Hemingway in Bimini — Then & Now

John Patrick Hemingway revisits Bimini, an old stomping ground of his grandfather, Ernest.

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What do these two men have in common? For starters, their last name – John Hemingway (right) stands next to a portrait of his legendary grandfather, the late, Nobel Laureate Ernest Hemingway. The physical resemblances between the two are somewhat striking; and it's no surprise perhaps that John is also a writer by trade (in fact, you can read John's essay, "A Love Affair With Bimini" by clicking here). But the men share something else in common as well…Courtesy John Bisharat
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…a love for the little Bahamian town of Bimini. Bimini – and its famed Bimini Big Game Club -- is a bustling place today, but as we walk backward through history, we'll see how it looked many decades ago…Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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Circa 1940s, Bimini looked quite the same from the sky, though significantly less populated.Courtesy IGFA
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The little island has always been a charming place for visiting tourists. But as the sign indicates, it’s long renowned for its legendary fishing. And over the years, it’s attracted the biggest names in the sport.Courtesy IGFA
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Recognize this boat? It's the famed Pilar, docked in Bimini in the mid-1930s. Pilar's owner, of course, was John Hemingway's grandfather…Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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…Ernest, pictured here locked in battle just off the island’s shoreline.Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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Ernest flashes his trademark grin for the camera next to one of his first-ever bluefin tuna caught from Bimini's waters. The bluefin fishery of Bimini was the stuff of legendCourtesy Fashion Licensing of America
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…as massive pods of huge fish would swim over the shallow, crystalline waters just off Bimini’s shorelines.Courtesy NOAA Central Library Historical Fisheries Collection
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Ernest was a pioneer of the fishery, helping develop early fishing tactics that have stood the test of time to today. Here he is with a larger specimen. But it wasn’t only the fishing that brought Ernest to Bimini…Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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…it was the people; the atmosphere; the excitement – a perfect place for the writer, who insisted on experiencing firsthand the things he wrote about. Here he is mixing it up with a local in a friendly bout on the docks of Bimini. Makes you wonder who won?Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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During the mid-1930s, Ernest bounced back and forth between Bimini and his home in Key West with his wife Pauline (shown here) and their children.Courtesy Fashion Licensing of America
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This painting – which now resides in the Hemingway House in Key West – shows the place Ernest and his family stayed while in Bimini…Courtesy Hemingway House and Museum
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…the Hemingway Room of the legendary Compleat Angler Hotel, which tragically burned to the ground several years ago in 2006.Courtesy Hemingway House and Museum
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It was from that base that Ernest pursued not only tuna, but blue marlin, such as this fine specimen taken with big-game legend Michael Lerner, who would go on to found the IGFA only a few years later in 1939.Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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Mako shark, anyone? Ernest stands triumphantly in 1935 next to a 786-pounder, which was published and reported in Outdoor Life as a "North American record" before IGFA began documenting and chronicling record catches.Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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There were indeed many sharks that patrolled Bimini's waters and they unfortunately "apple-cored" many of Ernest's giant marlin. A trophy ruined here, but perhaps it provided Ernest with material he would later use in the mid-1950s for The Old Man and the Sea.Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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The sharks didn’t spoil all the game fish, though. Here was an amazing blue marlin day in Bimini for the Hemingway family from July 20, 1935. Pictured with Pauline and Ernest were sons Jack, Patrick and Gregory (the smallest – and John Patrick Hemingway’s father).Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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The Bimini Big Game Club of today – not so terribly different from the Bimini of yesteryear.Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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John Hemingway arrives conveniently via floatplane from Fort Lauderdale and is met…Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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…by resort general manager Michael Weber.Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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Bimini traditional lunch for Hemingway: Conch salad and Kalik beer.Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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Recognize these critters? They’re wahoo, painted for the Bimini Big Game Club’s Wahoo Smackdown Tournament by official artist Wesley Carter. No doubt Ernest caught hundreds of these fish during his time in Bimini, and John was about to head out for a few of his own with this man…Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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…Capt. Alex Jimenez onboard Makin' It Happen.Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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Not huge fish, but a productive day off Bimini. John Hemingway (on left) holds two of 12 total fish for the day, including a nice dolphin that took first-place in its category.Courtesy John Patrick Hemingway
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In all, the tournament produced some excellent wahoo fishing -- 132 fish up to a very impressive 96.7 pounds were caught by the 22 teams. And John Hemingway wasn’t the only notable name involved…Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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…country music star Craig Morgan latched into a few fish of his own, and then…Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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…provided some live entertainment around the club as the evening wore on.Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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Tourney winners Fishin A Loan caught that near-100-pound wahoo and won the event, collecting a check for $7,500 from the lovely Shawn Dillon, Playboy's Miss February 2013.Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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Just another day in Bimini, Bahamas, a place not too different these days from that of….Courtesy Bimini Big Game Club
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…many decades – and many fish – ago.Courtesy IGFA