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Rod Hamilton

September 14, 2017

Fishing the Flats of Long Island, Bahamas

Lay of the Land

Divided by the Tropic of Cancer, this 80 mile long and four mile wide island lies 160 miles southeast of Nassau, and is known for scenery that is incredible and diverse. The southwest coast has beautiful white beaches with calm blue bays, while the northeast side has steep rocky headlands overlooking dark stormy waters. Add rolling hillsides, swampland, cave systems, white flat expanses where salt was extracted and you have Long Island!

Approximately 5,000 people live in the place originally named Yuma by the Arawaks until Christopher Columbus changed it to Fernandina in 1492. This is believed to be his third stop of that voyage, following San Salvador and Rum Cay. Lucayans lived in the cave systems here first, until they taken away to Cuba and Hispaniola as slaves. The first Loyalists arrived after fleeing the American Revolution establishing working farms and raising cattle and sheep. By the 1790’s, settlers from the Carolinas built successful cotton plantations that collapsed with the abolition of slavery.

Today the economy is based on fishing, farming and tourism. Pothole farming dating back to the Arawaks compensated for poor soil conditions and made use of the limestone found on the Island. Still the preferred method today, farmers place topsoil in large holes of limestone rock, (naturally occurring or man made) where they plant anything from peas, squash and corn, to bananas and mango trees.

Long Island is a quiet place, home to friendly people who value their history and celebrate life and community as it exists here. The Queen’s Highway provides a good road from Columbus Cove in the north to Gordon’s Settlement in the south, with side roads that are often nothing more than cleared dirt. The northernmost settlement is Seymour’s, home to about 200 people. Going south is Burnt Ground and then on to Stella Maris which has an airstrip, marina and plantation style resort complex. Fifteen minutes south is the settlement of Simms, one of the oldest on the island, which has a nurse staffed medical clinic, telephone and gas station, a couple of restaurants and small stores.

Ten miles further south is Salt Pond, home to the annual Long Island Regatta usually held in May. The mail boat comes in here, so it is generally well stocked with groceries, over the counter medication, hardware and household goods. Next is Deadman’s Cay, the largest settlement, outfitted with a medical clinic and the main airport for the Island. Several settlements run together here and you will find restaurants, a number of small hotels and a couple of gas stations.

The Island capital is Clarence Town that has most services including a medical clinic, gas station, several restaurants and a good supply of groceries. Continuing south you will see more small villages that dot the length of the Island, the occasional restaurant and tavern, ruins dating from the days of the plantations, until you arrive all the way to Gordon’s at the bottom of the Island, where you might just feel like you are at the end of the world! Banks can be found in Stella Maris, and Deadman’s Cay, gas stations and grocery stores are usually closed on Sundays and don’t forget to confirm Internet and cell phone service in advance.

Where to Fish

As the name suggests, Long Island is long, so it’s best to pick a place to stay where you can reach the flats in a reasonable period of time. If you stay in the north, concentrate on the northern fishing areas and the same goes for the southern section of the island. From a purely geographic point of view, a central location like Salt Pond or Deadman’s Cay makes the most sense and you won’t be spending two hours each day driving.

I have used the odometer where I can, as many of the side roads don’t have names and may not be easily found.

Starting at the Deadman’s Cay Airport road where it intersects with the highway set your odometer to “0” and head north.

Public Dump Road – This utilitarian name refers to the area two miles north of the airport road where there is public access to the Island’s dump. This is the only entry point for a walk and wade angler to enter a large flat and mangrove system. Park the car at the dump making sure it is out of the way of other vehicles and then walk east behind the dump to a large expansive flat. It’s a long walk at low tide but a great place to fish and opens up a huge area both north and south.

Gray’s Landing Drive – This is found 6.8 miles north and located across the highway from a cell tower. It’s a long drive to the end of road but there are good rocky flats both north and south of the old concrete dock.

Minnis Street – This is found at 9.7 miles on the odometer, where you turn left on Minnis Street and drive to the end of the road. It’s easy to get to and one of my favorite places to hit on the incoming tide. The bottom is rocky with potholes, so wading isn’t particularly easy, but fishing can be very good as the tide rises and the bones are looking to get back into the mangroves. You can fish both the north and south sides of the mangrove island depending on the direction and strength of the wind.

Pinder/Salt Pond – This is an unmarked road at 10.5 miles north of the airport and just before the road sign marking the border between Pinder and Salt Pond. Drive to the end of the road to fish this nice flat. I prefer to fish the southern section.

Roadside – At mile 12.6 the road runs beside the water and is a good place to park the car. This is a low tide flat and can be fished from here south to Line Bay.

