore's Island, west of Sandy Point, offers beautiful, wide open flats loaded with fish.
Moore's Island, some 18 miles west of Sandy Point, offers beautiful, wide open flats loaded with fish.Alex Suescun

THE SIGHT FISHING

Cloudy skies were not conducive to sight fishing, but the lack of wind and the light bottom of the beautiful, wide open flats made it possible to spot cruising bonefish.

Schools of bonefish were present at the first couple of stops near Moore's Island.
The presence of bonefish was evident at the first couple of stops near Moore's Island.Alex Suescun

BONEFISH HEAVEN

Suescun and his wife encountered bonefish schools at the first couple of stops, but blacktip sharks circling had the bones more preoccupied with survival than with feeding.

shiny tails and dorsals of several bonefish
There were plenty of tailers, but for an area largely undisturbed, the resident bones were unusually skittish.Alex Suescun

SKITTISH TAILERS

The third stop was a small protected cove laden with mangrove shoots, and the shiny tails and dorsals of several bonefish could be seen breaking the surface just out of casting range. It was time to abandon ship and try to sneak up on the fish on foot.

Wading offered the best chance to connect with bonefish tailing and finning in ultra shallow water.
Many of the flats in Abacos' backcountry are firm enough to wade, but there are some exceptions.Mary Raulerson

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

Moguls and dips, and the somewhat soft bottom in the cove, made wading a bit of a challenge, but the guide suggested Alex and Mary split up and approach different pods of fish from opposite directions.

A Bahamian bonefish tracks down a fly in skinny water.
Hungry bonefish are aggressive and charge a fly with gusto.Mary Raulerson

FIRST TAKER

Tailing and finning in a mere 6 to 8 inches of water, the bonefish rooting in the cove were pretty skittish. But after several blowups and a few follows and refusals, a hungry bone tracked down Suescun's fly and took it.

The pronounced green stripes on the back  of this Abaco bonefish provide the perfect camouflage for the surroundings.
Suescun soon reap the just reward for his efforts and preparation.Mary Raulerson

SUCCESS!

After a couple of nice runs, Suescun got his hands on the first bonefish of the trip, a chunky 3- to 4-pounder with pronounced green stripes on its back — suitable camouflage for the surroundings.

Cool water and a short battle let the bonefish recover quickly, enabling an almost immediate healthy release.
After minor CPR, the first bonefish of the trip swims off unharmed.Mary Raulerson

QUICK RELEASE

Since it was spring — when the water is not yet very warm — and the fight hadn't lasted too long, the bonefish required little CPR for a healthy release.

Low tide on the flats was a perfect time to grab lunch and wait for fish to move in with the rising tide.
Low tide on the flats was a perfect time to grab lunch and wait for fish to move in with the rising water.Alex Suescun

SPRING LOW

Once a few of the tailing fish were hooked and fought, the rest of the bonefish in the cove panicked. So it came time for anglers and guide to hop back on the boat and go elsewhere. By then the tide had reached its lowest point, so they waited for more fish to move in with the rising water to continue their search.

Alex Suescun releases a 6 pound bonefish near Sandy Point, Great Abaco.
A 6-pound Abaco beauty poses briefly for a snap shot.Alex Suescun

BIGGER BONES

Day two was a complete washout! As expected, the wind blew 20 to 25 mph, but it was lightning that forced all the guides and their customers to return to the boat ramp by 11:00am. On day three, however, the skies cleared and Alex and Mary resumed their pursuit of bonefish. This time, Patrick Roberts, head guide at Blackfly Lodge, lead the hunt that yielded a number of larger bones, including a nice 6-pounder Suescun caught and released while wading a rocky shoal northwest of Sandy Point.

A selection of weighted and unweighted bonefish flies ready to be called into service.
The right fly selection for the Abacos includes weighted and unweighted versions of popular bonefish patterns.Alex Suescun

ABACO ARSENAL

A selection of proven bonefish patterns, including the Kwan, Borski Swimming Shrimp, Gotcha, Bonefish Special and others, both weighted and weightless, covered the variety of fishing situations expected on Abaco flats.

An Abaco bonefish cruises the shallows with its back out of the water.
After several close calls, Suescun's wife, Mary, hadn't yet scored her first bone and time was running out.Alex Suescun

FINAL APPROACH

Despite several near misses, Suescun's wife hadn't yet hooked a bonefish, and the last day of fishing was coming to an end. But at the very last stop — a small flat bordering a narrow strip of mangroves and coral — a single bonefish came cruising happily with its back out of the water and Mary zeroed in.

Mary Raulerson hooks up with a Bahamian bonefish on fly.
Mary Raulerson puts it all together and sets the hook on her very first bonefish.Alex Suescun

MARY'S FIRST

From the bow of the skiff, Mary delivered the fly. The bonefish turned, followed and ate it. Then, it immediately peeled off 100 yards of backing from the reel, and Mary found out the hard way that you don't try to grab the reel handle at that time. Her right thumb paid the price. Ouch!

A tired Bahamian bonefish is finally coaxed alongside the boat for pictures.
A tired Bahamian bonefish is coaxed alongside the boat for pictures.Alex Suescun

ENDING THE BATTLE

The drag on Mary's reel did its job, and after a couple more exciting runs and some fancy rod maneuvering, the bonefish was eventually coaxed back toward the boat.

