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April 28, 2010

Fowl Cay Bonefishing

Bahamas bonefish by the hundreds await on Fowl Cay's underfished flats

If you book a local guide (like Bonefish Cliff, Royal Plantation's main bonefish guide), expect to be wading the flats. Like so many who wear shoes all the time, my feet are a little soft, so I always wear wading boots on the flats. But you may wish to try going without at first since the sand around Royal Plantation is soft. In fact, locals refer to wading here as a Bahamian pedicure since your feet return to the resort soft and exfoliated.

Obviously, you may fish whatever tackle makes you most comfortable, or the guide can supply some for you. However, if you opt to use your own, here are some suggestions.

Fly

A 5- to 8-weight rod with a floating line will work well. Oddly enough, the technique most commonly employed here is to cast your fly over the fish and pull it through the school from behind. If you have difficulty powering line out as far as the school, consider spooling up with a shooting head. As to flies, I found that Clousers, Gotchas, Puffs and epoxy Snapping shrimp patterns work the best, though I always carry some crab patterns just in case. These fish take size 4 and 6 flies in pink, tan and silver most readily.

Spin
An 8- to 12-pound rig will surely suffice here. And while you're welcome to use lead-heads, D.O.A.s or the like, the locals favor what they call bonefish candy on a regular circle hook. The guide will collect a bucket full of hermit crabs in their adopted conch shells. After cutting the top off, the guide will extract a rather alien-looking piece of meat that bonefish simply cannot pass up.

Booking Fishing
As with anything else you wish to do at Royal Plantation, you need only mention your wish and it becomes an instant reality. You can book bonefishing, bottomfishing or offshore fishing through any of the staff at the resort. Bottomfishing and the flats are all within mere minutes of the resort dock. Offshore to Tongue of the Ocean takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Where Are the Exumas?

The Exumas stretch southward from just 30 miles southeast of Nassau, the Bahamas, between the famously deep Tongue of the Ocean and Exuma Sound. The largest single island holds the rather laid-back capital of Georgetown. Fowl Cay and Royal Plantation sit just about midway down the chain, next door to Staniel Cay.

How to Get There

By Plane
We took advantage of Watermakers Air and its fast, cargo-friendly Cessna Grand Caravans. Watermakers offers a unique service in its "per-passenger" charter fees — basically a shared charter. Clear customs on your way to your penultimate destination, Staniel Cay. Of course, should you want a whole plane to yourself, other air-charter services in the south Florida area can certainly accommodate you too.

By Boat
Leave from south Florida and clear Bahamian customs in Bimini, Nassau or Andros. Or if you plan to cruise other areas, visit www.bahamas-travel.info/ports_of_entry.htm to find the most convenient clearance port to meet your needs. Upon entering, you must obtain a Bahamian Temporary Cruising Permit, good for one year from date of entry. The current fees ($150 for all vessels less than 35 feet; $300 for vessels exceeding 35 feet) allow you unlimited exits and entries for the first 90 days. If you plan to fish from your vessel, ask for your fishing permit when you purchase your cruising permit. The cost is included. Also included are the obligatory departure taxes for you and three passengers. Americans need no visa to visit the Bahamas, but every visitor must carry a valid passport.

What's There?
If you want casinos, nightclubs and hustle and bustle, you should probably avoid the Exumas and stay in Nassau or Paradise Island. The Exumas are quirky, laid-back and peaceful. That's not to say there isn't stuff to do here, though. Scuba dive the healthy reefs that are home to lots of colorful fish. On our way out on day two, Capt. Bonefish Cliff took us by a deserted island curiously named Big Major Spot, whose only residents are some wild pigs that swim out to your boat for the food all the tourists bring them. But they have very sharp teeth, so if you happen by, don't try to feed piglet. You might end up missing a finger.

Nearby Staniel Cay (where you landed if you flew in) is home to the Staniel Cay Club, a Key West-style restaurant and bar and full-service marina with quaint Bahamian ambience. Jimmy Buffett lists it in his top 10 favorite island bars.

Thunderball Cave is where some of the James Bond movie Thunderball was filmed. You can anchor outside the entrance and snorkel in. Light streams that run down through holes overhead make the cavern very cathedral-like. Be careful during the heights of flood and ebb tides, as the currents can be very stiff.