ABACO LODGE, Your Bahamas Bonefishing Mission Starts Here…
Abaco Lodge on the Marls has been a premier flats-fishing destination for years due to its next-level populations of supersize bonefish. Here you’ll find plenty of the latter, punctuated by more than 200 miles of prime skinny-water habitat known universally as the Marls. Step off your front porch, pour a mug of coffee, and open your eyes to an azure panoramic where tailing bones, not to mention permit and tarpon, are top on the agenda.
Twenty- to thirty-fish days are a regular occurrence at Abaco Lodge, and many of our adult bonefish crack and exceed the magical 6+ pound mark. See it. Believe it. And then plan your way through the process with guides who know the program. Abaco Lodge is staffed with best in the northern Bahamas. Period. Bahamas bonefishing is an integral part of the culture, and these guys speak the language fluently. Top-of-the-line, shallow-draft Hell’s Bay flats skiffs ensure maximum comfort while full-throttling it to fishing; while private rooms, 5-star dining, and professional service mean ultimate adrenaline on—and relaxation off—the water.
REASONS TO CHOOSE ABACO LODGE
- Abaco Lodge fly-fishing operations are located directly on Abaco’s famed Marls
- Short runs from the lodge, typically less than half an hour and as fast as five minutes Tailing fish, and lots of them.
- Our prime location, the only lodge located on the Marls, means no trailering and more time fishing.
- Surprising number of juvenile tarpon live here—providing regular hook-ups. Adept fly fishers will find permit, big ones, too.
- One of the most unpressured flats fisheries of this caliber in the Caribbean.
- Abaco Lodge features individual private rooms with en-suite bathrooms.
- Most knowledgeable guide staff in the Bahamas, they know the Marls intimately and they possess an uncanny ability to find fish.
- Latest Hell’s Bay skiffs, widely recognized as the ultimate flats boat, allow us to access the shallowest water in maximum comfort.
- Island culture and activities make Abaco Lodge a great place for the non-angling spouse or children.
- Direct flights from south Florida make Abaco Lodge among the easiest bonefishing destinations to reach
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Abaco Lodge’s fly-fishing operations are located on the western side of Great Abaco Island, Bahamas—part of a string of islands on the Atlantic about 175 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida. The lodge is the only fly-fishing operation on the Marls, an area with direct access to some of the best bonefish habitat in the Bahamas and the world. While it would take a lifetime to fish the entire Marls—and many of our expert guides have spent that much time exploring it—Abaco Lodge also offers incredible fishing on the eastern edge of the island. Here you’ll find big ocean-side bones, shots at permit and the occasional tarpon, as well as barracuda, shark, and mutton snapper.
Marsh Harbour is a 10-minute drive from Abaco Lodge and has an international airport serviced by major U.S. and Bahamian carriers.
FLY FISHING at Abaco Lodge on the Marls
The Marls encompass a huge swath of flats on the west side of Abaco. For twenty miles to the ocean the average depth is four feet. Abaco Lodge is centrally located directly on the Marls side of the island, with access to skinny water and prime tailing bonefish flats in all directions. The fly-fishing is diverse, offering something for everyone—from expert anglers to those honing their casting and catching skills. Stalk tailing singles and keep your eyes peeled for large packs of cruising bones. Good presentations are key and you’ll be rewarded with “honest” fish that move fast to crash well-placed flies.
Fly-fishing on the Marls is mostly done from the boat due to a soft sand bottom, but wading opportunities exist. Marls bonefish average 2 to 4 pounds, with daily shots at supersize fish. Runs to the flats vary from 10 to 45 minutes. Cherokee Sound, the Bight of Robinson, Sandy Point, and Snake Cay are also relatively close to the lodge and offer challenging, large bonefish in the 5 to 8+ pounds class in good numbers. Ocean side flats require a longer run or a short trailer to put-ins. If you want to add on ocean-side fishing experience to your Marls itinerary, please make arrangements in advance.
In addition to bones—our bread and butter—be prepared to mix it up with permit, tarpon, ’cudas, jacks, and sharks. This means packing appropriate tackle and flies for your trip.
Typical trips do not fish on arrival or day of departure, but it can be arranged if your flights allow and upon special request. An a la carte breakfast is served at seven and we leave the dock at eight. Guides typically return around 4 p.m. This schedule can be tailored to your needs with advance notice. A gourmet cold lunch and drinks are taken to the flats in your Hell’s Bay flats skiffs by your guide.
Abaco Lodge bonefishing is some of the most productive on the planet. But the lodge is also within short striking distance of incredible blue water adventures. And we’re happy to coordinate excursions with the best captains available. Depending on the season, you’ll target big-game powerhouses such as marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, and tuna. Arrangements can be made at the lodge. Additional charges apply. For more information on offshore fishing at Abaco, click here.
