Have you ever returned from an amazing fishing trip and caught a case of the blues, but for no apparent reason? After spending five days on Cat Island, I can tell you exactly why. We were catching fish, enjoying ice-cold Kaliks and living the carefree island life, all the while knowing we’d have to return home soon and face the realization that it was just a short getaway. I recall spending the first day back at the office wondering, “What am I doing here?” Not that I don’t love my job, but why can’t I live the island life, live on Cat Island, fish, dive and play all day? I guess I can’t complain too much. While I was out enjoying all that Cat had to offer, I knew that back home the rest of the Florida Sport Fishing crew was stuck in the nine to five grind.
With very little fishing pressure, the waters surrounding Cat teem with life.
Cat Island is the sixth largest island in The Bahamas and spans a distance of 48-miles; however, it’s only four-miles at its widest point. Not to be confused with Cat Cay, Cat Island lies approximately 320-miles southeast of Miami. Untainted by tourists and commercialism, Cat Island is a very quiet, remote and undiscovered paradise. With world-class fishing and diving it’s no wonder Cat Island is becoming a hot-spot for those willing to venture off the beaten path.
It was my turn on the rod and, of course, the wahoo bite went cold. Suddenly I inherited the nickname “Barracuda Boone…”
Originally, Florida Sport Fishing’s Steve Dougherty and I got the invite to participate in the 4th Annual Wahoo Championship, held out of Hawk’s Nest Resort & Marina. With the Miami International Boat Show and a looming deadline, we weren’t able to attend the mid-February tournament. We did however haggle our way to a well-deserved trip in mid-March. Spring is somewhat of a transitional month in Cat, with various species migrating in and out of the island’s surrounding fertile waters. There had been reports of a few white marlin and hordes of dolphin moving through, and while the winter wahoo bite was slowly tapering off, they were still catching trophy fish. On top of all of this, schools of yellowfin tuna had been encountered, so we weren’t really sure what to expect.
Hawk’s Nest Resort & Marina is located on the southern tip of the island and encompasses 450 acres including several rental homes, 10 hotel rooms and a private airstrip. Managed by JR Holder, Hawk’s Nest has the only marina on the island and with 28 slips, a recently dredged channel, 30/50/100 power hookups, freshwater, wireless internet, and two air conditioned cleaning stations, they’ve got all of the bases covered. The marina also has a full-time charter boat, Cat Tales, a 43-foot custom center console, which is operated by fishing guide/PADI instructor, Captain Randy Holder. Hawg Wild, a 60-foot Weaver custom sportfish, is another charter boat that’s available during prime fishing months. If bonefishing is your gig, Nathaniel Gilbert of Top Cat Charters is your man and has a well-equipped Hewes parked at the marina.
Although our trip didn’t start out as planned (missing our connection in Nassau), we managed to catch a Saturday morning flight to Cat. No sooner than we unloaded our luggage, we were rushed to the marina where Hawg Wild was waiting to head out. We left the cut by 1:00 and were off to fish Devil’s Point. Only a short eight-mile run from the marina, Devil’s Point is a known hot-spot for marlin, dolphin, wahoo and tuna. There had been reports of several white marlin and small tuna caught during the past week, so off we went on the slick 60-footer captained by Neal Vanosdol and first mate Sean Williams.
Dredge fishing was the name of the game this day in hopes of raising a burly blue or wicked white. The dredges proved their effectiveness and within minutes of deploying our spread we were covered with dolphin. While we didn’t see any billfish, we ended up catching eight ‘phins ranging from 25 to 40-pounds, with JR managing an unexpected catch and release on a solid 50-pound bull. Once we hit the dock our quality haul was soon overshadowed by a slob wahoo. Eighty-seven pounds to be exact! What’s even more exciting is that this fish was caught only 300-yards from where we were bailing dolphin. This got my juices flowing, and I hoped that before we left I, too, would get the chance to wrestle a trophy ‘hoo to the boat.
On our second day the plan was to meet up with the boys from Cat Tales to fish Columbus Point. We met Captain Randy Holder and Cat Island local Charlie Butler at 6:30 am to make our way to the point, a quick 18-mile jaunt from the marina. They say Columbus Point is hands down the number one spot on Cat Island, with steady current and a very solid, super-defined edge. To say I was excited was a bit of an understatement.
