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Rod Hamilton

September 14, 2017

Bonefishing in Eleuthera, Bahamas

General Info: Known for its spectacular beauty and serenity, Eleuthera makes for an ideal, laid back, family friendly destination. It is easy to get to as the island is located just 50 miles east of Nassau and 225 miles from Miami. It is long and slender with the narrowest point located at the Glass Window Bridge where the island is 100 feet wide. Over 100 miles long the average width is less than two miles so you are never far from the beach.

According to the latest available information, the population of Eleuthera is approximately 10,000.

Eleuthera (pronounced e-loo-ther-uh) was the first permanent settlement in The Bahamas, founded in 1648. A search for religious freedom drew the Eleutherian Adventurers from Bermuda here, to the birthplace of The Bahamas. The island they discovered and colonized still bears the name Eleuthera — Greek for “freedom” but he locals call it Cigatoo.

These adventurers found an island of white and pink sand beaches framed by Casuarina trees, high rolling green hills, sea-to-sea views, dramatic cliffs; and sheltered coves — and these beautiful sights are still here, unspoiled, waiting for you to discover them.

From the pink sand beaches of North Eleuthera to the renaissance of the Cape in South Eleuthera and points between, you could spend weeks on this slinky island and still not see all of the natural beauty there is to explore.

The name Eleuthera (“freedom”) is a fitting name for a Caribbean island that’s free from crowds or cruise ships or casinos. Eleuthera moves at a slower pace than most people are accustomed to. Leave your watch and cell phone at home.

With one long, interconnected highway, stretching 110 miles from the island’s northern to southern tip, it avoids the complicated ferryboat crossings that hinders development in, say, Andros and the Abacos. There’s not a traffic light anywhere on the island, a fact that makes locals inordinately proud. An offbeat adventure involves driving the island’s entire length, along a sometimes bumpy road with nary a dividing line. Everywhere, you’ll confront a landscape of rocks, sand, scrub, and sea views.

On Harbour Island, off the north coast of Eleuthera (five minute taxi ride) you will find Dunmore Town, one of the oldest and most charming settlements in the Bahamas. Rated as one of the “Best Bahamas Beaches” Harbour island is famous for its three and 1/2 miles of hard packed perfect pink sand beaches. Called “Briland” by it’s residents you will find the people are friendly and the island is easy to navigate as golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation. Harbour Island is where you will find a wide variety of accommodation ranging from high end resorts to simple rental cottages. This is the place to be if it is all about the family and a little DIY fishing.

A short ferry ride from North Eleuthera is Spanish Wells, a quaint village where fortunes are made fishing for crawfish. It is a prosperous fishing village and the locals are renowned for their seamanship. The residents are direct descendants of the original Eletheran Adventurers and British Loyalists. There are some wonderful places to stay with excellent fishing and diving available.

Governors Harbour is the commercial center of Eleuthera and the center of the island. There are a variety of places to stay in Central Eleuthera including the Rainbow Inn or Coc de Mama (both north Govenor’s Harbour), the Duck Inn in town or a variety of rental accommodations south from Governor’s Harbour to Palometto Point. If you want a family friendly area combined with access to bonefishing staying in central Eleuthera will serve you well.

Rock Sound is located on the southern end of the island and is serviced by its own airport. You will find all the services you require are available in Rock Sound including Eleuthera’s largest grocery store. The accommodation here is nothing like Harbour Island and would not recommend it for the family, but this is where I stay if I’m there to fish.

Fishing Areas: Eleuthera is one of the few places I know where there are dozens of flats that can be accessed by car (or car and kayak). Easy access can make the fish super spooky, but for the DIY fishermen there are not many places where you can drive to so many flats and bays to stalk bonefish.Listed below are places where bonefish hang out, but the bottom line is, the farther you get off the beaten track the better chance you have to hook up. That being said, good bonefishermen will enjoy the challenge of getting the “smart” ones to bite.

Most of my fishing has been from Governor’s Harbour south but let me start on North Eleuthera.

North Eleuthera

Map of North Eleuthera fishing spots provided by Paul Petty

There are numerous flats around Current Settlement and across the pass to Current Island. The road into Current Settlement provides access to a couple of miles of flats. Ask one of the locals at Current Settlement to run you across the “Cut” to Current Island where there are several flats.

I have not fished it but there is a large creek system just south of the Bluff Settlement and I have heard there is excellent fishing there. You would have to kayak south for a mile and then walk inland about 400 yards carrying your kayak, but I am certainly trying this the next time I’m on the north end of the island.

There are some flats around Spanish Wells particularly between Spanish Wells and Russel Island that can be accessed on foot but the more productive flats are on Royal Island and Egg Island that have to reached by boat or kayak.