Bahamas Bonefishing can be as technical as you want it to be. There are tides to take into consideration. Wind direction. New tackle requirements and knots to master. Deciphering the nuances and habits of large fish. And the infamous strip-set that continues to confound “trout fishermen” the world over. Thankfully, you’re in good hands with the Abaco Lodge team. Nervous Waters and its staff of veteran guides have the skills to find fish, but they also possess the patience needed to walk you through the entire process from perfect cast to fish in hand.
1) Adjust your fly to changing water depths. Productive bonefish flies essentially come in three styles: unweighted; lightly-weighted (beadchain eyes); and heavily-weighted (with lead eyes to get deep, fast). Several factors tell us when to switch it up, first and foremost being water depth. Bonefish—for the most part—are bottom feeders. They are engineered to vacuum an assortment of crustaceans scurrying across the flat or buried within sand and turtle grass habitats via a top down approach. Accordingly, proper fly delivery means connecting with your quarry in this zone. Bonefish do not expect a shrimp or crab to attack them from above—and this is a common mistake that leads to spooking fish and blowing the shot. Instead, focus efforts on leading the fish—by anywhere from 1 to 6 feet, closer for tailers longer for cruisers—giving your fly ample time to sink to where a feeding bonefish expects it.
A good rule of thumb is your fly should touch bottom in about 3 seconds. If you find your fly is not getting to the bottom, switch to a fly with lead eyes.
2) Intercepting fish is all about timing. Once your fly is in the zone, it’s time to get it moving. The typical bonefish strip, with shrimp imitations such as Crazy Charlies, Gotchas, and spawning shrimp patterns, involves a smooth pull of your fly line followed by a quick stop—in a strip-stop, strip-stop-strip cadence. Depending on how the fish reacts to your fly your guide will instruct you to “strip faster”; “strip longer”; “shorter”; or “stop the fly” until the fish inhales it—at which point you will make one final strip to firmly imbed the fly in the fish’s maw.
3) Playing bonefish. Once a bonefish is hooked, keeping a cool head through the next five seconds of chaos will help determine your odds of landing it. Focus on clearing the line from the boat deck and through your rod guides in a clean and efficient manner. If your line gets snagged on your fighting butt, reel, or stepped on it’s likely game over with that particular fish. To ensure a seamless hook-set to line spinning-off-your-reel transfer, spread your rod and stripping hands apart. Via your stripping hand lightly pinch the line, allowing it to run smoothly, as opposed to jumping, through your stripping guide. Once all the line is cleared off the boat deck and safely on your reel, keep your rod tip up and let the fish run. Average size bonefish will typically take one or two long runs into your backing. Use side pressure, right and left with the rod, to turn the fish and tire it quickly. When releasing bonefish, it’s essential to keep the fish in the water. If you must take a photo, make it quick. Catch-and-release mortality increases exponentially the longer a bonefish is exposed to boat decks and oxygen.
4) When it comes to fly color, theories abound. But in general pay attention to your underwater surroundings. Small prey species tend to match the color of their natural environment in order to camouflage themselves from larger predators. Your flies, too, should follow suit. In the Marls we typically fish tan and buff colored flies to match the sand flats. Spawning shrimp patterns such as the Puglisi and Peterson’s have been top patterns in recent years. Come prepared with an assortment of flies in varying weights and colors. Flies can also be purchased at the lodge.
For Abaco Lodge fly-fishing, use 9-foot, 7- to 8-weight rods—medium- to fast-action with enough backbone to launch flies through prevailing ocean winds. Recommended saltwater-specific rods include those made by reputable manufactures such as: G.Loomis, Sage, Winston, and T&T. Under normal or windy conditions, you can still make delicate presentations with a 7-weight rod and a long leader (9- to 12-feet) with an unweighted fly. Your reel is also important, preferably with an adjustable brake, cork or composite disc drag, and a capacity of at least 150 yards of 20-pound test backing. We like reels by Abel, Hatch, Nautilus, and Tibor. Pair weight-forward floating lines (RIO and Airflo) with clear fluorocarbon leaders (10- to 12-pound test).
Most of the tarpon we find in and around the Marls are juveniles (10 to 40 pounds) and offer great sport on 8- to 10-weight rods coupled with quality disc-drag reels and floating tarpon fly lines. These smaller tarpon don’t require elaborate leader systems; a section of 30- to 40-pound bite tippet is perfect. Flies we recommend are the Toad, Black Death, or any smaller baitfish tarpon imitations.
For barracuda and sharks at Abaco Lodge you will need wire bite tippets. We prefer single strand (about 12 inches) in the 40-pound range, but knottable wire (RIO) works, too. For sharks we like a large popper in bright colors; think red, orange and yellow. For barracuda a classic needlefish fly, or Lefty’s Shark and ’Cuda fly are great choices… if you can strip line fast enough!
