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Great Inagua in The Bahamas is the lastest addition to the fishing program offered by Vince Tobia of Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters in Upstate New York (www.ccoflyfishing.com). Tobia, of course, has been making quite a name for himself as the organizer of self-guided fishing opportunities in the Bahamas. Up until now, he has offered only three destinations – Eleuthera, Acklins, and Long Island. But starting in April, he will also offer an opportunity to fish on your own on Great Inagua, the remote southernmost island of the Bahamas. Here is how Tobia described his new destination in an e-mail last month.
“I need to preface this report by stating that my new do-it-yourself (DIY) destination is recommended only for experienced and adventuresome DIY anglers. Long rides between fishing areas over rugged roads are the norm. The fishing itself takes place in remote areas a long way from town. Inagua Outback Lodge, the lodging I have arranged for anglers to use, is located on a remote and secluded beach, which is more than 15 miles and a 45-minute drive from the only settlement on the entire island, Matthewtown. It’s also 15 miles from the last power line on the island. If you’re not self-reliant and flexible and you don’t enjoy a lot of driving over rough roads, stop reading here. If you’re adventurous and like exploring off-the-beaten track locations, read on.
“My assistant, Dan Pangaldi, and I just returned from Great Inagua. We went there to check out the above-mentioned lodging and, of course, to get in a little fishing. This is my third year going to Great Inagua. What keeps me going back is the remoteness of the place, the incredible wildlife you see on every visit, and, of course, the fishing – more than anything else, the fishing! On this trip we spent very little time bonefishing, but we saw fish on each occasion, as I almost always do on Great Inagua. We spent most of our time exploring the baby tarpon fishing in the vast inland lake and many canals that are part of the local Morton Salt Company operation. Tarpon are also sometimes seen on the Oceanside flats and creek systems. The fish mostly run five to 20 pounds, but some are in the 40-pound range. Our tarpon efforts on this last trip were rewarded handsomely. We jumped and lost more fish than we landed, but, hey, that’s why you count the jumps when you fish for tarpon. Additionally, Pangaldi caught a monster 50-inch barracuda on the fly in a remote creek system that we explored one day.
“Great Inagua is the third largest island in the Bahamas. It’s known as the “outback” of the Bahamas, and it is way down there, almost to Haiti and the far northeastern coast of Cuba. It’s actually farther south than the Turks and Caicos Islands. Not surprisingly, it is a bit difficult to get there. Bahamasair has three flights a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), and it departs from Nassau at 9:15 a.m., which means you have to overnight in Nassau the night before. The round-trip cost is $256. On the way home, it is possible to make connections the same day, as the return flight arrives in Nassau at 12:35 p.m. Just be aware that U.S. citizens have to clear U.S. Customs in Nassau, and that takes time. To be on the safe side, do not book an outgoing flight before 3 p.m.
“As for Inagua Outback Lodge, it is the brainchild of Henry Hugh, a native Inaguan who has recently retired from Batelco, the national phone company of the Bahamas. Fortunately, Henry is technologically gifted enough to make this remote facility viable. It’s currently powered by wind, but he is adding solar panels to provide more juice. Power was never an issue during our stay at the lodge. Fans and ocean breezes keep you cool at night here. If you do need air conditioning, there is a window unit in the bedroom. It’s powered by a backup generator that Henry has available just in case. The lights and fans ran fine during our visit without the generator, as did the small fridge, which kept our Kalik beers ice cold. Henry brought us dinner each evening and sometimes lunch. When he wasn’t able to bring lunch, we made our own sandwiches from supplies at the lodge. We also made our own breakfast every day. Henry plans to build a small dining room and a full kitchen next to the lodge, where meals can be cooked for guests who don’t want to be involved in food preparation. He says he will have all that finished in April of this year, but given the difficulty of getting things done on a remote island, I think that timetable may be a bit ambitious.
“Not surprisingly, given Henry’s background with Batelco, the lodge has superb Wi-Fi, free phone service, and even satellite TV with hundreds of channels. There is running water, of course, which is supplied by a 500-gallon cistern, but the hot water heater had not been installed when we were there. The cold showers were refreshing to say the least! Before we left, we gave Henry a list of things he needed to do to the lodge to smooth the ragged edges. They were mostly minor things that he should be able to complete in a short time. “As for the fishing, there is good jack and barracuda fishing in a channel right by the lodge and a productive bonefish beach a short three-minute walk away. There is a simply gorgeous flat and creek system a little more than a mile away. Anglers who don’t want to walk that far can arrange for Henry to take them there for the day in his flats skiff. The other bonefishing areas on Inagua are anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour away by car, over rough roads. The same is
true as regards the tarpon areas.
“It would be wrong to make too much of the drives here, however. Guests who book my DIY package will have a good pickup truck with excellent off-road tires at their disposal, and there are many places to stop and fish on your way to each new location. It’s not as if you drive an hour between casts through a boring expanse of country. Quite the contrary. The scenery and wildlife on Great Inagua make the driving enjoyable. One minute you can be driving along the coast, mazed by the stunning shades of blue in the ocean, and the next minute you are in what appears to be a barren desert with dead, stunted trees resembling something out of a futuristic movie. The bird life on Great Inagua is amazing. You see pink flamingoes, roseate spoonbills, egrets, burrowing owls, ospreys, and many more species. There are even wild donkeys and hogs on the island. We saw two donkeys ourselves on this trip. That’s unusual because they are usually very reclusive.
“Henry’s current plan is to host only two anglers at a time in the lodge, but he has long-range plans to build a second cottage for two additional anglers. In the meantime, I can arrange for groups of three to four anglers to stay at a guesthouse in Matthewtown. Inagua Outback Lodge will be ready to receive guests in April. The trip package I am selling here will include lodging, all meals, and the use of a 4×4 pickup truck with off-road tires. Only alcohol, tips, and gas for the truck are extra. The cost of the package is $1,499, double occupancy. I have been exploring this island for the last two years, and I will highlight in pre-trip literature the productive fishing areas. A competent angler who comes here will catch fish.”
Postscript: Tobia says all visitors to the lodge will be given contact details for Ezzard Cartwright, the island’s main guide, in case they want to take a break from self-guided fishing. Cartwright has an assistant guide in his employ, so he can accommodate four anglers at a time in two boats, Tobia says. Cartwright’s services will not be included in the package Tobia is selling. Here at The Angling Report, we are eager to get an on-site report about this opportunity on Great Inagua. A place on our subscriber Honor Roll awaits the first subscriber to file a detailed trip report.