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Catching 'on' at Cape Eleuthera

3/3/2009
Give 'em what they want! A look at the mix of natural baits and lures the author used to troll up blue marlin and big dolphin off Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas. Courtesy of "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing"

What do you get when you and a friend take a 28-foot, twin-outboard-powered, center console 252 miles deep into the Bahamas, to a premier resort with all the amenities and luxuries one could dream of? If you're not a serious angler, the answer would likely be a thorough psychiatric exam.

However, if you love offshore fishing for marlin, dolphin and tuna, that has the makings for a spectacular fishing expedition. All you need to do is get there!

And get there we did. Harry Vernon III and I boarded my Mako 284 MARC VI in Miami and crossed the Gulf Stream to Bimini, where we cleared U.S. Customs and Immigration, topped off the fuel tank and pressed onward.

The first leg was tough, due to a 20-knot easterly breeze that whipped up seas as high as 7 feet.

Fortunately, when we left Bimini and got on the relatively shallow Bahama Bank, to cruise some 70 miles to Northwest Channel Light — which marks the entrance to the deep Tongue of the Ocean, the winds were beginning to diminish. This enabled us to pick up speed and make good time. From the Tongue of the Ocean, we headed to Nassau, and then idled through Nassau Harbour.

Admittedly, it felt sort of strange cutting through such a famous harbour bustling with cruise ships and stately resorts, primarily because I've only visited Nassau by air. Talk about a different perspective seeing it from the helm of the MARC VI.

After taking on 50 gallons of fuel in Nassau, to guarantee we'd have enough juice to make our destination, we exited the harbour, got on the shallow Yellow Bank and ran a good piece to an area called Ship Channel. Here, there was enough water to navigate around the coral heads and enter deep Exuma Sound.

From there, it was onward to our destination: Cape Eleuthera's Powell Pointe Marina (888-270-9642; www.capeeleuthera.com). We pulled in the marina around 8:30 p.m. We were finally here.

Home sweet home

Powell Pointe is a four-star resort with luxury homes, villas and the deepest marina in the entire Bahamas. It's a stop on the luxury yachts circuit, and three landed here during our visit alone.

The water in the marina, incidentally, is flushed via a major canal at one end, and the marina entrance at the other. The water is clear and, especially at night, one can watch stingrays, sharks and the occasional grouper frolicking about the bottom. In its deepest section — where you can't see the bottom — there's no telling what monsters might exist.

But my money would be on big sharks and cubera snapper.

We docked our MARC VI right out front of our two-story villa. During our stay, we'd eat a quick breakfast at the coffee shop next door to our villa, and dinner down the street at Powell Pointe's beachfront bar and grill. There was plenty of fuel and ice, and we even commandeered an ATV to get around the expansive facility.

As beautiful a complex as Powell Pointe is, Harry Vernon and I were here for the fishing. The local waters are lightly fished, and we planned on introducing lures and baits to a number of pelagic species, especially blue marlin.

Fortunately, we didn't have to wait long.

It's all about the fish

The very next morning, Harry and I set out to troll. Over here, depths exceeding 1,000 feet lie a mere mile offshore from some points of land; you don't have to travel far to the fishing grounds.

We set out an elaborate teaser system, consisting of two StripTeaser dredges (one off each transom corner), a nine-squid spreader bar from the port outrigger teaser reel and a large, hookless marlin lure from the starboard outrigger teaser reel. Our bait spread was a mix of pure artificial lures, bait and lure combos, and plain horse ballyhoo.

Once everything was arranged into position, the teasers and baits made the ocean behind my boat look alive; There was no way game fish could miss us!

This is blue marlin country, so we put out the heavy tackle. We fished primarily Penn International 70 reels spooled with 80-pound test line, and a pair of Penn International 50 reels spooled with 50-pound test line. The reels were matched to Penn rods rated for 50- to 100-pound test lines. The leaders on our lures and natural baits were 300-pound test fluorocarbon.

Right off the bat, a blue marlin rose behind a starboard bait, on Harry's side of the boat. The marlin hit the bait, but Harry failed to hook it. The fish dropped back and rose behind a lure. Harry tried teasing it into striking, to no avail. The fish dropped out of the spread, swung over and piled on a plain horse ballyhoo I had set far back behind the port outrigger. I hooked the marlin!

To say the fight was exciting would be an understatement. We were so stoked. This was the reason why we ran all these miles — and we hit a home run off the very first pitch!

I eventually led the blue marlin alongside the boat, where Harry billed it, removed the hook and set it free. After basking in our glory for a few minutes, out went the baits and teasers. We were back on the troll.

Our plan was to troll for two days, and then bottom fish for two days. We continued trolling down toward "The Bridge," a reef that connects the southern tip of Cape Eleuthera to the tip of Little San Salvador Island.

The Bridge divides the Atlantic and Exuma Sound, and attracts hoards of bait and game fish. It is the spot to fish, although we caught our blue out front of Davis Harbour.

Harry and I scored several dolphin, which were brought in and prepared at the restaurant. On day two, we hooked another blue marlin. Unfortunately, the hook pulled after the fish made a long, sizzling run.

Heavy thoughts

What's ironic about such a trip is how our boat remains afloat with all we bring.

Think about it: We were there for a week, and planned on trolling offshore as well as bottom fishing on the reefs. We took a cooler filled with trolling baits, like ballyhoo and mackerel; another cooler with bottom baits, including silversides, Spanish sardines, squid and ballyhoo; 40 some-odd frozen blocks of Capt. Mark's Pure Sardine Chum (each block weighs 7 pounds); coolers full of lunch meats and drinks; extra cases of water; tackle bags full of offshore and bottom-fishing gear; sinkers; spare anchor and chain; spare props; our personal bags; and plenty of ice. It took hours just to load the boat!

Fortunately, with twin 300-horsepower Mercury Verado outboards, we had plenty of power to jump up on plane and cruise efficiently. At the marina, we offloaded everything but what we needed for our trolling exploits, freeing up a lot of space and removing considerable weight.

Having access to a deep freezer on site helped tremendously for storing the frozen chum and bottom baits, until time to use them.

Back for more

I thoroughly enjoyed the Powell Pointe experience. So much so that I plan on returning here in May or early June and spending a week exclusively trolling for offshore game fish.

The fish are here in numbers and they're all of quality size. Best of all, the geographic layout of Cape Eleuthera is such that it's on the lee of any northeast or easterly winds, which are prominent during spring and early summer. It could be blowing 25 knots out of the east, and — based on the proximity of deep water to land — you can still bottom fish or troll the edge in calm seas. This in itself is a huge plus for owners of small- and mid-sized boats.

The reef fishing, which we did for two days, was some of the best anywhere. But that story will have to wait until next week!

For more on "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing," visit www.georgepoveromo.com.