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Five years ago, I was looking for a destination that was more than just some remote fishing lodge with great food and endless flats. I wanted a place that could feed my addiction to bonefishing and also cater to my family by offering something more than a tiny pool for my wife and young son.
I did my homework and ended up choosing Pelican Bay Bonefishing on Grand Bahama Island in The Bahamas. I read on their website that it was set in a family-friendly atmosphere and was known to have some real solid bonefishing, with a legitimate shot at big fish on a daily basis. To be honest, I thought I would be compromising my fishing, at least to some degree, in order to provide a location that could meet my need for a family-friendly place. Man, was I off base! Pelican Bay Bonefishing has provided me the most consistent bone- fishing I’ve ever experienced. I say that having fished several other places throughout the Caribbean. And, equally important to me, my family has had all the perks of a full-up resort to keep them entertained during the day while I have been out stalking the flats with my guide.
Freeport, where Pelican Bay is located, is indeed a resort-type setting with restaurants, pools, waterslides and pristine beaches. It’s a fantastic area for family activities.
This year I fished six days days at Pelican Bay. As usual, I met my guide each morning in front of the resort after an early breakfast. Each guide at Pelican Bay has an SUV that he uses to trailer his boat. The beauty of trailering, as opposed to leaving from a dock right at the lodge, is that, depending on the weather and wind direction, we could launch our skiff from any of the different ramps around the island. Trailering meant most of our initial morning runs to the fishing grounds were done in a comfortable vehicle rather than a bone-jarring boat. Even though the wind blew 15 to 20 knots from the moment I landed in Freeport until the moment I left, my guide was consistently able to find spots that produced quality bonefish. I was on fish every day (mostly in the four- to six-pound range), and I landed one that pushed the BogaGrip to the nine-pound mark. I also saw fish, by the way, that appeared to be well into double digits. I had quality shots at one or two of those bad boys, too, but they just wanted no part of my fly. But what a rush it was just seeing them roaming the flats!
My fishing trip this year with Pelican Bay was my fifth, and every trip has its own memories. This year will stand out in my mind forever, as I finally got my first permit on a fly. I’ve had several shots at some single cruisers each year that I’ve fished with Pelican Bay, but this time everything fell into place. You don’t usually associate permit with the Bahamas, but my guide was confident he could provide opportunities for me. Sure enough, I managed to hook and land a beautiful 15-pound fish on the fly. The operators of Pelican Bay Bonefishing, Greg Vincent and Jason Franklin, had gotten word early that evening that I had landed my first permit. That night, my family and I were greeted at the usual watering hole by a table full of applauding anglers and two bottles of champagne to mark the occasion. What a classy touch that was!
Greg and Jason encourage all their angling guests to meet each evening at the local outdoor restaurant, Sabor, to kick back with some great food and beverages and to discuss the day’s events and what to expect the following morning. They create a real fishing camaraderie that is unlike most of the other lodges I’ve visited. Pelican Bay is a professional outfit in every aspect.
Just to cite one example of their professionalism, on my second day, I accidentally broke my 8 weight. Don’t ask how! It was replaced by Greg the very next morning and was in my possession for the remainder of my stay. This was no back-up rod either, but rather a top-of-the-line Sage Xi 2. And, to top it off, there was no charge at the end of my stay for this loaner rod.
Greg’s attention to detail is really impressive. One night we were all hangin’ at the bar, having a few beers together, and I was telling Greg about my day and what I had caught. I went on to mention that I had had a couple of plain-out refusals on the same fly I had caught a number of fish on. It was no big deal. That’s fishing. The next evening, however, Greg handed me a couple of ‘special bugs’ that he had recently tied. He said I should give them a try when the fish get a bit picky. Man, did they work! The bones charged these patterns without hesitation as soon as they hit the water.
Speaking of guides, there were four on staff at the time of my last visit to Pelican Bay. I’ve fished with all of them over the years. They are all true gentlemen with zero attitude and a thorough knowledge of the fishing area. They know how and when to work a certain flat by timing the tides correctly and not pressuring the same spots day in and day out. In fact, I rarely saw another boat except for an occasional one in the distance.
On my last day at Pelican Bay this past year, the tide was still way out on a certain flat that my guide really wanted to target, so he asked me if I wanted to wade it. Seems the skiff couldn’t be poled into that area. He knew the fish would be coming through that section, trying to get back into the mangroves as the water came in. Sure enough, we waded that flat and located tailing fish in very skinny water. They weren’t the biggest bones of the trip, but they were definitely the most fun to pursue. I ended up landing three fish in this area that had their entire back, dorsal fin and tail out of the water. The takes were of the kind you replay over and over in your head when you’re back home and the cold winter settles in. Good stuff….
The bottom line is, if you want to enjoy a true sightfishing experience for larger than average (and often user-friendly) bonefish, then Pelican Bay should absolutely make your ‘short list’. It is not the remote, out-of-the-way lodge you are accustomed to in the Bahamas. In fact, this place is in the middle of everything. It has it all. I cannot recommend the fishery or the overall operation highly enough.
(Postscript: Gibney does not say how much it cost him and his family to stay at Pelican Bay, but you can infer that from the company’s web site which gives a cost of $1,335 for three night’s lodging, two days fishing; and $2,390 for five nights lodging, four days fishing. Those fees include lodging on a double occupancy basis, guided fishing, plus breakfast and lunch on the water. Visitors take their own evening meals at various restaurants in Freeport. You can get more details by going to Pelican Bay’s web site. On another note, in his report, Gibney refers to Pelican Bay Bonefishing as H2o Bonefish, and you may also have heard this company referred to by that name or some variant thereof. At press time, we asked Greg Vincent to explain the name confusion, and here is what he said: “The company is actually called H2o Bahamas, but some regular clients misunderstand the name and call us H2o Bonefishing. We are, of course, also and originally known as Pelican Bay Bonefishing. These are all one and the same company based in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Many of our long-time repeat customers still call us Pelican Bay Bonefishing, as that is the name that’s familiar to them. Potential anglers can look for us under any of these names and they will end up at the same place.”)