Thompson Bay Peninsula Road – You will see beautiful Thompson Bay prior to getting to the road, but at mile 15.6 you will find the dirt road that runs the length of the peninsula. At low tide there are plenty of areas to fish from the point back to the Bay’s beach. Find an access point to fish the peninsula’s south shore.

Wemyss – Once you reach the settlement of Wemyss, mark the Anglican Church and carry on north another half a mile where there is access to fish the beach of Wemyss Bight. At times there is good fishing for cruising bonefish along the shoreline and a great spot to bring the kids to play while you keep your eyes open for tails.

Alligator Bay – This nice stretch of water is north of Wemyss where the road curves back to the water at Alligator Bay. You can park the car at the side of the road; grab your rod and fish. I prefer to fish the southern end of the bay that can be reached by driving down the road south of the settlement and heading to the marina. Park at the marina and begin fishing the southern corner of the bay while wading north.

Doctor’s Creek Cove – This is a tiny little cove beside the road in the settlement of Doctor’s Creek. Just pull the car over and spend five minutes looking for tails. It’s surprising how many times fish will be rooting around in this spot completely oblivious to the road traffic.

Deal Beach – This settlement is north of Simms where a nice beach parallels the road and provides an excellent place to both cast a line and relax. The entire length of the beach is fishable but I prefer the rockier section located at the south end during low tide.

Harvey’s Bay – This bay is situated north of Deals Beach. Although I can’t say I have had lots of luck at Harvey’s Bay but if you want to stop for a little rest, there are bones cruising the shoreline.

Millertons – Upon reaching Millertons the road meets back with the water and follows it for just under a mile. There are plenty of places to pull over and fish.

Adderley Bay – This large bay is one of my favorite spots to fish on Long island and always seems to be productive on the incoming tide. It is directly across from the Stella Maris sign. At low tide, the water completely leaves the mangroves and the fish are “somewhere” out in the bay. If the tide is low in the morning or evening this is an ideal area to look for tails. On the incoming tide the fish are eager to get back into the mangroves and it’s possible to set perfect interception points while walking the mangrove edge. It is a large bay so the fish can be spread out and a little difficult to find at times, but they are there. You can park on a short dirt road on the north end of the bay that gets close to the water or just park beside the highway and make the short walk through the mangroves to the water.

Burnt Ground – Burnt Ground Settlement is the beginning of some nice creek systems located on the northern end of the island. Immediately before the Burnt Ground Settlement sign is a small pullout on the left hand side of the road. Park here and you can see a narrow creek that winds its way down to the bay. This is a great spot, there is little pressure and the fishing extends south for a distance of approximately 1 mile. Depending on the tide, you can catch the fish either moving up the creek during an incoming tide or exiting the creek on the outgoing tide.

Glinton Dock – As you enter Glinton, turn left at the Eagle Eyes guide sign and drive to the end of the cement dock. Walk south along the shore for 400 yards to reach the mouth of the creek system. Catch fish leaving the creek on the outgoing tide. Fish the shoreline on the low tide.

Glinton Sound – Once you reach Glinton locate the Anglican Church. Approximately 0.43 miles from the church is the ball field on the left side of the road. Off in the distance you can see Glinton Sound. To get to Glinton Sound park the car and enter the mangroves behind the ball field’s washroom structure. It is a bit of a walk but there are literally miles of flats in front of you.

Seymours – As you enter Seymours you will cross a small causeway with a large creek and flat on your left and a smaller section of the same creek system on your right. Park on the left side as you head north and fish this large creek down to the bay. The fishing here can be very good and well worth a day. The top end of the creek next to the road always seems to have fish at high tide.

Newton Cay – Driving north from Seymours continue on the paved road until you reach the end at Newton Cay. On your left is the outlet to a creek system that begins at the Columbus Monument flat and flows south to this spot. The creek has another entrance with good tidal flow on the north end as well as at Newton Cay. Fish enter the creek on each tide and the fishing is good throughout the creeks entire length.

Columbus Monument flat – This used to be one of those secret spots, seldom fished and a favorite on the north end of Long Island. To get there, back track on the pavement from Newton Cay toward the Cape Santa Maria turn off but before reaching the corner, take the dirt road heading north. For reference the dirt road to the Columbus Monument is 0.37 miles north of the Cape Santa Maria turn off. The road has deteriorated over the years but is still passable for most vehicles. There is a nice parking area at the monument, but to reach the flat you should park your car about 0.5 miles before the main parking area. At this spot you will find a nice path to a picture perfect flat and creek. I did say it’s not a secret any more! There are lots of fish here, so it’s just a matter of getting the tide right.

