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 McLeans Town who poled the fiberglass skiff over the flats using a hand-hewn pine bough. The 2½-mile-long islands 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 didnt 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 jetsand released a bonefish on fly rod out of a modern carbon/Kevlar skiff guided by Pinders 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 havent changed much since he began guiding as a teen.
Its still good because of not that much boat pressure and its 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-bottomare 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 hoursmaximizing 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 Marlsan Everglades-like ecosystem surrounding the nearby Abaco Islands to the northserves 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 Browns Merkina 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 didnt 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, theres 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 cant stay away.