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Rod Hamilton

April 24, 2014

Disney’s Castaway Key Bonefishing Excursion

Thought this might be of interest to those of you trying to combine a family friendly vacation with the chance to connect with a bonefish.  I mean there isn’t anything wrong with throwing your eight weight in while packing ……….. is there??
Dr. Eric English was kind enough to tell me about his bonefishing experience while on a Disney Cruise.
“Sometimes you have to grab any chance to bonefish!  This was a spouse friendly venue.  Rod thought it might to be worth it to write a guest blog.
My wife and I took a Western Caribbean 7 day cruise this April on the Disney Cruise Line ship “Fantasy!” The kids were in college and we had Disney vacation club points to use. We visited Grand Cayman and the Yucatan making our last day ashore on Castaway Key, Abaco, the Bahamas.
Pirates Of The Caribbean

Pirates Of The Caribbean

Formerly Gorda Key, Castaway Key has a reputation for excellent bone fishing and drug smuggling on the now defunct airstrip.  Online, prior to the trip I found a back country fishing excursion for $150 for three hours which offered fishing for bones, tarpon, permit, barracuda, etc.
I wrote  the cruise lines with questions about fly fishing but the lubbers told me not to bring any fishing tackle on the cruise ship and told me to talk with the excursion office once afloat. Once aboard the shore excursion desk staff assured me I could fly fish if the captain allowed it. I brought my Mickey Mouse wading kit: boots, rods, flies, chest pack, etc.
Guide getting ready to throw conch shells at sharks

Guide getting ready to throw conch shells at sharks

The captain and crew were guides from South Abaco and had made the 8 nm run from Sandy Point in moderate chop that morning. They were able to accommodate my desire to wade and fly fish, and the mate was happy to wade with me.  The weather was perfect: sunny and breezy about 10-15 kt from the SE. We left the dock around 10 AM for a 15 minute run around the SW point we found some flats along the south shore.
The mate and I waded while the others (fathers and sons) spin fished with conch meat. We saw about a dozen bones and I had one poorly executed shot but couldn’t get a bite:  I passed left while  the bone jogged right!   We had two adverse conditions, primarily high tide and the guide was “depth-charging” the circling sharks with conch about every fifteen minutes!
View from the ship

View from the ship

What bones we saw were above average size, half in singles.  Wading conditions varied from extremely slippery coral slabs, nice hard yellow and white sand, medium soft moguls and some mangrove shoot areas. Some birds were also resting on the mangroves and we had to get away from them because their flight was right over the flat! I had about 2 hours of wading and the captain picked me up; they had some snappers but no bones. I had an excellent time even though I didn’t get a hookup. It’s all about the flats and the encounters with the magnificent creatures that inhabit them!
Google Earth shows some great flats on the north side but it could be reserved for visiting guests or the captain was warned off but I did see some jet skiers in that area.  As to spousal enjoyment, my wife rented a bike and explored the island and had a great time. I was able to join up with her for some beach lounging and nice lunch. I can’t wait to try to fish the entire West Caribbean on a real fishing trip!
ATV ride in Mahahual

ATV ride in Mahahual

I have one lined up next February. I suppose one can arrange to fish any location the ship stopped at: Grand Cayman and Cozumel harbors didn’t have wadable beaches but you can hire a guide “off the reservation.” Porta Maya in the southern Yucatan, Mexico has excellent wadable beaches: Rod sent me a picture of a huge permit caught near the cruise line dock!  In Porta Maya my wife and I went on an ATV excursion and it was the highlight of her whole trip!  What can I say?”

 

Thanks Eric

14 thoughts on “Disney’s Castaway Key Bonefishing Excursion

  • on August 9, 2014

    Thanks for the information. We might have to try the 3 hour Abaco Back Country Excusrsion. Won’t be bringing our gear, but still sounds enjoyable.

    • Rod Hamilton
      on October 30, 2014

      Sure throw a couple of large Gotcha’s in. but I think they use bait……..for a first timer with spinning gear, not much else beats bait. Would you let me know how you do????? Hopefully a pic of you holding a bonefish…..

  • Eric English
    on August 9, 2014

    They just have spin and trolling gear… Since they will probably use conch which is no proper bonefish bait, I’d steal a huge baggie of shrimp from the galley and go to town with the spin gear. The bones were out there in decent numbers but as usual, the spin and fly fisherman had to cast 50′ into the wind. Bring a cheap pair of polarized glasses for the mate to borrow. He had the perception that he could see bones better than with polarized glasses. I was able to see them further out than he could. Good luck and please put a report here!

  • 1st time boner
    on October 29, 2014

    I’m booked on the Castaway Cay back country fishing trip at the start of December is it worth taking a few shrimp flies to try on there spinning gear?

  • Eric
    on October 30, 2014

    Grab some shrimp from the restaraunts and hookerm’ on the spin gear hooks. The captain was using conch which isn’t natural prey of bones. If you use flies on spin gear use the heaviest dumbbell eyes you can.

