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Rod Hamilton

September 14, 2017

Bonefishing on Cat Island, Bahamas

Lay of the Land

Centrally located in the Bahamas chain, this fishhook shaped island is 48 miles long and between 1 to 4 miles wide. Home to Mount Alvernia, the nations highest point at 206 feet above sea level it’s well worth the short hike to see a panoramic view of Cat Island from the scaled replica of a 12th century monastery called the Hermitage built by Monsignor John C. Hawes. Lying 130 miles southeast of Nassau, the 1,650 residents work hard for what they have as farmers, fishermen and in tourism. Living by the philosophy “What nature and the Lord will provide,” this is a peaceful, gentle place. Known as San Salvador for almost 400 years, there continues to be speculation around the Island’s name. Arthur Catt, famous British sea captain, or notorious pirate (depending on whose side you are on!) may be the Island’s namesake. Some say the Island was named for the hordes of wild cats the English found on their arrival in the 1600s. Loyalists arrived after escaping the American Revolution in 1783, developing one of the more prosperous Out Islands by building cotton plantations as the mainstay of their early economy. Abandoned homes and structures litter the landscape, left untouched to provide homes for departed spirits. These properties are never sold, sitting as testaments of past generations. With miles of idyllic deserted beaches, rolling hills, dense green forest and rocky cliffs, the lush island sanctuary provides an oasis for those looking to get away from modern day living. On paper, driving the length of this laid-back Island shouldn’t take that long with a good main highway running it’s length from Orange Creek in the north to Hawk’s Nest in the south. However with the many small villages, friendly people and beaches to visit, it is worth taking some time to see it all! Five minutes south of Orange Creek is Arthur’s Town the government headquarters in the north. With a population of about 400, there is a police station, airport, clinic, and some small grocery stores. Stop in at Pat Rolle’s Cookie House Bakery, an institution on the Island for something yummy or to learn about the area. Driving 15 miles south you enter Bennett’s Harbour, one of the areas oldest settlements. Centrally located Fernandez Bay leads on to the New Bight airport and New Bight settlement, which has a grocery store, liquor store, service station and car rentals. This is also where you catch the trail to Mt. Alvernia and the Hermitage. Old Bight is 4 miles south and from here you can drive to Port Howe on the east or travel west along the stunning coastline to Devil’s Point. Nurse staffed clinics are in Arthur’s Town, Smith Bay and Old Bight. There is one commercial bank just north of Fernandez Bay and though the larger settlements have grocery stores, fresh supplies can get low if the mail boat hasn’t made its regular trip to the Island. Credit cards are not widely accepted except at lodges and hotels. Confirm if your accommodation has Wifi, or you may be checking emails in the Bahamas Tel parking lot – like I did!

Where to Fish

Cat Island is one of those locations where there are more places to fish then you might have heard. With the exception of a couple of the creek systems all the fishing hot spots can be reached by car.

It takes a couple of hours to drive the length of the island so it is best to pick your accommodation close to where you want to fish.

Fishing Information

The fishing on Cat Island is a little different than some of the more famous Bahamian Islands. There are no large ocean side flats to speak of and most of the fishing is concentrated in the creeks. There are plenty of places to choose from and lots of variation to keep anglers happy for a solid couple of weeks. Even though the fishing is very good, there doesn’t seem to be much pressure. The fish readily take a fly and other than Pigeon Creek and Smith Bay I have not sensed that the fish have seen many anglers. Virtually every fishing location can be reached by car and foot making for an easy holiday. The usual box of flies will work, so no need to get to specialized. Overall I lean toward a size #4 tan Gotcha with rubber legs. One thing about fishing the creeks, you can almost always get out of the severe ocean winds by getting back into the creeks. That’s a nice break especially if new to bonefishing.

There are several local guides on the island, below are a couple:

Willard Clearly: orangecreekinn@yahoo.com

Nathaniel Gilbert: tangobeachcottages@yahoo.com

Where to Stay

There are a number of quality resorts to choose from along with a variety of houses and cottages. Some of the homes come with cars and kayaks, so ask. Check out websites like VRBO and Homeaway.com for available private rentals.

Orange Creek Inn- 16 motel style rooms, all with kitchenettes and a/c– clean comfortable, affordable, and adjacent to a spectacular 5-mile deserted beach within ten minutes of two restaurants and next door to a grocery store. Some units have a small kitchen.

