Bahamas Draft Fisheries Regulations Set to Shut Down Flats Fishing Tourism Sector?
So by now we’ve all heard about the new proposed flats fishing regulations that seem to make DIY angling and foreign-owned lodges illegal. We’ve all had our little respective meltdowns and (some of us) are wondering how the heck we’re ever going to afford that next bonefish.
Personally, I think this smacks of classic politics and the triumph of so-called “common sense” over cold, hard data. In a 2010 Economic Report Bonefish & Tarpon Trust discovered that flats fishing brings over 140 million dollars into the Bahamian economy. No surprise there. The surprising part is that over two-thirds of that (over 100 million dollars) was from Non-Guided (DIY) Anglers. I was shocked to read that, but after a bit of reading and consideration it made sense. It seems that DIY anglers spend more days in the Bahamas. I mean, if you can afford two days at a lodge for $1,500 USD or a full week for $2,000, which are you going to choose? You’ll drop the extra $500 every time! And, while you’re there for those extra days, you’ll likely drink a little more than you should, drive a little farther to find fish than you were expecting and buy a few more orders of conch fritters than you’d budgeted for.
I mean, this is business 101, right? People will spend more IF they think they’re getting a deal. Witness the iPhone, or Abel reels, or YETI coolers.
This, it seems is why the DIY angler is such a massive contributor to the Bahamian economy. And, it must be mentioned that he spreads his money around: car rental, accommodations, groceries, taxi, drinks, restaurants, tackle shops, and, yes, guides. Everyone gets a little slice.
In light of this I have written the follow letter to the Bahamas Fisheries Dept. Make your feelings known here: firstname.lastname@example.org. YOU HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2015!
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing with concern for the new Draft Regulations for the Bahamas Fisheries, particularly Flats Fishing. I am worried that the move to limit (or outright ban) Do It Yourself anglers (DIY) would severely damage the Bahamas’ economy. My concern is based on research data collect by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (which can be read in it’s entirety here: https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/images/stories/Bahamas_Flats_Economic_Impact_Report.pdf, and I’ve also attached a copy for your reference).
In this report they note that “Direct expenditures for both guided and non-guided anglers were nearly $70 million (Table 7). Guided anglers accounted for 21% of this total while non-guided angler spending comprised 79% of flats angler’s direct spending in the Bahamian economy.”
So, the impact to the Bahamian economy by Non-Guided anglers (DIY) is 3 times that of Guided anglers. This is surprising but is because non-guided anglers are clearly spending more time in your lovely, hospitable islands (as Table 7 in the report clearly shows).
I am an independent guide myself in the Cayman Islands, and I’ve also been tempted to push back against Non-Guided anglers, because “common sense” says they’re harming my business. However, the data does not show this to be true. In fact, DIY anglers contribute tremendously to our economy, renting cars, buying petrol, renting accommodations, buying food and drinks, visiting restaurants, frequenting tackle shops, purchasing souvenirs, etc. These moneys do benefit me in the long run because they enrich my island, my homeland and my people. Also, many of these anglers do end up booking me for at least 1 day, and often refer friends and family to me as well. In fact, more anglers in my waters can only mean more business in the long run… IF the proper conservation measures are in place to prevent over-fishing and destruction of habitat.
Of course, I have fished many times in Bahamian waters and do not wish to lose the option of doing a little fishing on my own while visiting. I will point out that I have fished out of lodges (Big Charlie & Fatihas on Andros), with DIY Lodges (Fedel’s on Acklins), and with Independent Guides, including J.J. Dames on Great Exuma. However, on all of these trips I enjoyed grabbing my fishing rod and a Kalik and walking the flats at sunset, looking for just a few more tailing bonefish. Sometimes I caught fish and sometimes I did not, but I always enjoyed myself. It would be a shame for something like that to be impossible.
To be clear, I fully support immediate implementation of a Fishing License requirement (as Florida has required for many years), but it should be reasonable. $20/day is not reasonable. That would add $120 to every week-long stay at a fishing lodge, whose average prices are already barely competitive with other flats fishing destinations like Belize, Honduras and Mexico. A fishing license in Florida (which also has bonefish, tarpon and permit) is only $30 USD PER WEEK! Why would someone pay for a plane ticket, book an expensive lodge AND pay nearly $100 in addition to these expenses when they could simply stop in Miami and be done with it? It think this is something that should be seriously thought through.
I hope that my letter (and the letter of the countless other anglers out there) will provide some perspective on how this Draft Legislation, IF turned into law AS IS, would harm rather than help the Bahamian people.
