Conservation Effort Helps Keep Bonefish Bountiful in the Bahamas

bone.9bOZN_Em_56Sue Cocking writes about the positive results of conservation efforts in Grand Bahama Island, in places like Deep Water Cay and Burroughs Cay, where she went fishing for bonefish and permit fish with fishing guide Harry Rolle (shown above):

Not many flats fishing destinations can claim their fisheries are better than 30 years ago, and Deep Water Cay — a small, private island resort just off the east end of Grand Bahama Island — doesn’t brag that way. But maybe it should. Case in point: More than 30 years ago, fishing with shrimp for bait, I caught and released nine bonefish in three full days on the flats surrounding Deep Water Cay. Last week, I caught and released seven bonefish in only a half-day using a fly rod. One of them bore a Bonefish & Tarpon Trust streamer tag.

And don’t even get me started about the permit fishing at Burroughs Cay — a 45-minute boat ride from the island. I had opportunities to cast to five schools of huge, tailing permit on the incoming tide — probably 50 fish — in a couple of hours. That tally doesn’t include numerous singles spotted by guide Harry Rolle that streaked off before I could throw the fly to them. How huge were the fish? Let’s just say their backs — not just their dorsal fins — were breaking the surface in 3 feet of water. I didn’t catch any permit, but that was mostly because of bad casts and finicky fish that chased the fly but failed to eat it. “Rocks and current — that’s what permit like,” Rolle said.

But the waters around Deep Water Cay have so much more going for them than that: light fishing pressure; 250 square miles of sand, grass and rocky flats, creeks and lakes; natural channels that run north-south between mangrove islands providing a lee shoreline in the wind and a substantial tide differential within a short distance; and stewards working to protect the fishery.

Since Deep Water Cay’s opening back in 1958, catch-and-release has been strongly encouraged. Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, a Vero Beach-based conservation organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing flats species, has worked with the resort’s owners, guides and anglers to tag some 1,600 bonefish over the past few years.

BTT director of operations Aaron Adams said the tagging program is aimed at understanding bonefish movement patterns and habitat use so that the fishery can be better conserved. So far, he said, the recapture data shows the silver streakers tend to hang within a mile of where they were originally caught, but that they may travel long distances— up to 70 miles — to reach spawning locations. These findings mirror tagging studies performed in South Florida by University of Miami researchers.

For more information about Deep Water Cay, visit www.deepwatercay.com.

For original article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/17/3693669/conservation-effort-helps-keep.html

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