For live and premium content, sign up for our email newsletter and we'll send reports directly to your inbox

Sign Up Now!

Unfortunately, there are poor, deluded souls in this world who want to do something other than fish on their vacations. And the great pity is that a number of anglers who travel wind up in relationships with these people. The result, eventually, is frustration. After all, how much fun is it for non-fishing spouses to say at home, or sit on the porch of one remote fishing lodge after another?

Enter Pelican Bay Bonefishing (*) on Grand Bahama Island. This brand-spanking-new outfit is based in a waterfront hotel in Port Lucaya near Freeport. You can literally throw a rock out your window and hit several good restaurants, at least four dive boats and several shopping establishments where an enterprising spouse can give a credit card quite a workout. There are tennis courts almost next door, a beach across the street and arrangements are being made for non-fishing spouses to play golf on a PGA-approved golf course. There is even a full-fledged casino just across the street.

As for the bonefishing, it promises to be quite good, and perhaps even spectacular. The only report available on it so far (my own trip to Freeport the weekend of January 18 was marred by record cold and unfishably high winds) comes from Angling Report subscriber Jim Hoffman, who fished here two days in December 1996. He says he caught 12 bonefish the first day that weighed between three and six pounds. On the second day he caught 14, the smallest of which was six pounds. Two weighed nine-plus pounds and he says he saw even larger fish before returning to the dock at 2:30 p.m.

At this point, Pelican Bay Bonefishing has only three boats – all of them reconditioned Mavericks with new 90-horsepower Yamaha engines. The guides (more about them in a moment) meet guests in front of the hotel and take them to the launch site, where the boats are launched from trailers. You’re in the water within 20 minutes and ready to fish within another 15 to 45 minutes, depending on whether you fish nearby flats or run clear to the west end of the island.

The fishing area is huge and as yet largely unexplored by sport anglers. Hoffman says there are reports of permit on the far west of the island, and maybe even some tarpon, which opens the remote possibility of getting a Grand Slam, though long experience has taught me to be leery of such claims until they can be documented. I hope to fish the western end of the island soon and will file a followup report at that time.

The two guides who have signed on with Pelican Bay Bonefishing at this point – William Pinder and Leslie Demerritte – are both from famed Deep Water Cay Club on the eastern end of Grand Bahama. I fished with them both in horrible weather conditions and can vouch for their good humor, their skill in boat handling and their seeming knowledge of the water. It wasn’t their fault we couldn’t find fish in white-capped water that was down around 59 degrees.

Interestingly, the folks at Pelican Bay Bonefishing have no interest in getting much larger than they are right now. Six boats maximum is the figure I was given by Jock Shaw, the consultant who assisted in putting the organization together. The reason’s simple. High quality bonefishing is viewed as one of a number of recreational activities to be provided by a larger organization called Lucayan Marina Village, which is building 200 or so high-priced condominiums, an international business center and more in Port Lucaya. The price tag on the development at this point is a mind-boggling $130 million, and the scope of it is still increasing.

The master builder behind the project is a Danish gentleman by the name of Eric Christianson, who may be one of the pickiest men on earth when it comes to quality. The wood in the condos he’s building is all mahogany. The brass in the fixtures is the best in the world. He’s made sure of that by buying a test quantity of brass from firms around the world and then leaving it all outside for weeks to see which weathers the best. You get the picture….

All of this is worth pointing out because the same obsession with quality spills over into the bonefishing operation. The guides have crisp uniforms. They have fiberglass poles, not pine sticks. The motors are serviced every 20 hours. You are picked up at the airport in a limousine, not a rattle-trap taxi. And so on….

Remarkably, the price tag at this point doesn’t reflect this obsession with quality and attention to detail. In fact, the fishing is priced substantially below that on offer by both of the other Grand Bahama bonefishing operations – namely, the new North Riding Point Club east of Freeport and the long-established Deep Water Cay Club. You can stay three nights at the Pelican Bay Hotel and fish two days with Pelican Bay Bonefishing for only $925 each double occupancy; or $1,465 per person single occupancy. That compares with a price tag of $1,195 per person double occupancy or $2,095 per person single occupancy at North Riding Point Club. The gulf widens farther if you want seven nights lodging and six days of fishing. At Pelican Bay the cost is $1,955 per person double occupancy; $3,395 single occupancy. The cost at North Riding Point is $2,695 and $4,195 respectively.

To be sure, there is a difference in the packages of the two clubs. North Riding Point provides all meals, while Pelican Bay provides only breakfast and lunch. Shaw says the packages were set up this way because there are so many good restaurants nearby that it didn’t make sense to try and compete with them. Moreover, he says the kind of clients who are attracted to Pelican Bay probably won’t want to sit around with other fishermen every night and subject their spouses to the kind of talk that fosters.

The restaurants to check out, if this trip appeals to you, include: Luciano’s (Price range $12 to $24. Try the prime rib. It’s delicious.); La Dolce Vita (Italian food, obviously. Price range $12 to $20); and Pisces (Everything from pizza to a full meal. Price range $8 to $18).

Now, for the less-positive stuff…. Freeport is on the very northern edge of the Bahamas and that means cold fronts are a constant possibility from about November through March. Yes, you can find lee areas, but even those aren’t fishable when the winds pick up to about 30 knots and the water termperature starts sliding toward 60 degrees. Imagine the weather at its worst in Palm Beach and you will have the right picture. The only silver lining here is the number of things other than fishing you can do at Pelican Bay.

Another drawback here is the very nature of the setting. Obviously, Pelican Bay is not right for the angler who wants to hear palm trees rustling at night and who hungers for that expansion of the spirit that comes with gazing down a long, unobstructed beach or over ranges of snow-capped peaks. This outfit is in a tourist center, albeit a classy one. Fortunately, the hubbub (and there is not a lot of it in laid-back Port Lucaya) is muffled by the hotel’s location on a spit of land jutting out into the bay. Anglers’ tendency to leave early and return late further softens the impact of tourists on this experience. Some of the flats, however, are not so far from the international airport, so you do hear and see occasional jet and propeller aircraft landing as you fish. There is no way you can turn this experience into something exotic. It’s bonefishing handled as a classy form of tourism. But, hey – the payoff in spousal good will, in ease of access and in the variety of activities you can engage in other than fishing is substantial.

"We aren’t trying to be everything to everyone," is the way Jock Shaw put it when I brought up some of the negatives. He recognizes fully that some anglers will find the whole tourism scene repellent – the diametric opposite of what they want when they go fishing. "Just be sure you describe us accurately," he urged. "We don’t want unhappy clients…."

If you want to book Pelican Bay right now, don’t be surprised if there are a few hiccups. At this point, only a handful of paying clients have been hosted. The ink is barely dry on the company’s brochures and pre-trip literature. As this issue went to press, Shaw said Frontiers (*) had "agreed in principle" to represent Pelican Bay. Other agents are sure to be signing on soon. Enjoy! – Don Causey.

Previous reading
Spring Fishing At Navajo Dam
Next reading
Floatfishing The Arolik: The Why’s And How’s