Mary Raulerson lifts her first Bahamain bonefish caught on fly for a quick photo.
The happy angler and her catch pose for a quick photo.Alex Suescun

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

An elated Mary was only too happy to claim her prize. She carefully cradled the bonefish, her very first on fly, and lifted it waist-high for a quick snap shot.

releasing the bonefish
A terrific day on Bahamian flats ends with the release of another nice bonefish.Alex Suescun

PROPER SENDOFF

Quickly returning the bonefish to the water with the required TLC, Mary revived the fish until it signaled it was ready to return to parts unknown.

Visions of tailing bonefish on the pristine flats of the Abacos are what drive anglers to return time and time again.
The memory of all those bonefish tailing on pristine flats is what keeps anglers coming back to the Abacos year after year.Alex Suescun

SEE YOU NEXT TIME!

After thanking the guide for the great experience, Suescun put away the tackle in preparation for the run back to the boat launch, and he couldn't help but think of all the tailers he and his partner in crime had seen and the incredible beauty of the pristine flats they'd been fortunate enough to fish. Still excited about releasing her first bonefish, his wife broke the silence and said: "Yes, I can definitely do this again!"

Mary Raulerson accepts a memento from Patrick Roberts, Blackfly Lodge guide that helped her connect with her first bonefish on fly.
Mary Raulerson accepts a memento from Patrick Roberts, Blackfly Lodge guide that helped her connect with her first bonefish on fly.Clint Kemp

AWARD CEREMONY

Upon returning to Blackfly Lodge, Mary was treated to a celebration in honor of her catch that included a small bonefish carving (made by a local artist) bestowed upon her as a memento and a couple of photos with Patrick Roberts, the veteran guide that helped her hook and land her first bonefish.

The Albury Ferry provides transfers from Marsh Harbor in Abaco to Hopetown in Elbow Cay several times a day.
Back in Marsh Harbor, the Albury Ferry provides transfer back to Elbow Cay.Alex Suescun

THE FERRY

The Albury Ferry provides passage between Marsh Harbour (Abaco) and Hopetown (Elbow Cay) several times a day. Suescun and his wife made it back to the ferry dock just in time to catch the last one of the day, leaving Marsh Harbour at 5:45pm.

The Elbow Cay Lighthouse is a great feature of Hopetown's scenic harbor.
The Elbow Cay Lighthouse is a welcome sight for anglers returning to Hopetown.Alex Suescun

RETURN TO HOPETOWN

Back in Hopetown, the view of the tranquil harbor highlighted by the famous Elbow Cay lighthouse, made it easy for Alex and Mary to get back to chilling mode.

Golf carts are a popular form of transportation in Elbow Cay and other Bahamian islands.
Rental golf carts are a popular form of transportation on Elbow Cay.Alex Suescun

ISLAND TRANSPORTATION

If you plan a trip to Elbow Cay, Suescun says to consider renting a golf cart, a popular form of transportation on the island that makes it easy to shop for groceries and travel to and from Hopetown. Several companies offer carts and they deliver them right to the place where you'll be staying.

There's only one road leading from Hopetown to the north end of Elbow Cay.
There's only one road leading from Hopetown to the north end of Elbow Cay.Alex Suescun

QUEEN'S HIGHWAY

Elbow Cay is divided in two sections, north and south. Hopetown is the only town in the north section, and there's but one road leading from the town to the north end of the island.

Curly tail iguanas are plentiful on Elbow Cay and many other Bahamian islands.
Curly tail iguanas are plentiful on Elbow Cay and many other Bahamian islands.Alex Suescun

ISLAND RESIDENTS

Suescun claims the local residents in Elbow Cay are a friendly bunch, and that includes curly tail iguanas, which are plentiful on the island. A couple of them greeted him and his wife at breakfast time every day, and apparently they enjoyed coconut bread and other Bahamian delicacies.

A fork in the road providing access to Hopetwon's harborside restaurants and small shops and similar establishments down the center of town.
Queen's Highway forks, providing access to Hopetown's harborside restaurants and small shops and similar establishments down the center of town.Alex Suescun

FORK IN THE ROAD

While there is only one road from Hopetown to the north end of Elbow Cay, there is a fork on that road providing access to harborside restaurants and small shops if you go left, and similar establishments down the center of town if you go right (photo shows the fork while northbound).

Hopetown is a great destination to relax and enjoy the ocean, not the nightlife.
Hopetown is a great destination to relax and enjoy the ocean, not the nightlife.Alex Suescun

THE NIGHTLIFE

Like Suescun and his wife, most people come to Elbow Cay for the peace and quiet, so don't expect much in the way of nightlife in Hopetown.

Several restaurants in Elbow Cay offer local and American favorites.
Harbour's Edge is one of the best restaurants in Hopetown.Alex Suescun

LOCAL EATERIES

Alex and Mary sampled the food at several restaurants in Elbow Cay. They concluded that Harbour's Edge offers the best and most varied menu, along with a wonderful view of the harbor. Suescun explained that several restaurants on the outskirts of Hopetown will send someone to pick you up, if you contact them ahead of time on VHF channel 16. So it pays to pack a handheld VHF radio.

Firefly, a small resort with an ocean-front bar and grill just 10 minutes outside of Hopetown, makes a mean piña colada.
Frozen drinks by the ocean are a big plus at several Hopetown establishments.Alex Suescun

AND THE WINNER IS...

Suescun stuck to his word, and he and his wife sampled the piña coladas at a different establishment every day of their stay in Elbow Cay. The couple ranked each based on overall flavor, ratio of coconut vs pineapple, creaminess, presentation and size. Both agreed the winning piña colada came from Firefly, a small resort with an ocean-front bar and grill just 10 minutes outside of Hopetown.