For fishing the south end of the island, reset the odometer to “0” at the junction of the Deadman’s Cay Airport road and the highway and head south.

Library/Museum flat – This very productive flat is located across the street from the Long Island Library and Museum. The road to the flat is 1.6 miles south of the airport, directly opposite the N.G.M. Major High School. Drive to the end of the short road to fish the flats to the south. There are a couple of small creek openings 100 yards south and the mangrove flats fill up quickly when the tide turns. This is a quality location and just the right size to fish during one tide

Cartwright – Drive 2.8 miles south is to an unmarked short dirt road opening up to excellent flats and lagoons. This area deserves some special attention.

Mangrove Bush – You can find Mangrove Bush at mile 4.5 where the road follows the water again for one mile. You can park your car anywhere along here and walk to the shoreline.

Hamilton – Once past the sign that welcomes you to Hamilton at mile 5.3 is a short gravel road to your right. This is an important spot as it allows the only access to a large area to the south. You can walk out to the little cays at low tide and fish the small lagoons to the south, although the bottom is soft in places.

Funeral Home – This landmark at mile 7.4 on a long dirt road located before a small funeral home. This is a rough road, particularly at the end where you need to cross over a small wooden bridge. Once you reach the ocean, head north until you can’t drive any more and hike the remaining distance to the creek.

Dean’s Blue Hole – The intersection to Dean’s Blue Hole is at mile 7.5 and rather than taking the road left to the hole, go right. Follow this long road and when you first see the water, take the short left and cross the culvert. This is the very top end of a long creek and flat that holds some good fish.

Clarence Town – Here are a nice series of well-known flats with direct access to the ocean about three miles from the center of Clarence Town. Because there are a series of roads to follow, it is best to get a good look on Google Earth to understand the road system before heading there. The flats are located southeast of Clarence Town between Clem Cay and Long Island.

Galloway – As you exit Clarence Town there is a paved road between the two inland lakes heading south on your right to Galloway Landing. Follow this road all the way to the ocean. At the ocean, head north to the right and this gets you close to the ocean outlet of the creek originally accessed from the Dean’s Blue Hole intersection road. From here, there are approximately three miles of water to fish. Now back track and head south, following the road along the ocean toward the Diamond Salt Works ponds. The road used to go the entire length of the salt ponds and a driver could make it to Morrisville, but it has been washed out. Still this is an excellent way to fish the northern section of the salt ponds.

Diamond Salt Works – Once you enter Morrisville, south of Clarence Town you will pass the Morrisville Elementary School. One kilometer south of the school is a road into the heart of the Diamond Salt Works salt ponds. This is a huge complex series of ponds that can get confusing. Bonefishing can be good in the ponds but it is important to find those locations where the dykes and gates have been compromised and there is direct tidal flow in and out of the pond. The best way to find the “good” ponds is to drive to the road bordering the beach and head north past the Diamond Works infrastructure ruins.

Gordon’s – The last place to fish in the south is the creek system at the end of the road in Gordon’s. There is a short dirt road into the creek where boats are tied up or at the end of the road is a parking area on the beautiful sand beach. It’s best to walk up the beach toward the creek mouth and access it from there.

Fishing Information

There are countless locations on Long Island to DIY as can be seen by the list above. Central Long island has the largest concentration of wadeable flats and creeks but the areas of the north are awfully inviting. Southern Long Islands flats and creeks are spread out and there are fewer of them, but a few of the creeks are enormous and almost never get fished.

Other than fishing the salt ponds at Deadman’s Cay there isn’t a real need for a kayak on Long Island, a rental car will get you to lots of fish.

There are a number of local guides on the island and listed below are three respected guides that have fished these waters all their lives. If you are staying in the north call Docky and if staying centrally fish with Loxley or Mark.

Docky Smith: www.bonafidebonefishing.com

Mark Cartwright: www.longislandbonefishinglodge.com

The usual flies and equipment work fine on Long island. There is no need to get fancy since the fish don’t receive much pressure. On my last trip I only saw two other self-guided fishermen on this very large island. I suggest going with a typical Bahamian box, size #4 – #6 tan, cream and brown Crazy Charlies and Gotcha’s, some Clousers including green and a good selection of crab patterns. Because some of the ocean side flats are “rocky” with holes and crevices you should take along a few flies with weed guards.

Long Island does offer a rather unique opportunity to fish the maze of salt ponds left by the now defunct Diamond Salt Works. It’s unlike any other bonefishing experience and certainly worth trying. Once you learn the patterns of the fish entering the ponds through breaks in the dykes or canal system, you can count on the fish doing the same thing on every tide.

