Bahamas Bonefish: Tight Lines and Good Times

Wayne Gardella with a Bahamas bonefish caught near Acklins Island

Lorin Hicks and Tom Vitolo

When it comes to most folks, the Bahamas Islands conjure up images of cruise ships, white sand beaches, and rum and Cokes in the shade. What is it about fly fishermen that they think about nine-foot flyrods, hand tied flies called “gotcha,” and enough sunscreen to withstand 10 hours in a flat-bottomed boat?

Well, it’s bonefish. The elusive, exasperating denizen of the tropical tide flats that both attract and irritate seasoned fly fishermen from all over the world to pursue and praise bonefish in the Bahama Islands.

The authors recently returned from a fly fishing journey to Acklins Island in the southern region of the Bahamas with many great memories of the trip and a desire to return to blue skies, clear-water tide flats, and aggressive bonefish.

But first, let’s talk about bonefish. One of the three trophy fish of the tropics, bonefish share the honor with permit and tarpon as the most pursued and prized game fish. Bonefish are also known as the “grey ghosts” because of their cryptic color and their habit of silently lurking in the shallow tide flats searching for crabs, mollusks, and other crustaceans to be found when the tide moves inland.

Flyfishing for bonefish requires skills not normally used when fishing for trout in our northern climes. Typical bonefishing tackle is an 8-weight flyrod with weight forward floating flyline and a 12-pound test leader. With the assistance of a guide, bonefish are sighted in shallow waters as a single or in pods of dozens as they move in a rapid and relentless direction. The guide, slowly poling the flats boat while standing on a spotting platform, shouts out, “11 o’clock at 40 feet … cast now!” If you are quick on the trigger, you give a few seconds to let the fly sink beneath the water surface and then begin stripping the line in rapidly to attract the target bonefish. If you are skillful (or lucky), you will feel the line tighten as the “grey ghost” takes the fly, and then the fight is on!

A bonefish I caught off Acklins Island took my flyline to the reel backing four times before I could bring him to the boat. Bonefish average four to five pounds in this area of the Bahamas, but there are records of bonefish weighing in at 17 pounds on a flyline. Not to criticize our native salmonids, but it’s difficult to top that experience with freshwater fish in our area.

It’s hard to surpass the accommodations and hospitality we experienced on Acklins Island. This 76-square-mile island is home to 600 residents, and fishing is the primary recreational focus for visitors. The island is blessed for excellent guides with boats and expertise to make bonefishing a memorable experience. Acklins Island can be reached from Nassau on Bahamasair Airlines twice a week. Accommodations can be acquired at the Golden Groves hotel, only 30 minutes from Acklins Spring Hill airport. Gourmet meals are served at Ivel’s B&B, within walking distance from the hotel, with food expertly prepared by Chef Peter and cook Theresa. The good news is that the fishing trip is very affordable booking through Tracewski Fishing Adventures (

For a unique and fascinating fishing experience, book your trip for a Bahamas bonefishing adventure!