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Don McLaurin writes: “In the last few years, I have run into a number of fishermen who were drawn to Turks & Caicos by advertisements touting Provo (the main tourist destination in T&C) as a bonefishing destination – they have all been disappointed. I hope this report will give fellow subscribers a balanced viewpoint.
“As the name implies, the Turks & Caicos is made up of two island groups. Providenciales (aka Provo) is the main destination in the Caicos, and Grand Turk is the main hub for the Turks. Provo is by far the most visited of the islands. It has become a very upscale destination with large condo developments and resorts, mostly centered along Grace Bay – one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. There are, however, accommodations on Provo to suit most any budget. It is not an exaggeration to say that Provo could be considered a culinary destination as there are abundant great restaurants with offerings that range from simple island food to gourmet-quality feasts.
“My wife and I were first drawn to Provo for the pristine diving and the (then) laid-back, undeveloped nature of the place. It is still our favorite Caribbean (although not technically in the Caribbean) destination, and we continue to go there. An ardent fisherman, I have thoroughly explored the local bonefishing possibilities, and I can tell you with authority that Provo is not really a bonefishing destination like the Bahamas or Los Roques. For whatever reason, a solid fishing infrastructure has never developed on the island. I suspect one reason is that the government has pushed upscale development, thereby making land prices too high to warrant building a ‘fish-camp-type’ facility. There are a few good guides on Provo, but they are very expensive. In preparing this report I called the largest fishing outfit, Silver Deep, and they quoted me a price of $900 for a day of fishing; $600 for a half day.
“Silver Deep also does island excursions, reef fishing, para-sailing, etc. I have never fished with Silver Deep, but my impression from speaking with others who have and from personal observation is that their guides wear multiple hats. In fairness, one of the really good guides on the island, Arthur Dean, works for them. He knows the area, is reputedly easy to be in the boat with and a good fly fisherman. Still, at $900 a day, it is an expensive way to bonefish.
“My personal advice for a new visitor would be to seek out Barr Gardner, a very good local independent guide and great guy. Yes, Barr is expensive, too, but less so than Silver Deep. He charges $800 for a full day and $500 for a half-day, but he knows the waters like the back of his hand and he will work hard to get you on fish, plus he understands the needs of fly fisherman.
“The fishing around Provo can be quite good. I have never caught a monster there, but I have caught plenty of fish in the three-pound range. The area is loaded with beautiful flats, many of which are wadeable. Be aware that a half-day trip will limit your choice of flats as many of the best ones are around surrounding islands and require some travel time in the boat. You will not run into many other fishermen – one of the benefits of a lack of fishing infrastructure.
“There are some spots you can drive to on Provo that can be productive, but not consistently so. Most of these are on the South side of the island off Venetian Road and also around the Silly Creek area. You may see a couple of inns near Flamingo Lake advertising fishing right outside their doors. This is only technically true. I have talked to many fishermen who have been lured there by those ads and none have been satisfied. Flamingo Lake has a mushy bottom and I have yet to see a bonefish in there. I do know that some get caught there, but I never even stop there anymore after many, many attempts.
“Another option is to rent a boat at Leeward Marina (ask locally for contact details) and go to some easily reachable flats on your own. The charge for the boats is by the hour and, again, very expensive. As an alternative, Mike Rosati, who has a wind surfing concession at one of the resorts has a couple of skiffs for rent for a reasonable rate. You can take one of those to some flats that are visible across the inlet from Leeward Marina and do some on-your-own wading. I have had some good success with this. The folks at the restaurant at Leeward are usually willing to point out the way to those flats.
“I am not much of an offshore fisherman, but there are some nice charter boats available at Turtle Cove Marina and, from what I have seen, the fishing is very good. I would call ahead for availability and prices.
“Provo is a great place for a family or couple get-away: great beaches, a wide variety of places to stay, including some very nice homes for rent, and a fantastic choice of restaurants. The people are among the friendliest you will every meet. There is some good bonefishing to be had, but if you use a guide, be prepared to pay close to double what you are used to. There are no purely fishing-oriented lodges – no matter what some ads may lead you to believe. If you are a diver, the diving is world class with several very well run organizations. I prefer the original operation, Provo Turtle Divers.
“Ultimately, I don’t recommend Provo as a pure fishing destination – I think you will be disappointed. My suggestion is to think of a trip there as a couple getaway or family vacation. By all means take your rod and do a half-day or one day (depending on your budget) of guided fishing and some on-your-on exploring. That is my regular routine which makes for a very pleasant vacation.”
Jim Beard Report: “My son and I recently spent a day bonefishing with guide Arthur Dean of Silver Deep and several days exploring walk-in flats on Provo. I came away very impressed with Turks & Caicos as a place to combine a family vacation with a bit of guided and on-your-own bonefishing. The only drawback is the cost of the guided fishing.
“On the day with Silver Deep ($900/day), fishing from a boat, my son and I caught more than 20 bone- fish. The majority of the fish were in the 26- to 28-inch range. One fish measured upwards of 33 inches. The average size of the bones we caught was larger than those I usually catch in the Bahamas.
“All things considered, our trip with Dean was outstanding. I have fished in Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida and Los Roques for bones, and the day of guided fishing we did with Silver Deep was one of the best fishing days my son and I ever had both in terms of quantity and size of the fish. We arrived at our first flat at about 9 am, after a 40-minute ride. We had nonstop action until about 1:30 pm. I don’t think either my son or I spent more than 10 minutes on the bow without hooking a fish. The fish were very aggressive and unafraid. Once, my son lined a tailing fish and the fish immediately bolted, then turned and attacked the fly.
“For the most part we used flies tied by Arthur Dean from the Silver Deep shop on Grace Bay. If you are going to fish on Provo, I suggest you stop there and pick up a few flies.
“On several other days we explored the wadefishing on several walk-in flats without a guide. Although we did not see as many fish on our own, we were successful each time we went out, catching between one and three fish in a couple of hours of fishing. If you like to do a little exploring you can catch fish.
“This was a holiday vacation for my family rather than a fishing-only trip. The beaches on Grace Bay are about as good as it gets. Silver Deep also offers all kinds of snorkeling, sailing and other trips in addition to bonefishing.”