“Strip, strip, stop. Set it, he’s on it man!” said Mark Bastian, an independent bonefish guide on Andros Island, Bahamas. After a few adrenaline-packed minutes, a screaming reel, and the first time ever seeing my backing, I was able to land my first ever bonefish.
Rewind to November, 2017. My good friend asks, “Have you ever caught a bonefish?” My
answer was “no, but let’s do it.” And so it began. Not only our trip to Andros, but also an addiction to chasing down bonefish.
A spin fisherman, a duck hunter, a trout bum, and someone who actually knows what he’s doing (not me) from Raleigh, NC, nervously help our two guides, Mark and Alvin, load the skiffs at the docks. Next thing we know, we’re fishing.
Mark is on the platform polling around and says, “Ready? Two fish, 12 o’clock, coming right at us, 50 feet. See them?”
My heart races, my palms start to sweat, my eyes race up and down the water. “No” I say. “40 feet, 12 o’clock,” I still can’t see them, I’m starting to think Mark is lying to me when suddenly he says, “start casting”. Whatever, he’s the guide.
The wind is blowing into my shoulder, I’m panicking. Three back casts and he tells me to drop it. That’s when I see them… 10 feet further and 5 feet to the right. They jet off at mach speed and I’m thinking I’ve blown the only shot I’ll have all day.
“No worries buddy, tons of bonefish. They call them the Ghost of the Flats for a reason,” says Mark. Eventually, we did learn to spot the difference between a bonefish and a patch of seagrass. My first bone broke off on the motor as the taxman was coming, but I did eventually land one, all thanks to Mark.
Boy was he right. For the next 8 hours, and the following two days, we were hooking up with bones, reeling in our backing, dodging sharks, drinking Kalik (a must), and getting bit by Doctor Flies, which are like horse flies on steroids and the meanest bugs north of the equator.
Andros is a special place and an incredible bonefishery, one that I will certainly be returning to. You never forget your first bonefish.
If you ever find yourself planning your first saltwater trip, I’d recommend a few things. Go to Andros, it doesn’t get as much fame as the other islands, but it’s got all the bones you want (plus the occasional permit and tarpon).
Bring bug spray with deet, those doctor flies are the meanest flies in the northern hemisphere, deet helps. Cash is king. Cards, PayPal, and Venmo aren’t accepted and we ended up having to “Moneygram” funds over to the guides to go a third day (message me if you want the full story, it’s one for the books).
Lastly, just go. Bonefish are an incredible species, and the Bahamas are beautiful. I speak for our whole group when I say that I dream of this trip every day and can’t wait for the chance to get back out there.
Be sure to check John Hawthorne out on Instagram at @jhawth42.