FISHING

Deep Water Cay a Bahamas fishing gem

 

IF YOU GO

Deep Water Cay, a private island resort east of Grand Bahama Island, is a 45-minute flight from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Accommodations range from one-bedroom cottages to large, two-story private homes. Fishing package prices start at $2,369 per person (double occupancy) for a three-night, two-day stay, which includes lodging, three meals, guided fishing, and transfers. For more information, call 888-420-6202 or visit www.deepwatercay.com.


scocking@miamiherald.com

In 1981, I caught and released my first bonefish using spinning gear and a dead shrimp at a remote island fishing lodge off the east end of Grand Bahama Island called the Deep Water Cay. My guide was David Pinder, a polite, soft-spoken resident of nearby McLean’s Town who poled the fiberglass skiff over the flats using a hand-hewn pine bough. The 2½-mile-long island’s lone diesel generator went on the fritz and there was no air conditioning until a repairman flew in from the States. He had to wait until low tide to land his single-engine plane on the dirt air strip. It was July and hot, but I caught and released nine bonefish in three days so I didn’t care. It was fun.

Fast-forward to May 2013: I returned to the Deep Water Cay – now powered by multiple diesel generators and accessible by a paved runway that can handle jets—and released a bonefish on fly rod out of a modern carbon/Kevlar skiff guided by Pinder’s 45-year-old son Joseph. While the elder Pinder, 80, is retired from guiding, his legacy continues: Joseph, another son, William, and a grandson, Omeko, conduct guests on fishing excursions from the resort. And the bonefishing is still bountiful: In 3½ days, guided by William Pinder, Dr. Charles Rosen of Miami Beach released 41 bonefish on fly rod to 7 pounds.

Joseph said the size and numbers of bonefish found on the hundreds of square miles of flats around Deep Water Cay haven’t changed much since he began guiding as a teen.

“It’s still good because of not that much boat pressure and it’s situated so close to the ocean, and we know bonefish come from the ocean onto the flats,” Joseph said.

Diverse flats – sand, turtle grass, mangrove shoreline, and hard-bottom—are interspersed with a series of creeks and channels running south to north. A short boat ride between locations can produce tidal variations of more than two hours—maximizing fishing time. During strong easterly blows (like the two days of 20-25 mile-per-hour winds I endured last month), guides are able to find fish in sheltered spots on the lee side of the breeze for easier fly casting. The Marls—an Everglades-like ecosystem surrounding the nearby Abaco Islands to the north—serves as a bonefish nursery, pumping plenty of young fish into adjacent waters.

For spin casters, frozen shrimp is the bait of choice. For fly-rodders, a variety of patterns have been known to work, such as the pink Gotcha, root beer-colored Crazy Charlie, pink puffs, mantis shrimp and small crab imitations. But even here, bonefish can be finicky, so guides and anglers sometimes have to comb through their fly boxes to discover the most effective pattern.

Bonefish are not the only attraction at Deep Water Cay. Permit to 40 pounds have been released near Burroughs Cay and Red Shank, which feature wide, sandy flats adjacent to deep channels. Joseph Pinder says his favorite permit fly is Del Brown’s Merkin—a crab pattern that looks sort of like an oversized dragonfly. Spin casters are successful using live crabs. I would love to have revisited Burroughs Cay after my 30-year absence to tangle with a permit, but the howling winds didn’t allow us to make the long run in a flats skiff.

New to the Deep Water Cay is a 33-foot World Cat for offshore and reef fishing, captained by veteran big-game hunter Craig Cephas. In a quick, 2½-mile run southwest from the island, anglers will find themselves in ocean waters more than 750 feet deep where they can troll for dolphin, wahoo, blue marlin and tuna or deep-drop with electric reels for yellow eye snapper and snowy grouper. Nearshore reef fishing produces other species of grouper and snapper.

For non-anglers, there’s a full-service dive shop with instruction, equipment rentals and a dive boat and a rental fleet of kayaks, standup paddleboards, and Hobie Cat sailboats.

Deep Water Cay had been in business long before I visited the first time (the word “club” has been dropped from the name). Founded in 1958 by Palm Beach guide Gil Drake, with help from revered angler/writer A.J. McClane, it pre-dates the Bahamas’ independence from Britain (1973) and has at various times been a fishing camp, a fishing lodge, a members-only fishing club, and now a boutique resort owned since 2010 by Paul Vahldiek, who has spent $18 million in renovations.

The club aims to broaden its appeal to non-fishing guests, touting its quiet, scenic beauty for weddings, small corporate retreats, and perhaps even the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit model shoot. But, whatever: anglers just can’t stay away.

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Miami Herald

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