Web: www.orangecreekbahamas.com

E-Mail: orangecreekinn@yahoo.com

Phone: (242) 354-4110

Pigeon Cay Beach Club – (northern Cat Island) Has 7 deluxe cottages steps away from the beach. Located 1 mile off the main road below Arthur’s Town Airport, they will stock your fridge if you want to cook for yourself, or they are happy to cook all meals! Bikes, Kayaks and Canoes are available for guests to use.

Web: www.pigeoncaybahamas.com

E-Mail: pcbclub@gmail.com

Phone: (242) 354-5084

Halvorson House Villa Resort located in Bennett’s Harbour offers five comfortable, clean bungalows, steps from a pristine white sandy beach. Matt and Sooner Halvorson have built a beautiful family friendly property (complete with a Kid’s Club for the young and old!) that is also great for couples. The open kitchen serves meals made to order, from a variety of local and international dishes, or choose to eat out. All villas have window screens, A/C, Egyptian cotton sheets and plush bath towels. Kayaks, paddleboards, bikes and snorkeling equipment are complimentary for your enjoyment.

Web: www.halvorsonhouse.com

E-Mail: mliefhalvorson@gmail.com

Phone: (242)359-9500

On beautiful Fernandez Bay, owner Cathleen Perdok of the Island HoppInn has one mission, to spoil her guests! Offering one or two bedroom suites equipped with A/C, a queen bed, hide-a-bed couch, microwave and fridge, this intimate resort is perfect for families or couples. Enjoy a delicious meal or beverage served at their new Tiki Bar overlooking the crystal blue ocean. Kayaks, inflatable boats and many other “water toys” are included.

Web: www.islandhoppinn.com

E-Mail: islandhoppinn@aol.com

Phone: (242) 342-2100

Greenwood Beach Resort – The Illing family have owned and operated this oasis on the water for over 20 years. The 16-room resort, most with ocean views, and 150 feet from the beach offers a freshwater pool, cozy dining room and an honor system bar.

Web: www.greenwoodbeachresort.com

E-mail: info@greenwoodbeachresort.com

Phone: (242) 342-3053

Hawks Nest Resort and Marina – On the remote southwest side of the Island is Hawks Nest Resort, offering recently remodeled beachfront rooms. Three bedroom homes are available for weekly rental. The property also has The Dining Room for meals and The Club Bar.

Web: www.hawks-nest.com

E-Mail: info@hawks-nest.com

Phone: (242) 342-7050

Getting Around

The two airports on Cat Island are Arthur’s Town Airport (ATC) in the north and New Bight Airport (TBI) located centrally.

Sky Bahamas has scheduled flights most days of the week from Nassau to Arthur’s Town and New Bight Airport and Bahamas Air flies daily except for Wednesdays.

United Airlines offer scheduled flights from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami to both airports on Cat Island

Sky Bahamas: www.skybahamas.net

Bahamas air: www.bahamasair.com

United: www.united.com

Ask when arranging your accommodation about transportation to and from the hotel, rental property and airport.

Car rentals range from $80 – $100 per day, try:

Gilbert’s: (242) 342-3011

New Bight Car Rentals: (242) 342-3014

Taxis are available in most major settlements and routinely stationed at the airports to meet incoming flights.

Spousal Rating 7

Cat Island is a quiet place and if the non-fishermen in the group just want to chill, this island is perfect.

Non-Fishing Activities

You can find many things to do on Cat Island, but it won’t be in the form of nightlife! Perfect for travelers content to create their own site seeing map, choose from diving or snorkeling around blue holes, kayaking, hiking and biking all in a relaxed atmosphere! The beaches are breath taking. Some have white sand, others are pink – but whatever the color, crowds are not an issue. The best beaches are found on the leeward side. Get a history lesson at the Columbus World Museum in Knowles or simply strike up a conversation with any long time resident, who love sharing stories that probably include their ancestors!

Visit the Hermitage at the top of Mt. Alvernia, located 3 ½ miles south of the New Bight Airport. Built by Father Jerome, a world famous architect and priest that came to Cat Island in 1939 seeking solitude. He built at least 4 churches, a school, convent and clinic on Cat Island, but is perhaps best known for his tribute to St. Francis of Assisi built on Comer Hill, renamed Mount Alvernia.

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