Welcome to Cat Island, Bahamas
Welcome to Cat Island! I’m Vince Tobia, your DIY area specialist for this wonderful part of The Bahamas. I am the founder/owner of Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters, a US outfitting company that has been involved for some time in the creation of DIY Fishing opportunities in the Bahamas. I have helped several lodges in the Bahamas start DIY programs, and I have helped hundreds of individual anglers set up trips there on their own. I am here to assist you in planning a trip to Cat island. I fell in Read more...
Vince Tobia - Area Specialist
Welcome to Cat Island! I’m Vince Tobia, your DIY area specialist for this wonderful part of The Bahamas. I am the founder/owner of Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters, a US outfitting company that has been involved for some time in the creation of DIY Fishing opportunities in the Bahamas. I have helped several lodges in the Bahamas start DIY programs, and I have helped hundreds of individual anglers set up trips there on their own. I am here to assist you in planning a trip to Cat island. I fell in love with the beauty and laid-back vibe of Cat island when I visited it with my family several years ago. We had a great time exploring the beaches and creeks and snorkeling the reefs. We also found great bonefishing in the creeks around the island. Of course there are also barracuda, jacks, snapper, and sharks around. Cat island is unique in that it is a great place to take non-angling friends and family who love quiet beaches and don’t need exciting nightlife. There is rich history and folklore on the island, hiking trails and many places to explore. For the angler, the big appeal is unspoiled flats with uneducated bonefish. So, drop me a line at the following address. I’m ready to help you plan your trip to Cat Island. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lay of the Land
This fishhook-shaped island, centrally located in the Bahamas chain, 130 miles southeast of Nassau, is 48 miles long and between 1 and 4 miles wide. It is home to Mount Alvernia, the nation’s highest point at 206 feet above sea level and well worth the short hike to see a panoramic view. The mountaintop is the site of the Hermitage, a scaled replica of a 12th-century monastery. The island’s 1,650 residents work hard for what they have as farmers, fishermen, and tourism service providers. They live by the philosophy “What nature and the Lord will provide,” making this is a peaceful, gentle place.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, as there is a good main highway running its 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 area’s 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 Mount Alvernia and the Hermitage. Old Bight is four 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 that your accommodations have Wi-Fi or you may be checking e-mails in the Bahamas Tel parking lot—like I did!
Bonefish is the number one species but there is some decent reef fishing for snapper and grouper especially on the west side. Some of the larger flats have their share of barracuda and sharks for those who like to cast to toothy creatures.
Where to Fish
The fishing on Cat Island is a little different than some of the more famous Bahamian Islands. There are no large oceanside 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. Cat Island is one of those locations where there are more places to fish than you might have heard. With the exception of two 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 accommodations close to where you want to fish.Northern Cat IslandOrange Creek — This is one of the better-known areas on Cat Island to fish. Access is simple and there are always fish there. Famed local guide Willard Cleary told me he favored fishing an incoming tide right through to the high. At high tide the fish seem to roam the flats instead of moving into the mangroves. Follow the main highway to Orange Creek Settlement, and after passing the Orange Creek Inn you will see the creek entrance on your left. Park the car anywhere along the road and step onto the flats. This isn’t a large system, but it’s big enough for three fishermen to comfortably spread out.Bennett’s Creek — This beautiful creek takes a bit of work to get to, but is worth the effort. The best way to reach it is to take the short road to the main cement dock in Bennett’s Harbour. Launch a kayak on the incoming tide and paddle 15 minutes up the creek to the point where it widens out. From here you can walk and wade for the rest of the day, exiting on the low tide. The creek entrance is big and a large volume of water enters and leaves on each tide, along with a bunch of bonefish that don’t see many flies. If you know what you are doing, there is a channel that connects Bennett’s Creek and Pigeon