Lay of the Land
The Exuma archipelago comprises more than 360 cays spread over an area of 130 miles, beginning a mere 30 miles southeast of Nassau. Great Exuma, at 37 miles in length, is the largest of the Exuma Islands. It connects to Little Exuma in the south by a causeway. Small villages dot Great Exuma, with the largest settlement being George Town, found in the center. Contagious feelings of peace and serenity flow from the friendly 4,000 residents, most of whom are employed in some kind of marine activity related to fishing, diving, or boating. Tourism and farming make up the other primary economic contributors.
Well-known as a boater’s paradise, Exuma is building a reputation as an excellent DIY bonefishing destination. The main highway is in good shape, making exploration of the area easy. The airport is 15 minutes northwest of Exuma’s capital, George Town, where you will find a medical clinic staffed with a doctor, dentist, and nurse working somewhat regular hours. Banks, ATMs, and reasonably stocked (by Out Island standards) grocery and hardware stores are here as well.
But it isn’t all business! There are picturesque anchorages to visit along the waterfront, books to trade at the lending library, and George Town’s terrific straw market showcasing locally made baskets, handbags, and hats. Landlines, cell phones, and Internet are everywhere, but confirm “what works where” in advance.
Beachfront homes can be rented right on the flats where you fish. You should count on cooking and eating most of your meals at home. There are well-stocked grocery stores in George Town to do your shopping, and plenty of places throughout the island to buy fish and lobster. There are a number of small restaurants and eateries as well, and it’s nice to try a few out for dinners if they are open.
Primarily bonefish with some permit caught with guides. In all the years I have fished The Exumas I have never seen either a permit or tarpon while walking or kayaking. There are some nice areas on the north east shore to catch snapper and other reef fish along the deeper drop offs. If you have a kayak its possible to paddle out to deeper water to cast a clouser in 10 – 12 foot water for snapper and grouper.
Where to Fish
For the DIY fisherman staying on Great Exuma, the fishing areas are divided into two main areas, the windward flats from George Town to Moriah Harbour Cay and the leeward flats from the Little Exuma bridge all the way to Barraterre. The fishing on the windward side is not as good as the leeward side, but there are fair numbers of bonefish and we have seen some big ones. Most of the quality flats and creeks are located on the leeward side. Of all the places I’ve fished, the Exumas are one of the destinations where having a kayak makes the difference between an average trip and a great trip. Ensure the place you stay has a kayak and will let you transport it throughout the island, or else arrange for one on your own. Many of the areas, streets, and creeks do not have formal names, so the references used here are my own. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for directions.
Airport Flats — These are some of the most beautiful flats in the Bahamas and are easily reached by self-guided anglers. To be clear, these are the flats located south and east of the abandoned airport runway, next to the U.S. military installation, south of George Town. For years the guides of Great Exuma would fish these flats with their clients, but I see them less and less now, as kayakers and wading fishermen have discovered the area for themselves. The flats are so extensive that I’ve broken them up into three sections with separate access points to each. As long as you have a kayak to cross the shoreline channel, you can fish it all. The fish here get pressured and see enough flies to make them skittish, but I have found them more catchable than some other difficult places like Cherokee Sound on Abaco or Savannah Sound on Eleuthera.
Airport Flats, West — This section comprises the flats and cays extending west from the abandoned runway, including Mary, Bonefish, and Gutter Cays. They start due south of the kayak put-in and are reached with a paddle of just more than a half mile. Once across the channel you can walk and wade the flats all the way to Bonefish Cay at low tide and then fish completely around the mangrove edge. There are too many cays and flats to name in the immediate area, but a kayak makes many of them accessible for DIY fishing. To reach the put-in, drive to the old airport then down the runway to the garbage/recycling area and take the dirt road to the left, following it to the boat ramp used by locals. Launch your kayak here and paddle due south across the channel to the cay in the distance. This is not the place to fish at high tide; the fish are out of reach deep into the mangroves.