ABOUT BONEFISHING at ABACO LODGE
Bahamas bonefish are pound-for-pound one of the strongest fighting species on the flats. Once hooked, they rip line from your reel—reaching top speeds of 30+mph. They brawl hard. Reward good casts. And they populate some of the most superlative locales in the world. For instance, you can catch bonefish from French Polynesia to Hawaii the Seychelles and across the Caribbean. But anglers come to Abaco because A) we offer them big. And B) because Abaco Lodge on the Marls delivers the kind of quality bonefishing experience you’ll only find in the Bahamas.
Bonefish predominantly feed in shallow-water habitats known as flats, where they move in under the safety of incoming tides and typically depart as the water drops. Tidal influence is less of a factor deep in the Marls and more so on the ocean-side flats of Abaco. This fact makes the Marls a massive feeding ground, with resident bones available more readily than anywhere else in the world.
What most people don’t know is that Abaco was also once home to the International Gamefish Association (IGFA) all-tackle world-record bonefish—a massive 17.2-pound fish caught in 1999. Today, Abaco remains a place that produces consistent shots at big fish, many in the 5- to 6-pound class, as well as the elusive few reaching the beastly 10+ pound benchmark.
As far as species characteristics are concerned, bonefish populate warm saltwater environs. And the big ones live for a long time—according to biologists more than 20 years in some cases. The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT), an organization that has conducted extensive research on bonefish populations in Abaco and across the Bahamas, reports that a 23-inch Caribbean or Bahamas bonefish—good size by most standards—is likely pushing 16 years old. Bottom line, big fish fight hard lives to reach formidable sizes. Catch-and-release fishing and sound environmental practices are essential to maintaining the health and overall prosperity of the species.
For more information on bonefish conservation and studies that pertain directly to Abaco and Bahamas bonefish populations, see tarbone.org.
WADING AND CATCH-AND-RELEASE
Abaco Lodge fly-fishing is mostly conducted from the snag-free decks of our world-class fleet of Hell’s Bay flats skiffs. After motoring to a preferred flat, guides shut down and raise the engine, take to their poling platforms at the boat’s stern, and begin the process of scanning the water for incoming and tailing fish. Anglers take their position on the bow of the boat, strip enough line onto the deck to make a cast—about 30 to 50 feet—and the guide-angler communication process begins. This teamwork component is imperative. Guides will often spot fish first and they will relay what they see in order for you to best prepare for your shot. Get ready to hear something along the lines of, “Bonefish at 100 feet, 11 o’clock, moving left-to-right!” Your guide will then ask, “Do you see it?!”
Seeing bonefish is the first and most important step to catching them. Use polarized glasses that help your eyes penetrate into the water and focus on telltale signs including color, irregular movement, shape, size, and body parts such as fins and tails. If you don’t see the fish, let the guide know and ask for clarification. If you do, and it’s within your casting range, prepare to let it rip with an accurate cast that lands anywhere from 2 to 6 feet in front of the fish. Tailing fish typically require a closer cast, while cruising fish require a longer lead, where the fish will intercept your fly as you strip and twitch it along their path of travel.
In addition to fishing from the boat, plenty of good wading opportunities exist within the Marls. On these firm-bottom flats your guide will anchor the boat, you’ll throw on your wading boots, and the on-foot pursuit begins. Wading for bonefish is one of the ultimate hunting experiences Bahamas fly-fishing has to offer. Together with your guide you’ll stalk skinny, ankle- to knee-deep habitats where tailing fish move up onto the flats to feed.
Stealth is key. Walk slowly and move as little water as possible, while approaching your target. And, be sure to make your first cast count. In these shallow-water environments, bonefish are skittish and lining it or making a splashy presentation will send your quarry running. Breathe. Focus on accuracy. And limit your false casting to no more than two or three double-hauls before dropping your fly into the zone. Begin your retrieve and when the fish follows prepare for a strip-set—rod tip down, and a quick pull of the line with your non-casting hand to firmly embed the hook in its maw.
The bonefish fight is explosive. Prepare to see your backing on the first run, while larger fish will take two or three long runs before tiring. With your fly line safely contained back within your spool, and a tuckered fish on the end of it, it’s time to land your prize. Abaco’s expert guides will help you through the catch-an-release process, one that is essential to fisheries conservation throughout the region. As the fish moves in close, take a hold of the leader and gently glide the bonefish into a wet hand. Use forceps or pliers to remove the fly, and cradle the fish in the water until it regains enough strength to zip away, unharmed.
The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, outlines the following practices for safe fish handling:
- If you have to handle a bonefish, use clean, wet hands and gently support the bonefish from beneath the head and belly. Nets, mechanical lip-gripping devices, and wet cloths can cause injury to the bonefish.
