Bahamas Flats Fishing — the Marls from Kayaks and Skiffs

No flats-fishing enthusiast in the U.S. should miss a chance to fish the legendary Marls off western Great Abaco.

October 23, 2014
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The Marls — I had of course heard of its reputation as a flats-fishing nirvana, but it was only when the 737 on which I flew into Marsh Harbour in midOctober passed over this vast area of sand, mud, mangroves and grass flats that I could begin to appreciate its potential. For the next four days, with several other inshore enthusiasts who joined me at Abaco Lodge, I experienced that potential, and these images offer some idea of what that was like. courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Super-Shallow Strealth Mode

While the lodge has a topshelf fleet of Hells Bay flats skiffs, we wanted to test our luck from kayaks. Johnson Outdoors sent over several of its Old Town Predators**** **(the Predator XL model winning ****best of show****** at ICAST 2014). Here, I’m taking advantage of the super-shallow stealth mode the stable kayak offers, using a short kayak push-pole. Courtesy Bill Carson, Humminbird
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The Marls Awaits

Having just arrived at Abaco Lodge from Denver about mid-day, Eagle Claw’s Matt Gray enjoys a moment of anticipation as he looks out from his room’s balcony at a small part of the Marls. Doug Olander
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You Want What? Where?

Anglers are encouraged to determine any custom rigging they want on “their” kayaks, as David Hadden (foreground) canvasses the group for preferences on arrival day. Doug Olander
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Endless Flats

This wall map at the lodge shows Great Abaco Island and the Marls — the latter the vast white area (right center) along the western side of the island. Doug Olander
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Come to Papa

Humminbird‘s Bill Carson eases a bonefish to the kayak. A GoPro offers the unique perspective. Doug Olander
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Fluke Fishing

Carson found small silver Zoom Fluke soft baits on a 1/8th-ounce jig head to be just the ticket for Marls’ bones. Doug Olander
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Looking for a Tell-Tail Sign

Taking advantage of the kayak that will float in a couple of inches of water, Carson searches the mangroves for “tell tails” of feeding bonefish. Doug Olander
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Shark Surprise

This blacktip couldn’t pass up a Savage Gear Manic Shrimp cast into its path. Courtesy Bill Carson, Humminbird
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Release Time

I size up the blacktip before unhooking the worm hook that had fortunately (since I had only thin mono leader) caught in the corner of the shark’s mouth. Courtesy Bill Carson, Humminbird
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Release Time, Part II

Here, Krystl Tonkin with Columbia Sportswear eases a bonefish to her kayak for a quick release. courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Crazy! Bones on Crankbaits

Crazy but true: We caught bonefish on this little Pins Minnow twitchbait by Yo-Zuri. Doug Olander
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Runaway Kayak!

Actually, this is one of several kayaks being towed by Abaco Lodge skiffs to get anglers to more distant fishing grounds. Doug Olander
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Shark City?

The group will set up in this channel off a deep flat on the Atlantic (east) side of the island. We hope the deeper water and some barracuda chum will give us a shot at some big bulls, lemons and maybe a tiger or hammerhead. courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Lemon on the Line

Matt Gray draws first blood with a respectable lemon shark. courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Berserk Blacktip

I hang on as a good-sized blacktip sends up a curtain of spray next to the kayak. courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Back at the Dock

Fishing from Abaco Lodge’s fleet of Hell’s Bay Waterman Skiffs is a welcome option on this breezy day. Doug Olander
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Day of Sun and Storms

An expert fly-fisher, Krystl Tonkin casts to a silver shadow in less than a foot of water. Doug Olander
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Jig ‘n Gulp!

Matt Gray found bonefish more than willing to chase down this offering. Doug Olander
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Fast Food

Apparently this Fluke-and-TroKar Boxing Glove jig was a Happy Meal to bonefish, which tended to rush over to gobble it up. Doug Olander
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One Down, 19 to Go

Matt Gray eases in one of about 20 bonefish he released the day this GoPro shot was taken (though not all were on the crankbait). Doug Olander
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Bye-Bye Bonefish

Matt Gray poses for quick photo before releasing another bone. An accomplished fly-caster, Gray fished both fly and ultra-light spin for his bonefish. Doug Olander
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Back to the Yak

As winds calmed, kayakeros returned to form. Here, David Hadden, checks out another bonefish he fooled on fly. courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Dinner is Served

Guests enjoy an evening meal of Cornish game hens. (Hey, every night can’t be lobster; that was the evening prior.) courtesy Jason Arnold /
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Stunning Sky Fitting End to a Great Trip

A brilliant Milky Way offers a dazzling canopy overhead, looking out from the lodge. courtesy Jason Arnold /

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