Bonefishing in The Bahamas

For avid anglers, stalking “phantoms” aka bonefishing in The Bahamas is one of the most challenging and rewarding of all fishing adventures.

Bonefishing is an experience The Bahamas intends to protect and preserve for generations to come.

It was 45 years ago, when Jerry Lavenstein, a Virginia Beach sportsman, and his Bahamian guide Ansil Saunders headed out on the Bimini mud flats to cast their luck and chase some bonefish. Waiting silently in the gin-clear waters were small schools of the wily Grey Ghosts that have long frustrated saltwater light tackle and fly fishermen with their stealth, smarts, and speed from Grand Bahama to Abaco and Great Inagua.

Stalking bones in “skinny water” is an art—part patience mixed with technique and an eagle-eyed guide that can pole the angler close and not spook the prey. The rest is up to the fishing gods and some good luck.

Lavenstein and Saunders hooked onto immortality that day in 1971 with a record catch, a 16-pound monster, caught just 300 yards from the docks of the historic Big Game Club in Alice Town on Bimini—the largest ever landed in The Bahamas and Florida and still a species in the all tackle and men’s 12-pound line test world record.

Anytime’s a Good Time

Steve Riely, managing director at the Bimini Big Game Club, describes the island’s bonefishing as “good the year-around,” drawing both individuals and groups, many returning over the course of decades to fish with a cadre of veteran, independent local guides.

Anglers primarily from the U.S., Canada and Europe are drawn by the tens of thousands for the unique, heart-pounding challenge of hooking into a silvery fish that can reach nearly three feet and weigh in at a dozen pounds or larger.

The larger and Family Islands along with hundreds of smaller cays are good hunting grounds for the elusive bonefish, which represents an estimated $160-plus million annual economic impact to The Bahamas, providing fly fishing lodges, independent guides, local businesses, and tourism travel agents with a growing cottage industry that features a viable trickle-down benefit for the local communities.