There are some beautiful, classic white flats just north of the ferry to Harbour Island but you will need a kayak or boat to access them. You could spend a week exploring the area north of the ferry dock with no problem. On Harbour Island there are some nice flats to mess around on when your family is having breakfast. There is a nice flat north of the Dunmore town center within walking distance of town and others on the north end of the island. Both are best fished at low tide and the first part of incoming tide.

The harbour at Greg Town holds some bonefish at low tide.

North of Governor’s Harbor is the Rainbow Inn and if you stay there you can get a copy of “Bonefish Graham’s Personal Guidebook To Bonefishing On Eleuthera” it is well worth the read.

Just north of the airport you will find a derelict road to the west (Nixon’s auto repair shop) taking you down to the flats at Levy island and Balara Bay. These can be productive when waded at low tide.

Central Eleuthera

Map of Central Eleuthera fishing spots provided by Paul Petty

Central Eleuthera fishing starts at the airport flats which can be reached by pulling off just north or south of the airport runway and walking to the flats. This is a large flat area, best fished at low tide and the early part of the incoming tide.

Governor’s Harbor itself has a good school of bonefish right across from Haynes Public Library. I’m sure every fish in the school has been caught many times, but its fun trying to hook up while the family is walking around Governor’s Harbour. The other side of the peninsula, Cupid’s Cay, also has a nice flat and some fish.

On the ocean side fish can be found at the Club Med Beach or French Leave Beach.

Pau Pau Bay is a beautiful beach with a school of bonefish usually hanging around. South Palmetto Bay has bones on either side of the old pier. Like low to rising tide here.

Double Bay on the Ocean side is a beautiful beach to walk and hunt fish, concentrate on the south end.

Ten Bay is one of the more beautiful beaches you will find anywhere, worth going to even if you don’t catch fish. But you can find bones here, some jacks and yellowtail on the north end and the bay has some big barracudas cruising around.

Savannah Sound is one of the more well known DIY flats and is easily reached by parking your car at the park. Lots of fish here, but they get pounded!!!! Subsequently they are some of the toughest fish to catch I have encountered……..fun though. Long light leaders, small weightless flies and a whole lot of luck.

Tarpum Bay has some bones, usually a school hanging around the piers and it is a great walk north up the beach for cruising bones, cudas and other fish.

Winding Bay is again a beach worth seeing even if you don’t catch fish. The bones are generally on either the north or south end and I prefer to fish it at low tide.

Half Sound can be good and prefer to fish at low tide to early incoming tide before the fish can get to the mangroves.

South Eleuthera

Map of South Central Eleuthera provided by Paul Petty

Map of South Eleuthera provided by Paul Petty

I concentrate most of my fishing on the south section of the island from Rock Sound to both Cape Eleuthera and Princess Cay flats on the far south. I like fishing the south end of the island, but it is decidedly less family friendly. That means if you are staying in Palmetto Point or Governor’s Harbour it is an hours drive each way.

The key in this area is to spend time on Google Earth and look for those creek systems you can access either on foot or by kayak. You are looking for places to fish where there isn’t as much pressure as Savannah Sound.

Poison Point has some good fishing areas. The bay to the left (south) can be good but not easy to access without a boat.

Jack’s Bay is beautiful and has some good bones as does Cotton Bay just to the south.

Pear Bay is a huge flat on the northern tip of the “Y” toward Cape Eleuthera. Easy access and some great wading, some bones and cudas here.

Davis Harbour has some small “schooler’s” in the canal at low tide, may have to compete with the locals throwing hand lines.

Deep Creek is a large flat and creek system and can be accessed from a variety of spots. Can be some good fishing in here on the low tide and incoming but is tough wading in certain places.

Plum Creek is worth investigating.

Broad Creek holds some good fish as they make their way on the incoming tide. The flats outside Broad Creek to the island can be good on the low tide with some exceptionally large cudas around.

Rocky Creek is 1/2 mile south of Wemyss Bight and holds some big fish.

The Princess Cay flats out of Bannerman town are good and the entire area is well worth exploring. To access the back bay I park at the old abandoned Church and walk in from there.

Lighthouse Bay has a beautiful beach and well worth the effort to get there. A tough road going in so be cautious and walk the beach for cruising bones. Lots of turtles in here and small cudas to keep you occupied. Fish are generally located to your far right of the bay.

Fishing Information: Here is the good news………..Eleuthera has become well known as a DIY location because many of the flats are reachable by car. Here is the bad news……….. The fish can be super spooky because many of the flats are reachable by car.I’ve fished for spooky fish before, where a poor cast sent them into the next county, but on some of the Eleuthera flats, the fish are so smart you don’t even have to make the cast to spook them……….you just have to think about making a cast and they are gone!!!!

