Stalking the elusive bonefish with a fly rod across a clear water flats is an ethereal experience, and The Bahamas is one of the world’s finest bonefishing destinations. And what could be better for the Bahamian economy than to have foreign flats fishers spending plenty of money to fish and release their catch? The best thing is that the fishers get their money’s worth—they fish in a beautiful environment, catch plenty of fish and get to spend hours with skilled Bahamian guides.
With good reason, The Bahamas wants to regulate the flats fishery (bonefish, tarpon, permit, and more) to be sure that it is safe and sustainable.
The Bahamas Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and local government have recently proposed new regulations for flats fishing in The Bahamas. The important sections of the proposed bill include:
• Foreigners must have a flats fishing permit for each person and each foreign boat.
• Foreigners, whether fishing from a boat or wading, must employ a certified Bahamian guide for every two fishers.
• There will be a system for certification of guides. The certification will include a boat operator’s license. All guides must be Bahamian citizens.
• Bonefish lodge owners must be Bahamian citizens.
• Fifty percent of permit fees will be put directly into a new Conservation Fund.
The initial reaction throughout The Bahamas has been passionate. Most concerned citizens and guides favor a permitting system, certification of guides, a portion of the fees put into a conservation fund, and other requirements that will help ensure proper use and sustainability of the resource. Yet the regulations that require a guide under all circumstances and for lodge owners to be Bahamian citizens have come under major criticism and caused outrage among second home owners and foreign fishers, many of whom like to fish alone and out of their own boats.
The Bahamian government insists that these are proposed regulations and in a public meeting in late June stated that Marine Resources welcomes comments from concerned citizens, guides, lodge owners, and fishers. A good place to start learning about the new proposed legislation and the reaction is ginkandgasoline.com/saltwater-fly-fishing/is-flats-fishing-in-the-bahamas-over/. The Nassau Tribune is following the developing story; search for “flats fishing” and “Minister Gray” at tribune242.com. Southern Boating readers who want to send comments to the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources can email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Romora Bay and Valentines marinas
Romora Bay Marina is proving to be a real asset to Harbour Island with reported record numbers of boaters occupying all their docks in July. Major renovations completed at Romora Bay include fiber optic high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the marina and upgraded generators. The marina at Valentines Residences, Resort & Marina was rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, and there have been a host of improvements to the property. While it’s not a matter of judging whether Valentines or Romora Bay is the better marina (they are both excellent), it’s a matter of choice, and choice has brought more boats to Harbour Island. The yachts are the beneficiaries of this seeming competition, as both marinas have to stay on top of their games. If you want to be close to town Valentines may be your choice. If you want less noise and maybe a little less wake, Romora Bay may suit you better. romorabay.com; valentinesresort.com
Flying Fish Marina
The Flying Fish Marina in Clarence Town, Long Island is getting into the final stages of its upgrade expected for completion at the end of 2015. The new amenities will be hard to beat. The building that will house two restaurants—the old Outer Edge Grill is moving to the new building’s first floor,—the office and a marine store is being erected on the east side of the old office/gift shop, which is being turned into a housing complex of four apartments to be available for rent. A pool is also being added on the property. The docks have been completely rebuilt—plans to expand from the current 18 slips will come next—and there is always a good supply of fuel and water.
The manager has asked that we pass the word about reservations. This last year the marina was completely full in late spring and early summer because so many boats secure slips for weeks or months at a time. Be sure to call well in advance of your intended arrival. (242) 337-3430; flyingfishmarina.com
New marker pole on route to Harbour Island: Last month we mentioned that the aids to navigation from Spanish Wells around to Harbour Island are either gone or deteriorating. Just recently, pilots, marina owners and commercial shippers have invested in a new pole to replace the rusted I-beam off the west end of Mann Island. This is no help on the Devil’s Backbone, but it does provide guidance with the approach to Harbour Island.
NW Channel light: One of the most important visual aids in The Bahamas still hasn’t been replaced. NV Charts and Explorer Charts have the old light correctly plotted. It is best to pass about 100 yards north of this position since some of the broken structure may still be close to the surface.
By Stephen Connet, Southern Boating Magazine, September 2015