Creek.Pigeon Creek — This creek lies south of Bennett’s Creek with its entrance to the ocean at Alligator Point. It’s a perfect creek and flat for the walk-and-wade angler—easy to get to with a nice firm bottom, and the fish have a regular routine that is easy to figure out. There are two ways to access the creek; the first is to take a left off the main highway on the road to Pigeon Cay. Drive past the Pigeon Cay Beach Club, which is an excellent place to stay, and continue to the end of the road. Park here and take the short trail to the creek with the widest part of the flat in front of you. The second access point is along the main highway before reaching Thurston Hill. The creek is on the left (when heading north), and there are a couple of points to walk from the road to the water. At high tide the fish scatter throughout the flat and into the mangroves. On the incoming and outgoing tides they use the deeper channel on the far northern shore against the limestone rock as their highway.North Shore — There are several places to fish on the north shore that are mainly unexplored and receive virtually no attention. I will leave this area up to the more adventuresome, but it can be reached from several roads including the road at Arthur’s Town Airport.Central Cat IslandSmith Bay — Located slightly north of Fernandez Bay, this is a popular spot and easy to get to. If you are staying at Island HoppInn, it’s just a matter of walking out your back door to the south end of the bay. Otherwise, park beside the highway south of the government dock and walk in from there. Most people prefer the southern end of Smith Bay, but there are nice flats on the north end as well. These fish see a little more pressure, so long leaders and lighter flies are necessary. At high tide the fish make it into the mangroves, so I would advise fishing on the low and incoming tides. Fernandez Bay Creek — On the southern end of Fernandez Bay is a large, complex creek system with two ocean entrances. The first opening is immediately south of the beach and can be reached by walking down the beach and then into the creek. The bottom is soft, so I prefer to stay on the rocks and walk the perimeter until I’m well into the creek. The flats dry completely at low tide, making it necessary to time the tide correctly. My preferred way to fish this system, which is admittedly more difficult, is to kayak from the Fernandez Bay beach around the point to the southern opening. Paddle as far up the creek as you can go and start fishing from there. This is a much harder fishing day, as the paddle is about 1.5 miles, but it’s worth it.Musgrove Creek — I’m not sure if this is really the name of the creek; like many places in the Bahamas it has two or three names. To get there use the New Bight Airport road as a marker and take the side road to the water 1.8 miles south of the airport. Once on the access road, turn right before crossing the small bridge and follow it to the creek mouth. This small, intimate creek always has fish on the low and incoming tides but is only large enough for one or two fishermen. The best approach is to fish the mouth at low tide and walk up the creek from the mouth toward the little bridge on the creek’s top end. The creek empties into a small bay that also has cruising bones on low tide and as the tide turns. On the northern end of the bay is another small creek system. I have only fished the mouth at low tide and not explored further up.Armbrister Creek, Bottom End — This is one of my favorite places to fish, as it’s a long creek with a wonderful mangrove ecosystem along both shores and the top end. There are plenty of places for the fish to hide, so it’s best to intercept them on the way in and out. Access to the creek is at two different locations. First, continuing south on the main highway, you’ll reach the turn to Pilot Harbor approximately six miles south of the airport, before reaching Moss Town. Follow the road around to the mouth of Armbrister Creek to fish the beautiful ocean flat out front. This is the perfect spot to intercept fish on the outgoing tide. Continue to drive along the side of the creek, cross the culvert, and look for the short road on the right. Park where you can and step into the creek here. There is excellent fishing from this point up to the old dilapidated rock road. The second access point is back on the main highway continuing south to Old Bight.Armbrister Creek, Upper End — The road to this area is across the street from the Old Bight Primary School, approximately 8.2 miles from the airport. Driving down the road you cross the creek and if you keep going straight can park at one of Cat Island’s most beautiful beaches. If you are there to fish, take the dirt road right (just before the beach) and follow the creek system until you find the abandoned