Where to Stay

Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort is located on the west coast, known for mile after mile of calm blue water and white sandy beaches. With 20 beachfront bungalows and a handful of beautiful new villas, your time here will feel special yet relaxed.

Web: www.capesantamaria.com

Stella Maris Resort Club is set on a gorgeous green bluff overlooking the Atlantic. The plantation resort offers a wide range of vacation rentals, comfortable one bedroom and two bedroom bungalows, including luxurious water front homes. They offer a casual dining room, bar and lounge, satellite TV, pools, bikes and complimentary island excursions.

Web: www.stellamarisresort.com

Chez Pierre’s is built on a beautiful and virtually deserted beach in Millers Bay. It’s 6 comfortable cottages with screened porches reflect the simple and pure lifestyle of the Bahamas. Kayaks and snorkeling equipment are available for guests, excellent breakfasts and dinners come out of the restaurant and Pierre may be able to help with a car rental.

Web: www.chezpierrebahamas.com

Long Island Bonefish Lodge owner Nevin “Pinky” Knowles, provides an all inclusive, assisted DIY bonefishing experience, only 5 minutes by boat from the hard bottomed walk and wade flats of Deadman’s Cay. Accommodation is suitable for 8 anglers in 2 duplex style cottages furnished with two queen sized beds and bathroom in each side. The dining area, bar and lounge are found in the main building where the coffee is on at 6:30 each morning with breakfast following! Lunch is made to order sandwiches, snacks and drinks to eat on the flats and dinner back at the lodge varies each night with a Bahamian flair.

Web: www.longislandbonefishinglodge.com

Long Island Breeze Resort is located in Salt Pond where Michael McKnought’s waterfront location offers island style atmosphere and delivers all the comforts we hope for when on vacation. Choose from budget conscious private bungalows, well priced Ocean View cottages or go top of the line and reserve their deluxe ocean view apartment, offering a full kitchen, living, office and dining areas. Meal plan options are available or choose to pick up something at the grocery store across the street or eat out. Watch the weekly mail boat arrive at the dock next door from the beautiful deck surrounding the pool or get out of the sun and relax in their large open dining room and bar.

Web: www.longislandbreezeresort.com

Getting Around

Bahamas Air will get you from Nassau to Stella Maris on Monday, Thursday and Friday and daily between Nassau and Deadman’s Cay. Pineapple Air flies from Nassau to both airports most days of the week, with the exception of going to Deadman’s Cay only Monday and Friday. Southern Air flies to both Deadman’s Cay and Stella Maris most days of the week.

Check their current schedules at:

Bahamas Air www.bahamasair.com

Pineapple Air www.pineappleair.com

Southern Air www.southernaircharter.com

Even if you just feel like hanging out at one of the resorts, consider renting a car for at least a couple days of exploration.

Mr. T’s: (242) 337-1054

Seaside Car Rental: (242) 338-0041

Unique Wheels Rental: (242) 225-7720

Enquire about airport transportation, car or scooter rentals when booking accommodation. Kayaks, boats and bikes are often available as well.

Spousal Rating – 7

My wife and I enjoy Long Island and ranks as one of our favorite destinations. There are some nice deserted beaches and places to lie back and enjoy the tropical sun, but the charm of Long Island is more about its history, culture and activities not easily found on other Bahamian islands.

Non-Fishing Activities

Experience history at the top of the Island and take the short hike up to the Christopher Columbus monument at the top of the north end cliffs, which overlook stunning bright green seas. The Adderley’s Plantation ruins are on the lands of Stella Maris and can be dated back to the 1790’s. Hamilton’s Caves are one of the Bahamas largest systems, with 50-foot wide passages and 10-foot ceilings. Contact Mr. Leonard Cartwright at 242-337-0235 for cave tour information.

The Long Island Museum and Library is in Buckleys and St. Mary’s Anglican Church, thought to be the oldest Spanish Church in the Bahamas is south of Salt Pond. Drive into Clarence Town and see the famous twin churches built by Father Jerome. On the left side of the road is St. Paul’s Anglican Church with a red roof, built when he was an Anglican, and on the right side of the road, is St. Paul’s Catholic Church built Father Jerome after he converted to Catholicism, with a blue roof!

Crystal clear waters, unspoiled reefs and amazing marine life make water activity of all kinds a natural. Long Island has numerous dive sites, but is best known for Dean’s Blue Hole, the deepest recorded blue hole at 600 feet just south of Clarence Town. Located in a protected calm bay, you can scuba dive the steep walls of the blue hole or snorkel on top!

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