  • on April 12, 2015

    Thanks for the great info. I’m heading there the first week in May and hope to try some bonefishing. I see they have 2 flats fishing excursions – Backcountry for $154 and Abaco Fly Fishing for $214. How many people were on your boat? The dedicated fly fishing excursion is limited to 2 people but half an hour shorter. Both start at 1pm with high tide at 11:40am. I like saving money but really want to get my first bonefish. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  • Eric
    on April 23, 2015

    Rexfly,
    The dedicated fly fishing opportunity is apparently new. That’s great news! I might have to check it out too on my next Disney Cruise trip this summer. On the Back Country excursion and there were 3-4 other anglers including a few young teens. They bait fished and I waded with the mate. I think we were out about 2 hours. As to tides, the guides will know the fishery and where to go. It’s possible you could buzz over to the Marles in Abaco Sound in 20 minutes-that’s what I would like to try but it’s hard to get info on the guides ahead of time to find out if that’s a possibility. If they are giving a true flats experience you may have a flats boat for more opportunities. Please give us an update how your experience went. If you have any questions you may write me at fishbaydoc@gmail.com. Since this your fist time bonefishing I have three suggestions: practice your casting, practice your casting and practice your casting! 😉 You should try to cast 50 feet into 20 kt winds for skiff fishing and 30 feet wading! Then you’ll be GTG. Best of luck.

    • on August 23, 2015

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for the great advice and I am finally reporting back on my trip now that I finished editing the video. The fly fishing excursion was great. Tony from Abaco is a very good guide who gets you on fish quick.

      His equipment and fly assortment is dismal but it sounds like most Bahamas guides expect you will bring your own if you are serious. I had my 8 wt. TFO BVK and wish I had brought my Sage XP rigged up and ready for barracuda or knew the trick of having a barracuda fly on a leader ready to attach to the bend of your bonefish fly (amazing how helpful your buddies are AFTER your trip).

      I can’t remember if it was a Mako flats boat but it is pretty new and in excellent shape. Tony is very good at getting you in a good position to cast to the numerous schools of bonefish I saw. We mainly fished a side of the island you can’t get to any other way. Saw lots of bones, triggerfish, rays, sharks and turtles. Much better than what you see snorkeling in the lagoon.

      I feel the $215 isn’t bad for 3 hours considering a full day guide on Andros or Abaco is $5-600. Bring your own cold drinks and wading boots for the coral. I would also check the tides so you don’t get stuck on a falling tide like I did. There was already someone else booked in the morning and I chose to be alone with the guide on a falling tide rather than doubling up in the morning.

      I think I am now ready for some DIY bonefishing and next time would try it on my own at Castaway Cay (or not).

      Here’s the video of my excursion or just search ‘fly fishing castawy cay’ on YouTube.
      https://youtu.be/RIYWXGOMtf4

  • Kingfisher
    on August 23, 2015

    Great report Rexfly. I like the story line, video quality and your laid back attitude. I will be trying for bones in two day from the Disney Dream. Hope the weather and gear holds up and I don’t screw up. My report to follow. Hope to check out your product too.
    Hope everything isn’t Mickey Mouse…

  • Adam
    on August 25, 2015

    Just to clarify, will Disney let you bring your own rod, reel and flies on the ship? I emailed them and they said absolutely not, it will be confiscated. Is this just a line they use to discourage people?

    I’ve heard of a few people taking their own equipment….but wasn’t sure if they had permission or just smuggled it on board.

  • Kingfisher
    on August 29, 2015

    Hi. I just returned from Castaway Key and traipsed all over between Marges Barges and the adult beach with a strung up rod and no one batted an eye. I carried a metal rod tube inside my checked bag and then through reboarding security and the only thing the X-Ray guy was interested in was the fish pliers. My “Abaco Flats Excursion” was cancelled due to boat engine problems. I could not reschedule. Another angler did not have a rod and was a rank beginner. I met Tony, the captain who expressed his regret and said my tackle was fine. He said there was an engine warning light and that we couldn’t take any chances with engine failure. (We also had a jet ski and parasail excursion cancelled due to thunderstorms). I carried the rod to the tram shuttle and then on a rented a bicycle. I peddled like Opie Griffith to the north end of the island to the adult beach. There was no way to legally get out of public areas to fish without trespassing, a Disney no-no! The lifeguard told me fishing was not allowed in swim areas. Later, after leaving the rod on board I explored the bike path and saw the Eastern inlet and very fishy and marly creek 30 feet up the observation tower. I did see some nervous water and it was very frustrating not to be able to get at it! Anyway, as long as you’re not carrying a rigged fishing rod on the ship or main dock with officers around you can bring your own rod and tackle. Assemble and string it up on the flats boat if you want to be sure it won’t get confiscated. They shouldn’t stop you carrying a rod tube with a reel in a small boat bag. I used a back pack.

    • on September 4, 2015

      Kingfisher, that is a bummer. I would have cried. Waiting for a cruise is like Christmas morning then having one of the most anticipated parts being cancelled is like getting a fuzzy pink bunny suit under the tree instead of your Red Ryder. Fortunately there are so many great things about a Disney cruise that I hope this didn’t put too much of a damper on your trip.

  • Kingfisher
    on September 4, 2015

    Rexfly, it’s the Bahamas mon! I’m going to another Bahamian island next year for a dedicated fishing trip so I’m not bent.

  • JJ
    on January 20, 2017

    I caught my first bonefish (and second) on a stop on Castaway about 10-11 years ago. I took my gear to the adult beach, walked north along the beach for what seemed like a mile to the northwest tip of the island. I fished for a while just south and west of the point, but saw no fish. However, once I rounded the point, I saw a beautiful flat that seemed to be fed by a creek. I waded out on the flat and there was light current coming out of the creek. That is where I spotted the bonefish about the same time I saw a group of kayaks coming out of the creek. Luckily, I caught two and avoided too much interaction with the kayakers before having to make a run back to the ship. I wished I had not wasted as much time just south of the point, but was very happy to get my first bone on that trip! Not sure if they prevent you from getting to that point, but back then, there was nothing to really stop you from hiking up that part of the island.

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