Lay of the Land
Andros Island, considered a single island geopolitically, is composed of hundreds of small islets and cays connected by mangrove estuaries and tidal swamplands. Bights, or bays, separate its three major islands: North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros. Nicknamed “the Sleeping Giant,” the entire land mass is 100 miles long and 45 miles wide. It is located 30 miles west of Nassau and 138 miles from Fort Lauderdale. The focus here will be on the “big island” of the Bahamas, North Andros, which is the sixth-largest island in the Caribbean yet one of the least explored. Pine and hardwoods are found in the north. Most residents concentrate in the east. The west coast remains largely undeveloped. Eight miles north from the tip of Andros as the crow flies are the world-famous Joulter Cays, which are being developed as a national park.The legends of Andros are as rich and important to the residents as any fact one can look up in a book. Many of the locals still believe in the chickcharnies—a mythical creature half man and half bird with red eyes, three fingers, and three toes. It is said to cause mischief to those who look at one and grimace but to cast lifelong good luck to those showing respect. Buried treasure at Lusca and Morgan’s Bluff and the half-shark half-octopus guardian of the inland blue holes are just two more myths for you to ponder.Andros is the most important farming region and supplier of fresh water in the Bahamas, and the area also has a long tradition of boat building, straw work, and woodcarving. Morgan’s Bluff, Lowe’s Sound, and Nicholls Town are three northern villages where you can find fresh food and water, some restaurants, a bank, a government medical clinic, and various lodging options. Gas stations can be found in each town. Continuing on to the southwest is San Andros, home to one of two airports in the north.Traveling south 15 miles on the Queen’s Highway you will find Stafford Creek, then Andros Town (also known as Fresh Creek), where the second of the airports in the north is located. Centrally located Fresh Creek is the commercial hub of North Andros, where you will find a small grocery store, a few restaurants, and the Atlantic Undersea Testing and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), operated by the U.S. Navy. The United States and the United Kingdom conduct special operations training and sonar and submarine research in the Tongue of the Ocean. A 30-minute drive will get you to the bottom of North Andros at Cargill Creek and Behring Point. Cell phones and Internet are available almost everywhere. Come here with cash, as that is how most bills will need to be paid.
Bonefish is the name of the game here, but not just ordinary bonefish, big bonefish. No reason to go after anything else, here is the place to catch your ten-pound trophy. If you are on the front of a guides boat, there is some pretty decent tarpon fishing on the west side.
Where to Fish
Mangrove Cay is a special fishing destination, offering the self-guided angler more variety than almost anywhere else. My personal favorite places to fish here are the oceanside flats. The draw here is the opportunity for shots at large, dark-colored behemoths that travel as a single or in pairs. Spotting can be challenging, since the bottom is a mixture of vegetation, coral, and dark rocks, but the adrenaline rush from seeing the tail of a 10-pound fish lasts for days.This island is one of my favorite places to fish with a group. The variety of habitats, ranging from massive creeks to miles of ocean flats, will keep anglers wishing they could extend their stay. Certain locations, such as the waters off the Stafford Creek Cemetery and Blanket Sound, are so large that a group can concentrate on them for a week.Many of the roads are difficult to find, so I’ve used the odometer where possible to pinpoint locations. When leaving the Andros Town Airport (also known as Fresh Creek), set the odometer to 0 and drive south toward Behring Point.
Somerset Beach — Two miles south of the airport is a short sand road leading to a beautiful beach. Fish cruise the shoreline, but the best opportunities are south toward the mouth of Somerset Bight.
Somerset Bight — This is one of the better spots to ambush fish as they move in and out with the tide. It’s located two miles from the airport. Take the short road to the left and then turn right at the T. Follow the right spur for approximately one kilometer and park at the widened area. Walk through the mangroves to the water. The mouth of the creek will be on your left and it will extend to the right for about a mile. A well-defined channel down the middle of the creek into the bight serves as the bonefish highway on changing tides.
Davis Bight Creek — At the four-mile mark turn left toward the water and follow the road to a pull-off, located where the chain blocks the road. Immediately to the north is the bottom end of the creek formed by Somerset Bight. Walk north, staying as dry as possible for a quarter mile, and then cut through the mangroves to the open water in front of you. The mouth is further north, so on the falling tide the fish will head out to sea and then reverse on the incoming tide. The creek is surrounded by mangroves and at high tide the fish are out of reach. The bottom is soft and can be difficult to wade but improves as you reach the opening.
Davis Bight — Leaving your car parked at the same spot as above, don’t walk north; instead, head east toward the large body of water off in the distance. This is a beautiful series of flats and creeks that three or four folks can fish for a week. It has everything you could ask for: oceanside flats to the north, large channels carrying fish in and out on each tide, mangrove edges to work, and a good solid bottom for wading. The entire area holds fish, but I prefer crossing to the far eastern side to fish the channel and flats to the south.
Bowen Sound — At mile 8.4 you enter the small settlement of Bowen Sound. Take the road to the left and wind your way down to the boat ramp. Then walk south along the rock bank for one kilometer until you come to an opening into a creek and a couple of small cays surrounded by flats. This is a neat place to fish, but not easy to reach.
White Bight — At the Man-O-War sign turn toward the water at mile 12.5. This overgrown road ends at an old manmade stone dike. It’s a bit treacherous, but walk the stone dike through the mangroves until you hit open water. From the end of the dike, you can walk either north or south. The north section is a good oceanside flat that holds some big bones. If you go one more mile, you will find a small creek and opening to the ocean with a small flat out front. Walking south from the stone dike you’ll see a mixture of ocean flats for the first mile and then will reach the sand flats of White Bight. The end of the bight is just under two miles south of the dike, so it makes for a good day’s fishing.