Airport Flats, Middle — There are numerous places to access the middle flats; the easiest is to stay at one of the homes located on the shore. Take either of the entry roads into the Master Harbour residential area, a grand unfulfilled dream of the 1960s, and head to the leeward side of the island. Once you reach the shore, there are several places to put in. My preference is the one at the northern end of the residential development where the road ends close to a nice cove. I launch the kayak here, paddle the 100 yards across the channel, anchor the kayak, and fish to the west. From here you can walk two miles to the west and three miles to the east.Airport Flats, East — This is the one section of the flats where you don’t need a kayak. At high tide the water reaches your waist and it’s calf deep at low tide. As you enter Rolletown from the north, take the dirt road heading south. The road stops at the water about one kilometer from the Queen’s Highway. At the water’s edge you will see a vast flat in front, enticing you to wade from there. Though it is good in every direction, I prefer to walk the rocky shoreline east (left) for a half mile before entering the water. Walk the 200 yards across the channel and begin fishing. There are schools of bones that follow the tide and seem to be less spooky than those in the middle section. Once standing on the flat, it is a beautiful sight to behold. You can literally see five miles west, with nothing in front of you but white Bahamian bonefish flats.
Man-O-War Cay — This area is reached by driving south from George Town to Rolletown and reaching the water by taking the first road to the left on the ocean side. The turn is found on the north edge of Rolletown once you have passed the two bends in the road. The road leads to a boat launch and is a good place to put in the kayak. From here it is a half-mile paddle to the shore of Man-O-War Cay, where you can walk or kayak the bays and flats to the north. In addition, there are other spots along the coast to launch where the paddle to the south end of Man-O-War Cay is as short as 300 yards. Good fishing can be found along the leeward shore of the cay on the incoming tide.
Moriah Harbour Cay — Both the western and eastern ends of Moriah Harbour Cay have excellent flats. You can reach the western end by kayaking across the channel south from Man-O-War Cay or putting in south of Rolletown. If staying at Exuma Vacation Cottages, launch off their dock and make the half-mile paddle to the western flats. To reach the eastern flats, drive south toward the old Peace and Plenty Lodge and put in from the road. The eastern flats and creeks are a longer paddle around Goat Cay, but there are some wonderful areas to fish.Sand Point — You may have to ask a local about this site. After crossing the bridge to Little Exuma, take a left and drive to the ocean opening at Sand Point. You can put in on the ocean side and paddle around the point or put in on the bay side. Either way you need a kayak to fish the interior flats.
Little Exuma Mangrove Flats — Cross the bridge to Little Exuma and take the first right to a series of extensive mangroves and creek systems. One mile from the highway there are two different short dirt roads to pull off. You need a kayak in here, but it’s a great place to explore. Continue on the same road for another 1.2 miles to a path leading through the mangroves and to the water. This is a good place to put in the kayak, as it opens up an endless array of flats, creeks, and mangrove cays.
Turtle Cove — Halfway between Moores Hill and William’s Town is a zigzag road to the ocean side. Drive to the bottom to find a small creek opening and creek system.
Scott’s Creek — Driving to William’s Town on Little Exuma, go past the Santana Fish Fry Shack then take the road to the right. This takes you to a concrete pier, boat ramp, and Scott’s Creek. Launch the kayak and paddle down the creek to the ocean. There are two nice flats that are easy to wade, and there always seem to be fish on the incoming tide.
Hartswell Flat — In Hartswell, look for the old residential development large enough to hold hundreds of homes but in fact holds very few. Once in the development, follow the roads to the southeast corner where you will find the bonefish flats of Hartswell. This is an excellent group of flats with substantial flow to bring the fish in and out with the tide. These can be waded, but a kayak comes in handy.
Almgreen Creek — North of George Town and directly across the island from Hooper’s Bay is Almgreen Creek at Bullard’s Landing. Leaving the Queen’s Highway at Tar Bay, head toward the Hermitage. At the Hermitage, take the left turn to Bullard’s Landing. Launch your kayak here at the opening of Almgreen Creek and you can paddle to the southeast up the creek to the flats and mangroves.Tarpum Creek — Instead of turning off the road to Almgreen Creek at the Hermitage, continue straight to a small settlement and at the right-hand turn take the dirt track to the water. This is Tarpum Creek with excellent fishing on the flats and in the creek. A kayak is necessary here.
