The Other Big Island

It should come as no surprise to anyone perusing the pages of this magazine that numerous Caribbean destinations offer outstanding flats fishing. The same holds true for tropical big game locales that are famed the world over for producing indescribable billfishing. But how many angling Mecca’s are within a short commuter flight of Florida residents and offer fishermen-on-the-go the best of both worlds? Andros in The Bahamas fits the bill just perfectly.


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Photo: FSF Mag

All of the Out Islands boast abundant natural attractions, but Andros in particular—the largest yet most sparsely developed of all islands in The Bahamas—is the ace of spades when it comes to superlative natural experiences. Not only is Andros a perfect place for a laid-back getaway, but for eco-travelers, kayakers, divers and fishermen, the big island of The Bahamas is the ideal vacation destination.

…an encrusted buoy bobbing on the surface is like an oasis in the desert, attracting rainbow runner, wicked wahoo, and everything in between.

Andros Island, especially South Andros is recognized as a natural wonder. The earth’s third-largest barrier reef (behind Australia’s Great Barrier and Central America’s Belize Barrier Reef) lies adjacent to its eastern shore. The near abyssal depths walled with coral and filled with whales, porpoises, billfish and wondrous reef creatures is labeled The Tongue Of The Ocean. Submerged caves and caverns riddle the island, surfacing as mesmerizing blue holes that locals say serve as lairs for the legendary Lusca—a hungry sea monster that sucks the unsuspecting into the bottomless blue. Mangrove-lined wetlands cover huge swaths of Andros, intercut with an endless maze of channels that open onto vast bonefish flats. Divers and snorkelers find endless fascination along the reef. Whether it’s exploring deep into the Tongue, floating above coral heads along the inside of the barrier reef, investigating the blue holes found all over the island or searching the stony ancient reef that makes up much of the landscape, one can’t go wrong. As a matter of fact, the entire 2,300-square-mile island is formed of porous limestone laid down by the sea.

Birds, too, find Andros an ideal stopover on their yearly migrations where they join local exotics such as ibis, spoonbills, flamingos, hummingbirds, woodstars and the rare Bahamaian parrot.

For me, I feel fortunate to have experienced a number of exciting Bahamian angling venues—Bimini, Lucaya, West End, and The Abacos just to name a few. Each is extraordinary and each offers anglers something special. Yet, during a recent trip to the 700-island archipelago, I found South Andros is not only another Bahamian Garden of Eden, but also one of those exceedingly rare destinations that modern civilization just hasn’t caught up with yet. South Andros is truly as authentic Bahamas as authentic Bahamas gets.
Grey Ghosts and Buoy Bulls…

Decisions…decisions…decisions. In South Andros, which is dissected from North Andros and centrally located Mangrove Cay by South Bight, visiting anglers have a decision to make. Spend time inshore with a knowledgeable native fly-fishing for bonefish, or head offshore with a local expert and test your skills around the legendary AUTEC Buoy (Atlantic Undersea Test & Evaluation Center). The Tongue Of The Ocean is extremely deep and nearly completely void of commercial shipping traffic. The submerged terrain is so unique, the United States Navy conducts acoustic tests along the east coast of Andros. To do so, several buoys have been moored on pinnacles that rise from the near abyssal depths. The barnacle encrusted buoys and their extensive mooring apparatus attract a wide array of game fish and provide recreational anglers the perfect starting point for their offshore efforts. As you can imagine, in an otherwise featureless expanse, an encrusted buoy bobbing on the surface is like an oasis in the desert, attracting rainbow runner, wicked wahoo, and everything in between.

Flats fishing and offshore trips can be arranged well in advance of your arrival on South Andros through one of many outfitters, or directly through the lodging facility of your choice once you find yourself standing in paradise. Rates are typical with half and full day trips an option.

With only a few days on the agenda, our plan was to experience both venues. We decided that day one and day three were to be spent stalking elusive bonefish in the shallows, while day two would be reserved for a shot at offshore glory aboard a local 32-foot Renaissance. For you cat lovers out there, this is one mean machine that made easy work of crisp five-foot seas. As luck would have it, as our day offshore progressed, so did stiff northeast winds eventually gusting to nearly gale force. At the conclusion of the trip we were running back to port at just under 30-knots in a very sporty beam sea. This was quite the experience, however, an adventure I am not anxious to repeat. Nevertheless, the Suzuki powered catamaran tore it up in style and never missed a single beat.