- Use hemostats, pliers, or a hook-removal tool to quickly remove the hook while keeping the fish in the water, and have your pliers ready and available to facilitate a quick release.
- Avoid exposing bonefish to air, even when taking a photo. If you must remove the bonefish from the water, limit it to a maximum of 15 seconds.
- Touching the gills can cause damage and impair the ability of a bonefish to breathe.
- If a lip-gripping device is used, it’s best to use them only to restrain a calm fish in the water while removing the hook. If a fish’s weight is desired, attach a sling to the device, and cradle the bonefish in the sling rather than hanging the fish vertically by the jaw.
Abaco Lodge on the Marls features luxury waterfront accommodations overlooking world-renowned flats on the west side of Great Abaco Island, just north of Marsh Harbour. The newly constructed lodge has eight air-conditioned private rooms with private bath, as well as a fully stocked bar, pool, sitting room, outside fire pit, and plenty of patio space to stretch out, kick back, and relax. Rooms feature large king beds, plush linens, rain showers, and patios that terrace over the rugged shoreline.
Amenities include high-speed Internet, WIFI connections, phone service, and a bright, comfortable lodge with dining facilities, fully stocked bar (soft drinks, plenty of ice, a blender and mixers for cocktails), tying room, and a new flat screen TV for all the games.
Our shop includes everything you need for a spectacular day of Bahamas bonefishing on the flats—and more—including Sage rods, Abel reels, RIO lines, backing and tippets, Costa polarized sunglasses, a prime selection of top-producing flies, sunscreen, lip balm, and logo-wear and packs from top brands such as Patagonia. If you left it at home, you’ll find it here.
What’s on the menu? Think fresh, creative, indigenous, and delicious. Abaco Lodge and Nervous Waters take pride in serving spectacular food, deriving its acclaimed menu from top local produce and specializing in fresh-from-the-ocean plates brimming with mahi, tuna, grouper, snapper, conch, and lobster.
Tasty appetizers are served on the verandah, where you’ll sample local Bahamian specialties such as cracked conch, grouper fingers, and conch salad. Desserts vary from chocolate decadence to key lime parfaits and rum cake with coconut ice cream. Save room.
Breads, pastries, and treats are baked daily. And breakfast features a variety of cereals, fresh-ground coffee, and a selection of teas, as well as fruit. Eggs are prepared a la carte, with bacon, sausage, and grits or potatoes. Hot cereals are also available.
Place your menu order nightly for the next day’s lunch. We have an open bar policy at the lodge, where you’ll find cold beers, spirits, and a blender for cocktails, as well as soft drinks. House wines such as Chilean Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon will be served with dinner. After dinner coffee, tea, and liquors are served in the sitting room.
Abaco Lodge caters to special dietary needs. Fill in your questionnaire and note special requirements or food allergies, so we can inform the chef. Salads are offered in our cooler lunches for those on low-carb diets.
*The lodge has an excellent supply of quality drinking water via our reverse osmosis system. You will find water in your bedroom and your boat, and you can drink the tap water. In our arid climate, water conservation is always appreciated.
All prices include:
- Lodging in Single Rooms
- All meals
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
- All Bahamian taxes
- Transfer in/out from Marsh Harbor
- One professional fishing guide every 2 anglers
|High Season: Oct 2013 to Mar 15, 2014 & July 2014|
|7 nights / 6 days fishing||$ 4,995.00|
|6 nights / 5 days fishing||$ 4,495.00|
|5 nights / 4 days fishing||$ 3,925.00|
|4 nights / 3 days fishing||$ 3,195.00|
|3 nights / 2 days fishing||$ 2,250.00|
|Peak Season: Mar 15 to Jun 31, 2014|
|7 Nights / 6 Days Fishing||$ 5,250.00|
|6 Nights / 5 Days Fishing||$ 4,895.00|
|5 Nights / 4 Days Fishing||$ 4,350.00|
|4 Nights / 3 Days Fishing||$ 3,525.00|
|3 Nights / 2 Days Fishing||$ 2,475.00|
Single Boat: 60% Surcharge
Non Fisher: $ 395.00 per person p/night
Transfer from Treasure Cay: $50.00 p/person One Way
Transfer from Marsh Harbor airport: Included in price
Full Day Fishing on Arr/Dep date: $ 750 p/boat
Half Day Fishing on Arr/Dep date: $ 550 p/boat
Abaco Lodge: proud hosts of Pirates of the Flats, ESPN series.
Please take a moment to download and read through the following information well in advance of your departure. It will help answer most questions concerning your stay.
NOTE TO GROUP LEADERS: Please make sure to share this information with the rest of your group. It is vital that everyone in your group is fully prepared, understands the trip cancellation policy on refunds, and have the opportunity to purchase travel protection insurance, (especially anyone with a health issue).