“Beat the Wind! Use Your FULL Double-Haul.”
As promised here is our SKIFF EPISODE, where we REVup our Double Haul for casting in the wind, getting extra distance, and throwing big flies. Skiff fishing provides its own challenges, especially where distance is concerned. Because a boat is bigger, makes more noise and throws a bigger shadow, fish can see/sense/feel it and us from farther away. That often means longer casts are essential just to get the fly away from the boat into a zone where the fish are not yet alerted to our presence.
This is a more advanced tip, but still comes back to basic principles of casting, namely: Slack is the Enemy! Many anglers who have learned to double-haul don’t take it far enough. Specifically, they don’t get their “hauling hand” back to their casting hand before they start their forward cast. If there is a lot of space between your hands, there’s a tendency for the casting hand to MOVE TOWARD the hauling hand at the beginning of the casting stroke. This puts slack in the system, reducing bend in the rod and stealing energy from the cast.
The difference between a good caster and an expert fly caster is that the latter will end their haul with their hands nearly together. This makes it impossible for the hands to move toward each other during the casting stroke. It also provides more distance for the haul on the forward cast.
Work on getting the hauling hand back to the casting hand BEFORE you begin your forward stroke. The line will tell you how fast. Too fast and you’ll put slack in the line. Too slow and you won’t make it all the way back. It should feel as if the line is PULLING YOUR HAND back toward the rod, after you make the haul for the backcast.
“Avoid Shoulder Injury: Keep Your Elbow Close.”
Good movement equals good results.
That’s our basic premise for this series.
This week we focus on “Casting Longevity”: using good movement (proper form) to reduce the risk of shoulder injury from fly casting. Yes! It’s a real thing. “Casting Elbow” and rotator cuff injuries are fairly common among those who cast a fly rod for hours.
The good news is you can help avoid injury through the practice of good movement. You could say that “good movement equals safe movement.”
We’ve talked about keeping the elbow low—not raising it too high during the cast. Let’s build on that concept and also keep the elbow INSIDE of our hand as we make our casting stroke. Keeping your elbow close is basically external rotation, which is proper form for any “pushing” motion, whether it be a pushup, a bench press, or a fly cast!
Work on keeping your elbow close as you cast and your hand OUTSIDE of your elbow. To borrow from Lefty Kreh, KEEP THE ELBOW ON THE SHELF. This makes it easy to go straight back, and straight forward, which is the most efficient way of casting.
Next week we talk about special issues for casting from a skiff. Stay tuned!
“Fix your Back Cast: Direct your fly line.”
Does your back-cast hit the water? Wish you could have your fly land a little softer and spook less fish? Use your thumb!
Your thumb can be used to direct your backcast… and the fly. If your thumb stops going down, the line will go down. If you point your thumb up, the line goes up. Simple.
The same is true on the forward cast. If you’re fishing for spooky bones in calm water, try a sidearm cast and turn your thumb “up” at the end. This will direct the fly line (and fly) up a the end of the cast and allow the fly to flutter down, as opposed to flipping over and splashing down.
HOMEWORK: Try directing your fly cast (and fly line) 1) down, 2) straight out and 3) up…. by focusing on where you point your thumb at the end of the cast. Practice until you can direct your flyline (and fly) at will.
Stay tuned as we pick apart some of the most basic fly casting errors, one at a time!
Fly casting is: a slow, gradual acceleration to a sudden speed-up-and-stop.
~ Lefty Kreh
Join the REVolution. REVup your casting and REView the fundamentals. This is the first in a challenge to myself: one casting video a week (52 for the year) focusing on the fundamentals of casting a fly rod. We’ll look at basic casting principles, mechanics, common faults and even mobility issues. These will be drawn in part from the plethora of casting woes I witness as I daily guide anglers to tailing bonefish on the saltwater flats of Grand Cayman Island. Over the years I’ve had to learn how to quickly diagnose an angler’s cast, ignoring most of the issues but focusing on the biggest problem so we can go fishing. This forum will allow me to elaborate on some of the problems upstream and downstream of the major issues like wrist-ing, raising the elbow and failing to stop the rod.
We all wish we could be better casters. Let’s take the challenge and work on it.
WindKnot the Angler
This last site had over 4,000 spawning Nassau Grouper removed from it, in only 2 years of fishing…
A marine scientist doing field work
at the Nassau Grouper aggregation
in the waters off Little Cayman.
