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Angling Report Editor Emeritus Don Causey filed the following report on Great Inagua Island in The Bahamas.
After a lifetime of fishing around the world in places ranging from elegant and predictable to spontaneous and laid back, I have been surprised of late to realize that the latter places are the ones I remember best. Maybe it’s because such places forced me to become a slightly better fisherman and a tad more patient. Or maybe it was the unpredictability itself, the unplanned-ness and authenticity of the experience.
What occasions this broad remembrance of things past is a note I just received about Great Inauga Island in The Bahamas from Vince Tobia of Cattaraugus Creek Outfitters (http://www.cattarauguscreekoutfitters.com/). Vince books dirt-cheap do-it-yourself and guided trips to this island that are a real hoot. They include a rental vehicle, a map of good places to fish and worlds of freedom to do all kinds of things.
My own memories of a trip to Great Inagua include bouncing through a surreal salt-encrusted wilderness where the Morton Salt company produces industrial quantities of the white stuff we all use too much of… viewing thousands of flamingoes… never seeing a wild donkey though they are reportedly omnipresent on Great Inagua… and casting to bonefish and snook in a breaking surf. Yes, both species of fish in the same breaking surf! The snook were chasing small baitfish at the top of a tide while the bonefish were feeding on something I couldn’t see in the sand alternately covered and exposed by breaking waves. The bonefish were actually riding the waves into the shore where they tried repeatedly to dig something out of the sand. Often as not, they actually wound up high and dry briefly as the waves receded around them. The behavior was so odd and unusual I’m sure you probably don’t believe I saw this. In truth, I don’t fully believe it myself even though I was there.
At any rate, getting back to Vince’s note, he wrote me because he wanted me to know about the surprising variety of fish he caught on a recent trip to Great Inagua and the three different kinds of trips he now offers there. Here is an edited version of his note:
“Owls, donkeys, and hogs. We saw them all on Great Inagua this past week! There were also some appearances made by bonefish, tarpon, barracuda and three very large permit, one of which charged my fly and left me breathless with a sudden last-second refusal! We caught boxfish, jacks, snapper, and triggerfish too!
“On this trip, I stayed the whole time at Henry Hugh’s Outback Lodge, which was still under construction when you visited Great Inagua a while back. The place is very remote, you’ll recall, on a hill overlooking the ocean at the end of a very bumpy road. We enjoyed beautiful sunrises and sunsets, saw countless ospreys, herons, egrets, and flamingoes, and were treated to Henry Hugh’s delicious dinners each evening. Snapper, conch, lobster, ribs, curry chicken, and pork chops were all awesome. Also, so far from any other towns or even other dwellings, the view of the stars at night was breathtaking.
“You know and have already reported on the trips I have put together at Outback Lodge. Anglers who book those trips have the use of a truck so they can drive to Outback Lodge on their own and fish back toward Matthewtown on their own. Additionally, they can walk to some great on-your-own fishing from the lodge itself, or arrange for guided fishing with a personable boatman for an extra payment of $200 to $400 a day depending on how far from the lodge you want to go and how long you want to fish. There is some very remote and particularly fish-rich water east of Outback Lodge. There is also an older gentleman available at the lodge – a retired former employee of the Morton Salt Company – who will act as chauffeur for clients of Outback Lodge in return for a tip. He knows local waters quite well and will increase your chances of success on do-it-yourself outings. The base cost for a week-long trip at the lodge is $1,999 per person double occupancy. That includes lodging, all meals, a rental car and an information package describing places to fish on your own.
“You have also reported on the on-your-own trips I offer from an air-conditioned hotel in Matthewtown. Staying in Matthewtown allows anglers to take advantage of the close proximity to some great flats around the lighthouse, as well as those found on the north side of the island. Staying in town is also much closer to fishing for tarpon in Lake Windsor. Importantly, our lodging here includes Wifi and satellite TV service. A rental truck, all meals and an information package are also included. Cost for a week-long stay is $1,599 per person, double occupancy.
“What’s new are the two-site trips I have just created – that is, trips that see anglers staying for half a week in Matthewtown and the other half at Outback Lodge. A split week allows anglers to experience both the great fishing around town, the northside and Lake Windsor, as well as the good flats and creek system found on the southern end of the island. The cost for a split week is $1,799 per person, double occupancy.
“Importantly, Outback Lodge owner Henry Hugh has agreed to generally oversee and provide fishing advice to all my guests on Great Inagua, including those who stay in town. I should note as well that guests who want to stay in Matthewtown for all or part of their week can opt for a no-meal plan that is cheaper than the rates above. Angler who choose this option can buy groceries in town at a store that is walking distance from their lodging. Just be aware that provisions available will not be anything like those available in the US. I will explain further to anyone who is interested in this option.”
Don Causey note: At my urging, Vince reached out to one of his recent clients, asking for up-to-date feedback on a trip to Outback Lodge. The lodge was still under construction when I visited Great Inagua and it was not clear at all how it would look and feel when it was finished. Turns out Henry Hughes has clearly done a great job finishing the place and providing all of the attendant services. Here is how a husband/wife team, Dan and Theresa Wiltrout, described their stay there in December 2019:
Mrs. Wiltrout writes, “We just got back from spending a week at Inagua Outback Lodge. We had a fabulous time. Henry went out of his way to make sure we were comfortable and well fed. His friend, Eddie, did a great job for us as chauffeur and provider of local information. We also booked two glorious days of guided bonefishing. This was a combined trip, by the way. My husband came to fish and I came to view wildlife. Inagua Outback Lodge excelled in providing excellent opportunities for both of us.
The lodge is located 12 miles out of town and is only accessible via a bumpy dirt road (part of its rustic charm). Once you arrive you are truly alone and have a beautiful beach and great flats fishing all to yourself. There are two cabins for rent along with a bar, dining room, and gazebo. While there, Eddie drove us to beautiful areas for fishing, snorkeling, and bird watching. He also drove us into town so that we could tour the lighthouse.
The last 2 days of our stay Jay, a local boatman, took us in his skiff to some incredible areas where my husband landed a few bonefish and a barracuda while I got the chance to see roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets, oystercatchers and even a green turtle. Jay dove for our dinner on one of the trips out, catching us some fresh spiny lobster and conch! My husband and I loved the rustic charm of this lodge as well as the friendly and laid-back vibe. Henry is an amazing chef. He whipped up some great meals. My favorite was corned beef and grits for breakfast! We also enjoyed the fresh seafood dinners, of course.
Here is some detail of the fishing from my husband: Fished parts of four days; usually two to three hours per day depending on tides and our interest in other activities. A couple of days were too windy for the flats. Saw many tailing and cruising bonefish of two to four pounds and was able to hook and land bonefish under both conditions. Most of the time I was able to get takes on casts of 60 feet or less, using mostly size six and four gotchas and crab patterns. On one of the windy days we went to an inland canal and I had non-stop action on 20-plus-inch ladyfish which was a blast! I also landed a 44-inch tarpon on a spinning rod that I sight fished from the deck of Jay’s boat. The water was clear as gin and the setting stunning. I never saw another fisherman during the entire week. Overall, a terrific experience!”