Exuma Airport Creek — Located south of the Exuma International Airport in Moss Town is a large creek system that can be fished by kayak. The simplest way to reach it is from the Queen’s Highway 0.4 miles south of the airport on the road to Moss Town. Follow this road for 1.3 miles to the boat dock that is directly on the creek providing access to the flats. This is Pindling Drive, which follows the shoreline and provides access to a number of fishable creeks and flats both north and south.
Southside Pier — North of the airport, drive through Farmer’s Hill to the leeward side of the island to reach the Southside Pier. Put the kayak in here and paddle to the south about 0.5 miles where you will find a little creek and mangrove system that is home to a good population of fish.
Alexander Flat — This is a large creek and flat located on the leeward side of the northwest end of the island. It can be accessed from a couple of places. The first is down a rough path from Richmond Hill Settlement and the second is farther north from the small settlement of Alexander. Once in Alexander, there is a short road leading to a parking area where the locals tie up boats. The creek and flats are massive, and a kayak is necessary to reach the fish.
Smith Creek — This is the first creek crossed on the way to Barreterre. Use this creek to access the flats north or south of the bridge. Both directions are excellent, so make the decision based on the direction of the tide.
Odi Creek — The second bridge to Barreterre crosses Odi Creek one mile north of Smith Creek. The two creeks are part of the same system so you can put in at either place, but Odi Creek is a little closer to the northern sections of the flat.
North End — There are two nice beaches and flats on the north end of the island. The first is just north of Rolleville where the Queen’s Highway takes a hard right-hand turn at the water. You can fish the shore here or paddle a kayak out to the small cays 250 yards offshore then keep paddling through the cut to the cays on the other side. The second beach is north another mile. Park where you can see the beach to wade.
What to Bring
The recommended fly box for this island contains the normal assortment of Charlies and Gotcha patterns in the #6–#8 size leaning toward cream and tan colors to match the bottom. My go-to fly is the tan Greg’s Flats fly in size #6 & #8. Also carry some small crab imitations. My favorite is the Pops Bitter. I have become partial to adding rubber legs on the patterns used in Great Exuma, usually tan silly legs to the tan patterns and clear sparkle silly legs for the cream patterns. In general, I fish somewhat smaller flies on Great Exuma than on other Bahamian islands. On Airport Flats I fish even smaller flies, longer leaders and lighter flourocarbon tippets.
Copied From Predecessor Site DIY Bonefishing
Great Exuma offers the DIY fisherman plenty of areas to explore on your own. I have found most them are best accessed with a kayak or small boat, but there are some flats that can be accessed by car and foot. For the DIY fisherman staying on Great Exuma the fishing areas are divided into two main areas, the windward flats from Georgetown to Moriah Harbour Cay and the leeward flats from the Little Exuma bridge all the way to Barraterre. The windward flats from Georgetown to Moriah Harbour are beautiful and you will be wading on magnificent white sand making it easier to see the bone fish . You need a small boat or kayak to access the area but it is a nice place to bring your lunch and spend the day. The fishing in this section is not as good as the leeward side of Great Exuma, but there are fair numbers of bonefish and we have seen some big ones.
The leeward side of the Great Exuma is where you will concentrate most of your fishing and there are some wonderful flats and great mangrove regions where the fish hang out. Most of the guides and DIY fisherman focus on the leeward side. Just south of the Little Exuma bridge is an extensive mangrove region where you will find some wonderful areas to explore and some quality fish. You need a small boat or kayak to access this area effectively. North of the Little Exuma bridge you will find Airport Flats and an extensive easily wadeable flats region with substantiantional numbers of fish. Airport Flats can be accessed via car and then kayak and is located by the “old” airport or just south of that. Between Airport Flats and Mosstown is a chain of cays with some great bonefish areas that are best accessed by kayak or small boat. The area around the cays between airport Flats and Mosstown are dotted with beaches, flats, coves and mangroves. There are an endless number of places to fish. This diversity helps you get out of the wind, fish shallow water, fish deeper water and provides a variety of opportunities. It takes some time to find the spots but they are not heavily fished and the fish are a little less spooky than on Airport Flats. The far north end of Great Exuma is Barraterre which posses a great colection of flats and mangrove regions. This area requires a small boat or kayak to access but has hundreds of little places to explore.