While we were anxiously anticipating a hot yellowfin bite during the 20-plus mile run north to the buoy from Driggs Hill adjacent to Congo Town, it wasn’t to be. The guide proclaimed the lack of rain over the previous month had kept the tuna at bay. Instead, the weathered AUTEC Buoy was inundated with gaffer ‘phins—relentless fish in the 20 to 30-pound range. A few handfuls of shimmering silversides thrown over the side were all that it took to ignite a full on feeding frenzy. Each drift past the large spherical structure resulted in all of the action one could ask for. In reality I am not even sure if you could officially call this “fishing” as much as it was “catching.” It eventually reached the point where you literally selected which particular fish you wanted to feed your bait to. Fortunately, the boat was equipped with a few 12lb. spinning outfits that provided outstanding sport. I think it’s important to mention that when I revisit South Andros, just like I never leave home without my fly-fishing gear, if an offshore trip is on the agenda I am bringing along some blue-water tackle as well.

The same front that blasted us offshore also had detrimental effects the day before and the day after during our inshore feats. Stiff winds, overcast skies, and constant drizzle didn’t exactly set the stage for phenomenal bonefishing—especially for someone like myself still trying diligently to perfect my casting skills. Let me just leave it at this: conditions on the flats were more than challenging. Yet as the day progressed and we poled along, we sight-casted to a handful of ghosts and had a number of opportunities, some resulting in a positive outcome and some resulting in my Borski Fur Shrimp falling terribly short of its intended target. Our time on the flats was spent scouring Lisbon Creek with its numerous mangrove lined shorelines and hard-bottom wadeable flats. If conditions were more favorable, I could easily see these shallows rivaling any in The Bahamas. Ironically though, much of the bonefishing around Lisbon Creek unfolds within a stone’s throw of local city streets. While secluded it is not, beneficial it can be. At one point our guide unexpectedly broke his push-pole. The 15-foot fiberglass pole literally snapped in half. Not to worry. A quick pit stop to a friend’s house along the bank resulted in a 15-minute repair.

The moral to the story is this—if you are seriously in search of an authentic angling adventure that’s easy on the commute, an angling adventure with plenty of options, then look no further. South Andros offers an angling venue for every taste. In addition, the island is quaint, remote, and romantic. The beaches are beautiful, the residents friendly, and the scenery sensational. But don’t take my word for it; fly into Congo Town Airport and visit South Andros firsthand. See what you think…

Andros Facts

  • Size: 2300 sq. mi.
  • Population: Approx. 10,000
  • Andros Barrier Reef stretches 140 miles along the island’s east coast.
  • Jacques Cousteau documented the blue holes of Andros in 1970.
  • When the Spanish discovered Andros, they named it “Isla del Esperita Santo,” the Island of the Holy Spirit, a tribute to the abundance of water in Andros.

Escape From Reality

Along with a number of renowned, yet traditional bonefish lodges nestled on South Andros, also sits Emerald Palms—a picturesque boutique resort located on miles of secluded beachfront shadowed by hundreds of golden palm trees. Much more than your typical bonefish lodge, Emerald Palms is South Andros’ undisputed island jewel and is exactly where we decided to spend our time. With four-star accommodations in both clubrooms and standalone oceanfront villas (ours featured a canopied bed, second bedroom, whirlpool tub, and complete kitchenette), the atmosphere was casual and the staff accommodating.

Upon returning from the day’s activities, may it be fishing, snorkeling, diving, sightseeing or lounging by the pool, guests convene at the bar for fresh conch fritters and refreshing cocktails before stepping into the dining room for a chef prepared culinary treat. Do yourself a favor and experience the softer side of The Bahamas at the laidback island retreat known as Emerald Palms. It’s unspoiled, undiscovered, and far from the hustle and bustle associated with big name resorts. Emerald Palms really is the perfect location for a tranquil escape.

Emerald Palms