[Photo courtesy the Grouper Moon Project]
A few years ago I started covering this story after a series of massive overfishing episodes threatened this critical predatory reef species prompted the Cayman Islands Government to close the fishing site on Little Cayman until they could gather data on the Nassau Grouper. They discovered that the thousands of Grouper in that single site were all resident Little Cayman Nassau Grouper. Now the importance of this aggregation site is internationally recognized, not just for the health of Little Cayman’s reefs, but for the future study of this species.
As the winter full moon approaches, the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman prepares for the annual arrival of the Grouper Moon Project team. Each year from late January to early February, scientists and volunteers of the Reef Environment Education Foundation (REEF) join staff from the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (DOE) to document the last healthy, active and protected Nassau Grouper spawning site just off Little Cayman. The Southern Cross Club and others in the local community provide vital support to the team, recognizing that it takes an entire community to bring this historical and endangered species back from the brink of extinction.
You can read more here: (http://www.pitchengine.com/pitches/7d1e2df1-4739-4736-80be-71a41b0fc895)
Follow along here: (http://www.reef.org/groupermoonproject)
Day II November 30, 2013 In Transit, Bahamas
Dawn is a grey and drizzly affair, but calm. Perhaps our luck is turning.
Aside from the typical incompetence by the local airline (SOP), the transfer goes smoothly. Even though my companions have been to Acklins before their excitement is palpable. Watching the panorama of the Exuma keys extending to the horizon a few thousand feet below our fuselage does little to alleviate that. After nearly two solid days of traveling, there is only one thing on our mind: bonefish.
Strangely, my own emotions are subdued, even calm. Traveling does that to me, no matter how exciting the destination. I think travel is a kind of mobile meditation—removed from the quiet room and the silent garden—an opportunity to practice awarenessing.
I have plenty of time to practice. After touch-down and collecting our bags, we head for the lodge, which I’m now informed has excellent flats out the back door. But, instead of squealing tired to get there—rigging our fly rods en route—we stop for fuel, to grab a few cold beers (which I slug guiltily in the back of the rental car) and just to pass the time of day with a few of the locals. The upshot is we’re on the water about an hour later than feels reasonable. But never mind; we’re here and safe and there are indeed bonefish. The tide low and starting to rise, ideal to find bones pushing past into the creek system behind us.
My first shots are bold, aggressive. I’m using a fairly heavy crab pattern, because it’s the Bahamas and the fish here are idiots. Plus, I’m me; I got this. But, staggeringly, in the quiet of the slack tide my fly lands heavily enough to spook the few fish I see. Perplexing. I switch patterns for something lighter—a Gotha-like thing with bead-chain eyes—and connect with the next fish I see. The take is gentle, nervous even and I respond by hammering home the fly and attempting to horse the fish in. This results in a pulled hook and lost fish. Brilliant.
The clouds of the past few days still haven’t fully clear out, so visibility comes and goes. The westering sun doesn’t help. I finally land a couple, but all the fish I’ve seen have been smallish—1½-2 pounds—so I wade deeper, looking for their bigger cousins. Behind me the newbie Bob is working the shoreline, and I can’t help but notice that every time I turn around he’s casting at something. Schools of baby bones in shallow water? Must be. Right?
Right. I keep wading down the main channel, scanning for grey shapes in the failing light. Even if I don’t spot them in time, spooking a few would at least tell me they’re there, but no, nothing. Not a needlefish.
Bob is still casting and the light is failing fast so I wade toward shore. Maybe I’ll pick up a tailer on the way. I’m still fixated on spotting bigger fish in the channels when a disturbance near shore catches my eye: tails! Big ones. I wade into position and realize this fly won’t do; it’s much too heavy. I retie and also lengthen the leader a bit. It’s probably unnecessary but I’m running out of chances and want to actually land a decent fish. With the new fly on I wade in close, searching for signs of life in the glare. Suddenly I see a swirl and a push headed my way. My cast snakes out to intercept, but drops to far ahead. I let the fly sit rather than recast. Dusk has come and the glassy water belies the slightest movement on my part. There! I see a movement toward my fly, I think. I begin a halting, gentle retrieve, feeling for the take and then there’s that moment, that almost imperceptible feeling that something is going to happen.
A few hours later I hold a sweating drink as the crew discusses plans for tomorrow. I listen smugly with half an ear and no opinion. Wherever we go will be fine, I’m sure—interesting anyways. Besides, I’ve already got a 5-pounder under my belt, dinner smells good and tomorrow is the first full day in a full week of fishing. It’s a good day to be alive.