Recovery Through Angling:
Northern Bahamas guides get back to work
By Patrick Straub of Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures. Photography by Jim Klug
In early September 2019, Hurricane Dorian changed lives on Grand Bahama forever with sustained winds of 185 miles-per-hour, a storm tide of over 20 feet and over three feet of rain. Once the storm moved on and the waters receded, the scope of the damage was fully evident, yet cannot be understated.
It is estimated the total damage will surpass $3.4 billion dollars; this is equivalent to one-quarter of the Bahamas Gross Domestic Product. Destruction of homes and infrastructure alone will total $2.5 billion, and nearly 90% of that damage occurred on Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Despite the tragedy of Hurricane Dorian, the communities of Grand Bahama and Abaco will recover like they have with previous hurricanes and, for the fishing guides affected by Dorian, getting back on the water is the best form of relief. So, when an opportunity to fish there popped-up, I did just that. In early November I joined a friend of mine, John, from upstate New York, and we ran a supply flight and had a week-long fishing recon mission there.
For five days we fished with the guides and owners, Greg Vincent and Jay Franklin, of H2O Bonefishing. Since Dorian left on September 3rd, Vincent and Franklin have been hard at work helping their guides and their communities.
Grand Bahama’s other lodges suffered more than H20 Bonefishing. North Riding Point just recently began normal operations, East End Lodge should be back to full capacity by mid-2020, but Deep Water Cay has suspended operations indefinitely.
“After the hurricane, it was just get everyone safe and back to being able to function,” Vincent said of being in immediate triage mode. “But once the initial shock was gone and things were safe again, we knew it was time to get these guides back on the water.”
Vincent and Franklin have helped repair devasted homes and are now hiring guides who previously worked for lodges that are still being rebuilt.
“Despite the destruction to their personal lives,” said Franklin, “these guides want to get on the water and guide anglers. “Even with the ongoing recovery efforts,” Franklin added, “we are up and running and have access to the second longest mangrove shoreline in the Bahamas—only the west side of Andros Island has more.”
The fishing on my trip can be stated simply: the bonefishing was spectacular and the guides were eager and ready to work. Logistics were easy as well. Our arrival went off without a hitch, even with the international airport still closed. Domestic flights from Nassau are regularly scheduled and on-time. Customs and immigration were a breeze and we were casting to our first tailing fish within an hour of touching down.
In addition to fishing with H2OBonefishing, I was hoping to fish out of North Riding Point, but despite being ready and able to guide anglers, the lodge’s water system had been damaged. Due to the backup of the ports in Fort Lauderdale, the new system was delayed and a November visit wasn’t possible.
Paul Adams, manager at North Riding Point, expressed his frustrations, “We could have been open in early December but, due to things completely beyond our control, we just recently opened.”
As for the guides at North Riding Point, thanks to the generous donations from North Riding Point Club members, clients, Bonefish Tarpon Trust, the IGFA’s Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund, and Yellow Dog, we were able to raise over $585,000 for the NRPC Employee Relief Fund. 100% of the funds were distributed to our fishing industry-based employees to help them get back on their feet, said Adams.
Because of this support and hard work, like that of Vincent, Franklin, and Adams, anyone looking to chase the big bonefish on Grand Bahama can now do it and know they are also doing some good things for the community at the same time.
“For those out there that still want to help the Bahamian people,” says Adams, “the best thing they can do is visit and support Grand Bahama's economy.”
“We’ve got ice-cold Kalik beer, hot showers, very comfortable beds, great food, and unparalleled bonefishing. Our flats have been angler free for six months!” Adams concludes.
On my November trip, each evening John and I enjoyed Kaliks and drinks at Bones Bar on the waterfront at Pelican Bay Resort. At one point John said, “Bones Bar is probably now my favorite bar. And, I’ve been to a lot of bars.”
The evening conversations all began with smiles and stories of big bonefish, yet often reverted to a more somber mood—contemplating just how long it may be before life is entirely back to normal on Grand Bahama. Nevertheless, with encouragement from Vincent, Franklin, and Adams, our spirits were invigorated because knew that one of the best ways to help the guides of Grand Bahama is to go fishing, and we did just that for five very successful days.
Show your support by booking a Bahamas fly fishing trip at H2O Bonefishing, North Riding Point, or East End Lodge or donate to the Double Haul for Dorian Relief Campaign or the IGFA’s Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund.