Last week Justin Lewis, from Grand Bahama, Zack Jud, from Florida International University and Tiffany Gray, from Cape Eleuthera Institute, worked with Cassandra Abraham at Friends of the Environment in Marsh Harbour, Abaco on a flats program with local students from Abaco. This flats program was like a shorter version (just 3 days) of our 7 day sleepover Flats Week summer program at Cape Eleuthera Institute. It gives students a chance to not only learn the basics of flyfishing, but also immerse themselves into the ecology and conservation of the flats ecosystem. We had 5 students, all Bahamians, participating in the course.
The program started out on Tuesday, August 13th, with an informational presentation on bonefish and flats ecology. Zack and Justin also spent a bit of time that first day teaching students the basics on flyfishing where they had the chance to practice casting, some of them for the first time! That afternoon we headed over to Great Cistern to do an introduction on methodology and how to use the seine net. We saw lots of turtles, a shark, and caught some shad (mojarra), crabs, shrimp, and other fun stuff in the seine net.
The second day we tagged 20 bonefish around Crossing Rocks, about 12 miles south of the Marls. Clint Kemp from Black Fly Lodge in Schooner Bay took us out with two of their flats boats for a beautiful day on the water. After tagging and doing a little fishing, he took us over to the Black Fly Lodge to check out their facilities. It was very quaint and personal lodge, right on the newly developed Schooner Bay. Clint provided a wealth of information on not only what it's like to be a top notch fly fishing guide, but also some of the background on the development of the unique "Live, work, and play" community of Schooner Bay.
Check out their website:
Black Fly Lodge - http://www.blackflylodge.com/
Schooner Bay - http://www.schoonerbaybahamas.com/
For the last day, we headed out flyfishing to get more practice using the fly rods and to catch a few bonefish. We went out in Cherokee Sound with local guide Buddy Pinder and found LOTS of bonefish. Those spooky Cherokee bones are known to be tough to catch, but we did have two students get the chance to catch two bonefish that morning! Once the tide got a little high for fishing, we had lunch at the Pinder's house in Casuarina. Students then learned to make their own flys to take home and use next time they are out fishing!
It was a great week out on the flats. Students got great information learning about the importance of bonefish in the coastal flats ecosystem. They also learned first hand the value of bonefish in the flyfishing industry where in the Bahamas, $141 million dollars is earned annually. We hope to have a few future flyfishing guides come out of the bunch! Big thanks to our guides, Clint and Buddy, as well as researchers, Zack and Justin, who helped make the experience unforgettable for our students.