The Bahamas are found on the northwestern edge of the West Indies. The islands command the gateway to the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. For any ambitious fisherman, fishing in the Bahamas is sort of a rite of passage. The Bahamas is an archipelago, which comprises nearly 700 islands with only about 30 of them being inhabited. Here, when fishing, you are just one cast away from reeling in a world record fish.
The Bahamas has hundreds of world records for many of the species of fish found there. Every year, sport fishing brings in about $500 million. The fish that put the Bahamas on the map, so to speak, was the Bonefish. This island nation covers 1,101 miles.
Things to Know Before Fishing in the Bahamas
When you pack to go to the Bahamas for fly fishing, you should have two fly rods with an eight to ten weight. This is what is recommended but you should use an 11 or 12 weight rod if you want to fish for Tarpon or Cobia. You also need to pack the flies you are going to throw, leader material, and two reels with at least 200-300 years of backing.
If you are using traditional gear and have reserved a charter, talk to them about what you should bring. Most of the charters will have everything that you will need. If you have a special rig, you should ask your charter guide if you can bring it. Most of the guides are accommodating.
The Bahamas Fishing Regulations
If you are fishing from a boat that is not owned by a resident of the Bahamas, you have to fill out the form Fishing for Sporting Purposes. For more information on this form, you can contact the Marine Resources, Department of Headquarters in Nassau, Bahamas. You do not need to worry about this form if you have charted a boat or fishing from a boat that is owned by a resident of the Bahamas, as the fishing permits are usually covered by their license.
If you are entering the Bahamas on a vessel that is foreign owned, you have to get a fishing permit from one of the designated ports of entry. If you are fishing from a Bahamian-owned vessel or from a dock, you will not need a permit. On one vessel, you cannot have more than six fishing rods.
If you are wading the flats and fishing or fly fishing, there are more regulations. You will need to purchase a fishing license. According to Bahama law, flat fishing is defined as anglers going after Permit, Tarpon Bonefish, Cobia, and Snook.
If you want to bring any fish back, there are some specific regulations to bring them back to the United States. All fish has to be brought back whole except for Dolphin Fish, Wahoo, and Reef Fish, which has to be brought back as fillets with the skin on. If you cannot have the fish in the waters of the United States, you cannot bring it back from the Bahamas. One example you cannot bring back is the Goliath Grouper, which is a catch and release only in Florida. If it is a trophy fish, you should take it to a taxidermist in the Bahamas for them to take care of.
Fishing Minimum Sizes and Weight
When you fish in the Bahamas, you have to adhere to the strict bag limits.
- You will be limited to 18 per vessel, no matter how many people are fishing on the vessel, of migratory species. This includes Wahoo, Kingfish, Tuna, and Dolphin Fish.
- In season the demersal species like Groupers and Snapper, are limited to 60 pounds or 20 scale fish.
- Per boat you are able to have up to six conch but if they do not have a well-formed lip, you have to put them back as those are prohibited
- Per boat, you cannot exceed ten tails of crawfish or lobster. The minimum permitted size is 3 3/8 inches or 6 inches of tail of carapace length.
- Stone Crabs must have a harvestable claw of four inches
You cannot harvest female stone crabs or crawfish and all species of turtle are illegal to harvest.
Popular Fish to Catch in the Bahamas
This fish is not much to look at but it is one of the hardest challenges any fisherman can face. They are impossible to spot and tough to trick. At the first sign of danger, they spook and as they escape across the flats, they can reach 40 miles per hour. It requires patience and precision to catch them
Some of the Best Places to Fish in the Bahamas
The Bahamian Flats
In the Bahamas, there is no bad time to go flats fishing. During parts of the year it just gets better. This is where you will find the elusive Bonefish. They are at their best from October to May when the weather is dry and the waters are cool. At this time, you can also target other inshore game fish like the Tarpon and Permit. The flats are great for fly-fishing.
When planning your fishing excursion to the Bahamas, you need to decide which island you want to book your trip for. Honestly, you cannot go wrong with any of the islands. The best place to start is Andros, which is known as the Bonefish Capital of the World. Andros is the largest island in the chain. The largest Bonefish are said to be in the southern flats. Other islands that have flat fishing are New Providence, Green Turtle Cay, Bimini, and Exuma.
The fish to try for when deep-sea fishing are the White Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, and the Blue Marlin; all of these made fishing famous in the Bahamas. You can also fish for other big game fish like Wahoo, Blackfin Tuna, Sharks, Mahi Mahi, and Sailfish. The one good thing about deep-sea fishing in the Bahamas is that the fish are around all the time. The only one that may be hard to find all the time is the Wahoo, as they are always seen to do their own thing. They usually peak in the winter and move off as the others stay around.
The canyons offshore farther north from Freeport on the Grand Bahama Island is a hotspot for Yellowfin as well as the Channel. The Channel is a big underwater valley between the Berry Islands and Great Abaco. You can also find Yellowfin Tuna southward in the Exuma Trough that is between Cat Island and Exuma.
The long trench of deep water between Nassau and Andros is called the Tongue of the Ocean is also a great place to catch game fish. It is sheltered totally by shoals and reefs so this means when the high winds are whipping the water into a frenzy, you can still fish for the big game fish here.
Reef Fishing in the Bahamas
Reef fishing in the Bahamas is a lot of fun because there are many different ways in which you can work one spot. You should start your day fishing for the Yellowtail Snapper, who is always near the surface. When you want to try bottom fishing, you will be fishing for Grouper. Finish your day of fishing by fishing for a combination of Cero and King Mackerel.
Depending on the depth that you are fishing, you could reel in:
- Groupers—Red, Strawberry, Black and Yellowfin
- Mangrove Snapper
You may also see a Nassau Grouper, which are strong, highly intelligent, and big. They are critically endangered so with this fish, you need to catch and release. The best times to fish the reefs are during the summer and spring when the fish are more aggressive and the water is warmer.
The largest reef in the Bahamas is Andros Barrier Reef that is 190 miles long. In the world, it is the third largest barrier reef. It is home to small tropical fish, lobster, and up to the large Marlin and Manta Rays. Although this is the most notable spot to reef fish, there is also Crooked Island in the southeast to Walker’s Cay in the northwest. This entire chain is great for reef fishing. Most of the reefs are only a mile or two from shore so it is easy to combine them with deep-sea or inshore fishing.
Learn more about fishing in the Bahamas at My Out Islands.
When choosing the Bahamas for your fishing vacation, they are sure to have the style of fishing you enjoy, from deep-sea fishing, to reef fishing, to flat fishing. The Bahamas has it all. The shallow waters around the Bahamian Islands are ideal for fishing. The type of bait, tackle, and lures you will need depends on the type of fish you are fishing for and where you are fishing. When you arrive in the Bahamas, there are shops that specialize in fishing that will help you get what you need. Having the right tackle will help make your trip memorable as you try to catch that big game fish, no matter if it is Tuna, Marlin, or many others.
You may also like to read the Ultimate Guide to Fishing in Bermuda.