Mount Pleasant — At mile marker 16 you will arrive at the road to the Mount Pleasant Lodge. This is a great place for the self-guided angler to stay and provides direct access from the cottages to the coves, beaches, cays, and bays of White Bight.Behring Point — This small settlement is situated at the very southern end of North Andros. Once you cross over the bridge from Cargill Creek there is a small flat on the left and then a number of spots to pull over and wade between the bridge and end of the road. The bottom can be very soft and difficult to wade.*At this point, let’s go back to the Andros Town Airport and head north. The destinations I will describe in this direction are not all delineated by mileage markers, but I will indicate distances where they are required.
Fresh Creek, South Shore — Fresh Creek is a massive system with a large outlet to the ocean north of the airport. For the self-guided angler there are a couple of areas that can be reached by car, and more of the creek opens up if you have a kayak. One and a half miles north of the airport is a dirt road heading inland that follows the south shore of Fresh Creek for a short distance. Drive to the end of the road and park in the widened area. From here walk the 100 meters to the creek to find a nice hard-bottomed flat both west and south. As you continue west up the creek the water becomes deeper, forcing you close to the mangroves. There is a large blue hole approximately three-quarters of a mile from the car. This is a surprisingly good flat that the fish use as they move in and out with the tide.
Small Hope Bay — There is a dirt road leading to the water 1.2 miles north of the Small Hope Bay Resort’s driveway. Once you park the car at the water’s edge, walk the 100 meters to the right until you reach a small creek opening. There is a small flat at the creek mouth that can be good on low tide.
Fresh Creek, North Shore — You will reach the settlement of Love Hill and Rev. Leroy Hanna Drive 1.9 miles from Small Hope Bay’s driveway. Follow Rev. Leroy Hanna Drive inland for another two miles until you come to the Central Andros National Park sign. Turn right and continue to follow the signs to the Blue Hole tourist attraction, or continue straight to reach the north shore of Fresh Creek. This road eliminates miles of paddling to reach the most westerly flats of Fresh Creek.
Staniard Creek Beach — The beach is located 14 miles north of the airport on the Queen’s Highway. There are a few places to stay in Staniard and it serves as a good “home base” for fishing the north. Once you have entered Staniard Creek, cross the bridge and take the right road paralleling the beach. If you stop your car and look over both sides, you will be able to see the bonefish that hang around the bridge. Both the north and south ends of the beach hold bonefish, but the north end flat is much larger and holds more fish. To reach the southern corner of the beach, follow the road south to the parking lot where guests take the shuttle boat over to Kamalame Cay Resort. This is a small flat but always holds fish on the low tide. From this point you can also cross the road and try the flats at low tide on the south shore of the Staniard Creek outlet.
Staniard Creek — When entering the settlement of Staniard Creek, take the left at the T and drive to the end of the road. This puts you on the west side flats 200 yards from the mouth of Staniard Creek. It’s not a large flat, but the fish travel across the white, hard-bottomed sand as they leave and enter the creek. It’s easy to get to and makes an excellent ambush spot if you only have an hour or two. This is an ideal place to launch a kayak to fish the creek and mangrove islands behind Kamalame Cay.
Queen’s Highway — There are several places to pull the car off the highway between Staniard Creek and South Blanket Sound for walking access to the waters behind Kamalame Cay. It’s about a 300-yard trek, but once there it opens up for miles of fishable area.
South Blanket Sound Entrance — Follow the road off the highway into the settlement of South Blanket Sound and turn left at the ball field. Park your car on the water’s edge; from here you can see the mouth of South Blanket Sound on your right and the flats, channels, and islands that appear at low tide in front. At low tide the channels can be waded, opening up a large series of sandy oceanside flats. Fish for cruising bones in the shallow water and blind cast with Clousers into the channels where the fish are holding. The channels get deep as the water floods, forcing wading fishermen back to the beach. It’s best fished with a kayak so you don’t have to worry about wading back across the channels.
South Blanket Sound Creek — Drive past the ball field and continue to the end of the overgrown road. Park the car and walk 200 feet through the bush to the creek. The ocean opening is on the left and in front of you, and to the right is a vast walk-and-wade area tucked in behind Kamalame Cay. Many of the areas can be reached on foot, but it is best to use a kayak to get across the channels. In a boat it’s possible to cover more ground between the small cays and inlets scattered throughout the area. This is a great fishing destination with ample room for a number of anglers and enough nooks and crannies to spend an entire week exploring.
Stafford Creek Sand Flat — Continue 0.8 miles north of the South Blanket Sound turnoff to the road to the Stafford Creek Sand Flat. This is a beautiful firm sand flat to fish on the incoming and high tide. At low tide it’s dry, which is the time to shift to the ocean flats and follow the fish in with the tide. At low tide the south corner of the bay often holds fish as they wait for the tide to turn.
Stafford Creek Cemetery — After crossing the bridge over Stafford Creek, take the first right when you see the Love at First Sight Hotel, take a right at the main access road, and then turn left at the water. This is the road to the Stafford Creek Cemetery and parallels the ocean heading north. Park at the end of the road, string up your rod, and get ready to fish for the rest of the day. You are looking at a huge area including multiple ocean entrances into the creek, an enormous oceanside flat, mangrove islands, and cays, in addition to an intricate creek system that travels for miles. There is so much to fish it is hard to know where to start, but you can walk north on the ocean flat for two kilometers to get into some very interesting places.
Conch Sound — This settlement is south of Nicholls Town, located on a beautiful white sandy beach where a series of flats can be waded at low tide.
What to Bring
All the local guides like larger patterns in size #2 to #4, and that is what I use on the oceanside flats. For the creeks I tend to go a little smaller. Since you are not generally fishing water as deep as the guides do, I use slightly lighter weights than they recommend but stick to the bigger flies for those large ocean fish.