We headed out under the cover of darkness into the sporty conditions. After a 45-minute run to the point we had the spread set and both Steve and I were wet, cold and borderline miserable. I definitely wasn’t expecting to shiver in the Bahamas in March, but it was downright cold! Our 10-minutes of misery were soon overshadowed as we were slammed with a double-header dolphin bite before the sun had even broken through the clouds. When they say the water is alive at Columbus Point, they aren’t kidding. The place was going off! There were schools of bait getting busted everywhere, football yellowfin tuna, gaffer dolphin and frigates, gulls and terns dipping and diving on the melee.
We followed the festivities for several hours, all the while getting bombarded with double, triple and quad hook-ups. It could only be described as organized chaos. We managed to pull 14 big dolphin, a juvenile yellowfin tuna and several ‘cuda to the boat before the bite fizzled out. Captain Randy decided to take us to another spot, Tartar Bank, which is a pinnacle that comes up from the abyss to 60-feet. We didn’t hook any tuna, but did score more dolphin, which put a cap on another awesome day.
We weren’t sure what the deal was for day three, so we sat down with the boys from Hawg Wild to figure out a game plan. They were telling us about the northeast point, aka Jurassic Park, which they fished several days earlier and hammered the wahoo. The best thing about it was that they guaranteed we wouldn’t see another boat the entire day. Being that Columbus, Tartar and Devils are so close and so productive, nobody makes the 45-mile run. We were sold, and northeast point was in our sights.
It was an anxious hour and a half ride, and when we finally reached our destination the tide wasn’t right, but nonetheless we gave it a shot with the high-speed. Within 30-minutes, it happened. When a slob wahoo hits on the high-speed, you can’t put the sound into words. JR was first on the rod and made short work of her biggest ‘hoo to date, a 65-pounder. High fives all around, and I didn’t care if we caught another fish all day. I was pumped just to see a fish of such caliber come over the rail. Not 10-minutes had passed before it happened again. This time Steve pulled a 53-pounder to the boat. It was my turn on the rod, and, of course, the wahoo bite went cold. Suddenly I inherited the nickname “Barracuda Boone,” with several quality ‘cuda going in the box. I did managed to contribute one nice ‘phin, which were a constant threat to our high-speed spread.
Captain Neil called down to bring in the lines and we soon found ourselves deep-dropping in 1,100-feet. Every drop produced double and triple hook-ups with fat yellow eye. Along with the tasty snapper, we pulled up a 23 and a 10-pound mystic grouper. We also missed a mystery fish that managed to break off halfway to the surface. It didn’t break the line, it bent and broke the hook! It must have been the elusive Super Grouper Mr. Don Vanosdol, owner of Hawg Wild, had been searching for.
It didn’t take long for us to catch our limit of demersals, so we went back to fool some more wahoo. With a perfect outgoing tide flushing bait off the edge we were all poised for red-hot action. Sure enough, within 20-minutes we had a solid strike and I was up to bat. Within a few minutes I had my largest wahoo to the boat, a trophy 72-pound torpedo. Before the day ended we managed another 30-pounder, two unfortunate boatside releases on solid 60 to 70-pound fish, and a 42-pound head that would have certainly broke the 90-pound mark. Oceanic whitetip sharks reign supreme in this island paradise and if you don’t bring in your quarry fast enough, you’ll surely get smoked every time.
I haven’t experienced too many days where its been a problem fitting fish into the fish box, but with five big wahoo, several nice dolphin, two fat mystics and a smorgasbord of snapper, this was an epic day by anyone’s standards.
On Tuesday morning we had one last opportunity to get out on the water, but this time we were in store for a change of pace. Before our afternoon flight, Steve and I met with Nathaniel for a little bonefish action. Cat Island is not known as a bonefish destination, but that’s about to change! A short 15-minute run down the beach and we were poling the shallows for the elusive grey ghost. Within minutes we were casting to large schools of super-spooky fish. I must admit, we weren’t the stealthiest of anglers. Steve and I were both on the front deck casting simultaneously, Steve throwing a fly and myself tossing a shrimp. We did manage to land a couple of decent fish; I caught my first bonefish and Steve broke off a nice 6 or 7-pounder. On top of the bonefish we fooled around with some triggerfish on the flats, and Steve managed to entice a strike on a hard body shrimp. Who needs to travel to the Seychelles to catch triggerfish on fly? In Cat Island, they have it all. What an amazing way to end a stellar trip.
I must say, this trip was one I will never forget. Not just because of all the quality fish, but the awesome people and beautiful Hawk’s Nest Resort & Marina. One thing is for sure; Cat Island will be in my travel plans in the near future!
Hawk’s Nest Resort & Marina
Top Cat Charter’s