Grand Bahama Island
On The Fly Saltwater
Article and Photos by Jimmy Jacobs
Back in 2019 Grand Bahama Island was blasted by Category 5 Hurricane Dorian as it spread death and destruction across the northern portion of the island chain. In its aftermath, the gateway to Grand Bahama, the Freeport International Airport was flooded and much of the island’s infrastructure was disabled.
While the entire island was affected, the lesser inhabited eastern end was especially hard hit. Additionally, since that area was far removed from the economic engine of tourism that supports Freeport, Lucaya and the west end, recover there has been slow.
Against that back drop the On The Fly South crew visited the island for a first hand look at that western section. It was of special interest, since we had made several earlier trips there for some do-it-yourself bonefishing. We were especially anxious to look over the Graveyard Flat, Pelican Point and the flat at the end of Tamarind Lane in the village of High Rock. All of these sites had provided good bonefishing conditions and action on our earlier trips.
We made the jump over to The Bahamas via the landing strip at Old Bahama Bay Resort and Yacht Harbour on the western end of Grand Bahama. There we laid over to sample the DIY options, so we could compare them to what we’d find on the more heavily effected eastern end.
Here we found the wadable shoreline flat next to the airport in good shape, as was the shore to the south of the resort’s beach area. Particularly on this latter area we found active fish. This gave us a good baseline for the coming comparison.
Finally tearing ourselves away from great hospitality and island vibes of Old Bahama Bay, we rented a car and headed for the area east of Freeport. Our first inkling of how badly the island had been hit appeared when we reached the site of Smitty’s One Stop. This was the only gas station, convenience store and bar between Lucaya and McLean’s Town at the eastern tip of the island. To be exact, Smitty’s was gone, replaced by a pile of rubble.
Our first stop in search of bonefish proved just as disheartening. At the end of Tamarind Lane in the village of High Rock, we had several times fished the expansive, white sand flat that was usually alive with bonefish on the rise of the tide.
The drive at the end of the lane, which used to lead to a parking spot at the sand, now was impassible and overgrown. Walking down to the water was equally disappointing. The hurricane had stripped the flat of its sand, leaving coral rock and clay in its place. There also were no bonefish to be found there.
The next stop at Pelican Point proved a bit better, providing a mixed review. Here the trees along the beach stood mostly as bare white bleached trunks sprouting leafless skeleton arms. The tropical ambiance definitely had suffered. On the other hand, the sand flat remained intact, indeed, barely affected by the storm. This is another spot where the bonefish ride the incoming tide up onto the shallow shelf. Though those fish did appear, this day they proved rather skittish, as they stayed mostly out of casting range.
Our final stop was still farther east at the Graveyard Flat. Driving along Grand Bahama Highway, the devastation was evident everywhere. Efforts were continuing, trying to put the area’s infrastructure back together. Whole villages lay smashed, some seemingly abandoned.
Turning into the drive leading to the Mclean’s Town Public Cemetery, vegetation both big and small had been stripped of its greenery. Here and there the first vestiges of regrown were appearing. Arriving at the graveyard, which sits right on the shore of the bonefish flat, the results of the storm surge were still evident. The heavy masonry archway at the cemetery entrance lay flat, while tombstones and above ground vaults were wrecked.
Once we turned our attention to the water, our mood brightened. The Graveyard Flat had always held fish on rising, high and falling tides. The only down time here was when it went nearly dry on the ebb.
The sight of a guide boat poling slowly along the outer edge was the first sign that nothing had changed in this location. As the water crept higher with the rise the bonefish came with it. By the time we moved on, those fish were at times cruising a bare 15 feet from the beach They were easy targets for short casts with Crazy Charlies and Gotchas.
The bottom line proved to be that Old Bahama Bay Resort and the other hostels around Freeport are back in business and ready to host anglers. While the storm changed the habitat in places, overall the fishing has not suffered that badly. In fact, these spots saw very few anglers for upwards of 18 months, so the fish definitely have not been pressured.
The DIY fishing action on the eastern end of Grand Bahama is still viable and waiting for you.