Escape To The Bahamas

For Florida boaters, the islands of The Bahamas offer an accessible angling paradise like no other. With an official port of entry only 50 to 70-miles from a number of South Florida inlets, a two hour boat ride literally puts you in a hypnotic state of mind.

Capt. Mike Genoun September 27, 2012

What awaits you on the other side is a tropical Mecca where angling dreams really come true. If it’s blue marlin you’re after, West End is the place. If it’s world‑class yellowfin tuna and wahoo fishing you dream of, West End is the place. If it’s reef fishing and deep dropping you fancy, you guessed it; West End is the place. Few destinations offer such diversity across so many venues.

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Trophy bottom fish are always welcomed, both locally and abroad. Photo: FSF MAG

For those of you who regularly cross there probably isn’t very much I can tell you as you’ve likely seen and done it all. However if you are new to The Bahamas or happy with a refresher course, this is it.

Rather than anchoring we opted to drift with the gentle southerly breeze, which resulted in a steady pick of decent mutton snapper...

In order to capitalize on the diverse fisheries these rich waters offer, first you have to get there. While planning a trip, never lose sight of the fact that the Gulf Stream can be a very inhospitable place. Just because you rarely hear of incidents occurring to boaters traversing this expanse of rushing water—the only way for us to reach The Bahamas—don’t think that unexpected issues never arise. Perhaps the hairiest challenge to contend with is the prevailing sea condition. With so much water raging northward at upwards of five miles per hour, it doesn’t take much wind for waves to build to cresting heights. This is especially true when northerly breezes collide with the opposing river of water. Additional forces rushing out of the Northwest Providence Channel may also impact your path of travel. If you get caught in rapidly deteriorating conditions, prepare for a serious ass kicking.

With unstable weather prominent during the coming months boaters intending on crossing the ‘Stream should lean on the side of caution and must always be conscious of existing and forecasted sea conditions. Many embark on the journey with a buddy boat or armada, but in no way a prerequisite to an awesome angling adventure. While the Gulf Stream can get sketchy don’t get deterred. When pleasant conditions prevail a properly rigged 21 foot deep-V center console could easily get you there and back.

Once you’ve scheduled a departure date, it’s time for final preparations. So what do you bring for a multiple day Bahamas excursion—everything! But before we get into tackle lets discuss the boat.

If you plan on doing any serious reef fishing an extra grappling type anchor is a must. Mechanically speaking, extra engine oil, steering fluid, fuel filters, spare prop, plugs, basic tool kit, etc. are just a few of the mandatory items you may need when least expected.

Personally, I lean on the side of caution and I’m not afraid to say so. When crossing a wide expanse of open ocean safety equipment is priority number one with ditch bag, handheld VHF and personal locator beacon or EPIRB essential items. Life saving equipment is stored neatly and is easily accessible with the entire crew instructed on where to access life jackets and how to operate all of the signaling devices. Finally, a detailed float plan left onshore with a loved one who knows what to do and when isn’t a sissy move; it’s responsible boating.

Long overdue, we recently escaped to West End for a three day film shoot with the hopes of investigating the local reefs, exploring a few ultra deep water peaks, and of course trying our hand at the region’s number one attraction—the hot tuna bite. This meant that along with a ton of video and audio equipment, we needed an arsenal of fishing gear and a variety of bait to ensure we’d be ready for anything that swims.

If you have your sights set on the hot wintertime wahoo bite or you’d rather spend every minute reef fishing, then certainly bring what you need but don’t kick yourself in the butt too hard when Plan A doesn’t come together as expected and you’re left holding the wrong rod.

Fortunately, during our recent visit we were greeted with blue skies and calm seas and after an uneventful crossing, I eased the the throttles back and slid the SeaVee into the cut at Old Bahama Bay, the closest official port of entry to our final destination a few miles down the beach. It was 9:00 a.m. sharp and because we completed our paperwork in advance, check-in was a breeze. In mere minutes we were off and running with Bahamian flag flying high.

No more than a few minutes later as we idled into the cut at Blue Marlin Cove I was happy to see a well-maintained marina with all of the amenities of home, including 24-hour security, commercial icehouse, and well-equipped fish cleaning station. Slips included dock lines, freshwater and power, and a courteous dockhand was always on point to lend a helping hand.

With boat secured and formal introductions out of the way, we jumped off, stretched our legs and casually made our way to our home away from home for the next few days, which again exceeded our expectations. Accommodations included a very reasonable poolside suite overlooking the marina with four bedrooms, even more bathrooms and everything a visiting group could ask for. Blue Marlin Cove is under new ownership with improved management, and it was clear throughout the trip that the attentive, uniformed staff was prepared to make our visit a memorable one.

