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Getting after Bahamas' Green Turtle bonefish

Big bonefish, like this one, thrive around the Green Turtle Cay's flats. 

  • Editor's note: "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" airs each Saltwater Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 television. Episode 11, depicting the bonefish excursion below, debuts Sunday, March 26; it re-airs April 1 at 6 a.m. ET and April 2 at 6:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit www.georgepoveromo.com.


    Green Turtle Cay is situated in the Bahamas Abaco chain, amid miles of lightly fished flats that are full of bonefish.

    Compared to some Bahamas flats fishing destinations, where large schools of small bonefish are the norm, those around Green Turtle run big. Five-pound-class fish are common here, bones in the 8-pound range are not unheard of and enough 10-pounders frequent the flats to satisfy the selective caster.

    Having fished Green Turtle several times, I can vouch for the quality fishing. This time I returned with my shallow-water vessel looking to harass the local bonefish populations.

    Our base of operation was the beautiful Green Turtle Club and Marina. This first-class facility offers cottages, pool-side suites and villas overlooking the water; superb dining; and a marina and fuel dock. It also provides dive trips, as well as offshore and inshore fishing charters.

    Ronnie Sawyer is the top flats guide here. He was born and raised on Green Turtle and has been guiding professionally for nearly 30 years. His father, Joe, was the first guide on the Island.

    Sawyer is a light-tackle and flyfishing specialist who knows the local flats better than anyone. He has taken bonefish here as large as 14-pounds. Sawyer and I have fished together several times before, and we've yet not to have a banner trip. He's truly a pleasure to fish with.

    What I find most intriguing about Green Turtle is that the area has five major flats, which serve as roaming grounds for bonefish. Each locale is within minutes of another, yet sports its own distinct scenery ranging from rocky sounds, marl and creeks, to the miles of white sand lining the cay of New Plymouth.

    Such diverse settings create the opportunity to pursue the fish in whichever manner you prefer. One can pole the deeper edges of a flat and cast to cruising fish, move higher on a flat for tailing fish, search out the occasional muds, or simply stake out the skiff and wade off hunting for bonefish.

    While -ounce jigs take lots of fish, nothing beats bait. I brought along several dozen shrimp to pitch at fish and, if necessary, to chum them onto a flat.

    We fished spinning reels spooled with 8-pound hybrid line. The reels were paired with light action six-foot-six rods.

    To prevent a bonefish from fraying the leader by rubbing it along the bottom, and guard the light fishing line against mangrove shoots, we used three feet of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader. The hook of choice was a 1/0 bait-keeper style.

    Precision casting is a must to hook bonefish, as is a stealth approach. We shut down near a flat, so that Sawyer could quietly pole the boat along its edge. I stood in the bow, ready to cast. Sawyer also had a baited outfit nearby, should my cast miss its mark, or an opportunity to double-up presented itself.

    By poling quietly along a flat and scanning the bottom well ahead of the boat, we would be able to see bonefish well in advance. One trick for maximum visibility is to pole with the sun at your back, which illuminates a large portion of the flats. Once a fish comes into view, determine its movement and prepare to make your cast when it comes within range.

    A good cast is one where the bait is presented ahead of and beyond the fish by 15 feet or so. This serves two purposes. First, the sound of the bait or lure entering the water won't be close enough to spook the fish. Next, you'll have ample time to creep the bait or lure right in the bonefish's path.

    If the fish doesn't immediately pounce on the bait, twitch it a time or two to get its attention, and let it sit. When you feel the take, quickly wind tight to the fish until it takes off. Then, immediately extend the rod over your head to keep most of the fishing line out of the water; this will protect the light line from brushing against roots or obstructions during the fish's run.

    Bonefish are incredible sport on light tackle. When hooked on the flats, they have just one way to run for the sanctuary of deeper water, and that's straight out.

    It's not uncommon for a big bonefish to take 200 yards of line, or more, on its initial run. And should a big fish run off a flat and into a channel, there's a strong chance that the fishing line will rub against the bottom and part. A good flats guide will always chase a large fish off the flat, in an effort to keep the fishing on a more vertical angle to the fish.

    Bonefishing is consistent year-round off Green Turtle, although spring and fall are the best times. The cooler water temperatures associated with spring and fall keep the fish close by as they search the shallows for food throughout the day. During the summer, the best action is during the mornings before the intense heat makes water on the flats uncomfortable.

    It was a pleasure to once again fish with Ronnie Sawyer and put the boat through its paces around Green Turtle. The Green Turtle Club is an outstanding facility. Just having my boat within a short walk from my room was temptation enough to jump in it and have fun when we weren't fishing.

    What continues to amaze me is that with all this great bonefishing at hand, you're rarely competing with another boat for fish. In fact, Sawyer and I had all the flats to ourselves. It was just us and the bonefish. And who could possibly complain about that?

    Contact flats-fishing guide Ronnie Sawyer at 242-365-4070.

    "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" airs each Saltwater Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 television. Episode 11, depicting the bonefish excursion below, debuts Sunday, March 26; it re-airs April 1 at 6 a.m. ET and April 2 at 6:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit www.georgepoveromo.com.