stone road on your right. Park here and walk out the road to where it has collapsed. Enter the creek and fish either north or south depending on the tide. Joe’s Sound — This sound is on the same road as Armbrister Creek, but instead of turning right at the beach turn left. Once you park the car, walk as far as possible then cut across the mangroves to the creek. It’s not easy walking at first and I have sunk up to my knees, but the bottom gets firmer once you reach the open water.Southern Cat IslandFrankfort Creek — Located on the southern end of the island, inside Springfield Bay, Frankfort Creek is one of the more popular systems on Cat Island. It’s reached by driving south on the main highway toward Devil’s Point. When you reach the roundabout, find the short road with a dilapidated building on the southern portion of the roundabout. Park at the building and follow the well-used trail onto the flat. It’s a large area and best fished on the lower and incoming tides. Once the tide reaches midway or higher, the fish spread out and head into the mangroves. The entrance to Springfield Bay is to the left, which is the direction to head on the low tide. The fish congregate toward the opening and then feed back into the creek on the incoming tide.Cutlass Bay — As you head toward Port Howe, Cutlass Bay, a nice oceanside sandy beach with cruising fish on a low tide, is on the right. Flamingo Bay — A little farther east of Cutlass Bay lies Flamingo Bay. This small beach has some good fishing at low tide.Port Howe — Where the road takes a hard left in Port Howe, park beside the old Deveaux Plantation building and walk to the oceanside flats. These are very good flats and always produce fish. It is best to walk to the left and fish the north corner.Winding Bay and Little Winding Bay — I have it on good authority that both of these bays are excellent, but I have never fished them. Access is problematic unless you have a boat. Little Winding Bay can be reached at low tide by walking the beach south from the Greenwood Beach Resort; according to the Cat Island Visitors Guide, there are “two natural hiking trails” to the bays. I suspect they are part of the trails to the plantation ruins in the area but I’ve never been on them.Greenwood Beach Resort Beach — If you are staying at this resort, there is some limited bonefishing along the beach.French’s Bay — Located at Devil’s Point, this stunning white-sand beach has some excellent fishing in the eastern corner. Hawks Nest Beach — Before reaching Devil’s Point take the road north toward Hawks Nest Resort and Marina. Once you have crossed the island, a sign will point to the left down a potholed dirt road toward Hawks Nest Resort. Continue to drive straight instead of taking the road to the resort. This is a beautiful long beach with plenty of bonefish on the incoming tide. Hawks Nest Creek — Just before reaching Hawks Nest Resort you will begin seeing the creek system on your left. This is a large system that holds lots of fish. I prefer to fish more toward the ocean entrance, but there are a number of spots to wade throughout the entire system.
What to Bring
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. The usual box of flies will work, so there is no need to get too specialized. Overall, I lean toward a size #4 tan Gotcha or Orange Butt Bunny fly with rubber legs.
Virtually every fishing location on Cat Island can be reached by car, making for an easy holiday. It takes a couple of hours to drive the length of the island, so it is best to pick your accommodations close to where you want to fish.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 from Nassau to Arthur’s Town and New Bight Airport and Bahamasair flies daily except for Wednesdays. United Airlines offers scheduled flights from Fort Lauderdale and Miami to both airports on Cat Island.
Cat Island gets a 7. Cat Island is a quiet place with beautiful beaches and if the non-fishermen in the group just want to chill, this island is perfect. You can find many things to do on Cat Island, but it won’t be in the form of nightlife! This island is perfect for travelers content to create their own sightseeing map, choosing from diving or snorkeling around blue holes, kayaking, hiking, and biking, all in a relaxed atmosphere! The beaches are breathtaking. 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. Visit the Hermitage at the top of Mount Alvernia, located three and a half miles south of the New Bight Airport. The monastery was built by Monsignor John C. Hawes, also known as Father Jerome, a world-famous architect and priest who came to Cat Island in 1939 seeking solitude. He built at least four churches, a school, a convent, and a clinic on Cat Island but is perhaps best known for his tribute to St. Francis of Assisi built on Comer Hill, renamed Mount Alvernia.