Without a doubt I have had more 0 – 2 fish days on Eleuthera than anywhere else I have fished (other than Florida). I have also caught 20 fish to six pounds in 2 1/2 hours at a certain spot, so the fish are there, it just takes work to find the less pressured fish.

I read some reports recently that Eleuthera DIY fishing is not for beginners and you should have some experience bonefishing before expecting to be very successful. My thoughts on that are pretty straight forward………DIY fly fishing for bonefish is not that easy…..anywhere. In many ways Eleuthera is not really any more difficult as a DIY location then other places it’s just that the well known flats (Savannah Sound) get a lot of pressure and the fish are smart. So for a DIY bone fishermen in Eleuthera the trick is not finding fish, it’s to find the fish in “out of the way” places where they receive less pressure.

So before you go, spend a few hours on Google Earth and locate the larger mangrove creek systems that are off the beaten track and take a bit of a walk to access or can only be reached by kayak. There are lots of bonefish on Eleuthera but you need to find the ones that are not regularly fished.

If you try Savannah Sound or any of the other well known spots you will see fish and get a good number of shots. To catch one you need to go with long leaders (12 + feet), three plus feet of fluorocarbon leader, down to eight pound test. Your flies should be small (#8 – #10) and unweighted.

Just remember that the tide on the ocean side is two hours earlier than the tide on the leeward side.

west side tide chart

east side tide chart

For those areas where the fish are not pressured, the usual assortment of bonefish flies work well; Charlie’s, Gotcha’s, Clouser’s in tan, cream and green. I like the bunny style flies like the Hoover and bunny Gotcha and take along a couple of crab patterns like Pop’s Bitters. For the pressured fish go smaller with less or no weight.

I have fished all the tides on both sides of the island and in the end would recommend focusing on the last hour of the outgoing tide, low tide and the first hour of the incoming tide. For whatever reason I have had limited success on fishing the two hours around high tide. But remember there are two different shores with the tides two hours apart.

Getting Around: Eleuthera is one of the most convenient Bahamian islands to visit as it is serviced by numerous airlines from both Nassau and the U.S.Eleuthera has 3 airports so when you land you are never far from your final destination. The airports are: North Eleuthera (ELH), Governors Harbour (GHB), and Rock Sound (RSD). All airports are small, open-air and convenient.

Air Travel To Eleuthera… Non-Stop From The U.S.

This is the most convenient way to travel. Why? No long waiting lines at security check points and immigration in Nassau. You could save yourself a few hours by flying to Eleuthera directly from the U.S. From Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Florida, 20 miles north of Miami, I recommend you fly Continental Airlines either into North Eleuthera (ELH) or Governor’s Harbour (GHB) in Central Eleuthera.

Sun Air operates direct flights from Fort Lauderdale to Rock Sound (RSD) on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

If you travel to Eleuthera via Nassau, your best bet is a round-trip ticket Nassau to North Eleuthera or Governor’s Harbour or Rock Sound.

Three Options:

Option 1: Southern Air. Three daily flights from Nassau to Governor’s Harbour (GHB) in Central Eleuthera and to North Eleuthera airport (ELH) plus… two daily flights from Nassau to Rock Sound (RSD) in South Eleuthera.

Option 2: Pineapple Air offers 3 daily flights to all 3 airports on Eleuthera.

Option 3: Bahamas Air.

If you have to overnight in Nassau I like to go to Orange Hill, a 7 minute taxi ride from Nassau airport. This is a cozy little hotel with a nice pool. Downtown Nassau is quite a distance and traffic jams are frequent. So, it’s better to keep the risk factor of your air travel to Eleuthera low.

At Orange Hill they will organize transportation back to the airport. For your flight to Eleuthera you’ll be checking in at the domestic terminal in Nassau.

There are a number of places to rent a car and on Eleuthera it is the best way to see it. Taylor & Taylor Car Rentals is one of the car rental agencies.

Where to stay:

Pink Sands Resort
Coral Sands Hotel
The Dunmore Hotel
Pineapple Fields
Coco Di Mama
The Duck Inn
The Rainbow Inn

Where dine:

Tippy’s
Coco Di Mamma
Rainbow Inn Restaurant & Bar

Guides:

Bonefish Adventures
Paul Petty

DIY Spouse Rating: 8

Miscellaneous Information: The SPOUSAL rating changes considerably on Eleuthera as you head south. Harbour Island on the north end of the island is fantastic and you can’t get a much better tropical paradise with luxury accommodation. The area around Govenor’s Harbour has some beautiful beaches, some nice single family homes to rent and is an ideal location from which to explore the island with the family and do some fishing. Rock Sound does not rate high on the SPOUSAL rating chart and I would stay here only with a group of fisherman.

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