Now I might not be the smartest fish in the sea but I’m certainly no guppy, and I know that when visiting a foreign destination one thing you can’t beat is local knowledge, so I couldn’t help snooping around for the inside scoop. In addition to the intel I gathered prior to the trip, I felt confident that our first action packed afternoon wasn’t too far off. Little did I know we were about to get schooled!

Let me save you some effort. When fishing Bahamian waters during the blazing mid-day heat, it is challenging to find open ocean predators feeding near the surface. Light sensitive tuna and wahoo typically remain deeper in the water column in the darker, cooler conditions. You may pick off stray dolphin, but not much else. However, as day transitions into evening, the rich, cobalt blue waters along the southern shores of Grand Bahama Island where you’ll be fishing literally erupt in a kaleidoscope of life. There are vast, ultra-deep canyons here culminating 10 miles due south of West End that are literally stacked with bait. I counted no less than seven different species of forage in the bellies of the tuna I filleted. What makes this fishery so special is that it is totally visual. Zero in on working birds with radar and binoculars, and you’ll find fish. The only trick is catching them.

The following day it was time to regroup and put some fish in the box. Because our goal was to capture the essence of various Bahamian angling venues, targeting mutton snapper was a welcomed change of pace. As luck would have it, we found a consistent bottom bite just outside the cut on a steep ledge that parallels the coast. With my NavNet revealing promising readings, I couldn’t help but investigate the ledge. Rather than anchoring we opted to drift with the gentle southerly breeze, which resulted in a steady pick of decent mutton snapper and colorful strawberry grouper, not to mention the ever-present barracuda.

As the day progressed we eventually pushed north and ultimately picked a few more decent fish while anchored along a fertile reef off Sandy Cay. It’s amazing how crystal clear the water is here. This is The Bahamas and because you never know when a slob something or another is going to inhale your fresh ballyhoo plug, we fished 7 foot conventional outfits loaded with fresh 30 lb. Hi-Catch. Eight feet of 40 lb. fluorocarbon with a typical fish-finder rig was all that was needed to fool the resident bottom dwellers.

After an ample dose of bottom fishing and determined to conquer the tuna that slapped us in the face the night before, we hurried back to Blue Marlin Cove to re-energize and formulate a game plan. Since trolling the perimeter of the blitzing fish didn’t pay off, our new strategy was to run up to the swooping birds, determine their path of travel, set up in front of the moving fish and hit them hard. And as we slid into position in front of the first pack of working birds, it didn’t take long to realize that we were dialed in. Our plan worked like a charm as vertical jigs cast into the melee on 30 lb. spinning outfits repeatedly got slammed by frenzied blackfin and football yellowfin. With fish flipping on deck and multiple reels screaming simultaneously, this was exciting jig fishing!

As twilight approached, we shifted gears in the fading light with a steady flowing chunk slick and whole squid fished deeper in the water column on 50 lb. stand-up outfits now enticing larger, prized yellowfin. I won’t say that the tuna fishery off West End is a sure thing, but if you’re well prepared and you locate working birds, it’s game time!

With skipjack in the mix as well, the tuna were hot on the tails of fleeing baitfish and moving super fast. I had to jockey up the line multiple times to get it just right but when we were in the right place at the right time with birds screaming overhead, the sounder lit up like a Christmas tree as hordes of hungry tuna demolished everything we put in the water. Sweet revenge.

Of course, we still had to conquer West End’s rich deep drop grounds, so late the following morning as we reveled in our previous evening’s success, we ran north toward Memory Rock to explore a few ledges and drop offs in 1,200 feet of water. The first drop proved to be unsuccessful with nothing more than a few pesky taps. We repositioned and re-baited and again deployed our multiple hook rig into the depths. This time, the combination of squid and fresh barracuda chunks was too much for the locals to ignore as we hauled up a respectable mystic grouper followed by one glamorous queen snapper after another. Not extraordinary fishing, but certainly productive enough for our first attempt at dropping these waters.

Our escape to West End was a slamming success with tropical weather and decent fishing. Some guys swear by Freeport and Lucaya further east where the summertime tuna bite is reportedly more reliable, however we found plenty of life across a wide array of venues and had no complaints. We didn’t sink the gaff into dozens of yellowfin tuna or box a truckload of monster grouper, but because we were prepared and put in the time we were able to piece together a colorful mixed bag. Early the following morning it was mission accomplished and high-fives all the way around as I pinned the throttles for the 66 mile run home.

Right at Home

Without firsthand knowledge I’m generally hesitant when it comes to making recommendations. However after our recent visit, I can tell you from personal experience that Blue Marlin Cove is a straight up, topnotch facility that is only getting better. The quaint resort and marina currently features a perfect set up for visiting boaters with secure harbor, spotless accommodations overlooking the pool, hot tub and inviting hammocks, on site restaurant and game room, and perhaps what is most important—world-class fishing for a variety of species just minutes from the dock.

Blue Marlin Cove
866.697.6539
bluemarlincove.com

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