A history of bonefishing in Florida and how it developed on Abaco, together with some useful tips on bonefishing, was presented by Cindy Pinder at this year’s Art for the Parks event. Mrs. Pinder is one part of a bonefishing power-couple, together with Buddy Pinder.
“Tailing for bonefish,” she said “is like hunting. You cast to the fish when you see it. You spot the fish, you cast, you get the fish to eat, then you hook and enjoy the run before landing the fish.”
Before fishing, you have to learn what these fish eat (mostly crustaceans) and when they eat. Then you must develop the art of tying the fly. The first flies were tied with feathers.
Mrs. Pinder uses fox hair from a fur she bought years ago. Synthetic fur can also be used as well as rabbit fur or small pieces of feather. She passed around her husband’s fly box filled with many different flies and showed pictures of different types.
Explaining when and how the sport of bonefishing came to Abaco, she first talked about four famous American bonefishermen who influenced the way people bonefish.
By the 40’s and 50’s fly fishing guides were already in demand. In the 60’s the fly gear evolved, eventually becoming what it is now.
As the sport became more popular, regulations on fly fishing were needed. They were devised by Bernard “Lefty” Kreh. These regulations are still used today.
Other fishermen responsible for the betterment of the sport were Bill Curtis who built the first poling platform, designed the first true flat boat in 1970 (the Hewes Bonefisher). He also formed the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust in 1999.
Bonefishing made its appearance on Abaco in the early sixties with Joy Duncomb and Ronald Rolle who picked up guests on the “Hope,” the boat they were working on, and took them fishing on the east coast of Grand Bahama, Deep Water Cay and North Abaco.
In 1963, when the Treasure Cay Hotel opened, the first guide in Treasure Cay was Orthnell Russell who was taking anglers fishing; at the same time the hotel hired five guides to take guests bonefishing.
Bonefishing also started to become popular in Cherokee Sound.
1998 there were three bonefish guides for North Abaco. In present days they are nine. Two guides operate out of Green Turtle Cay and two out of Hope Town.
As the sport became more and more popular, many fishermen became guides.
Guides started fishing the Marls in the 90’s, one of them was Buddy Pinder who is also registered in Marsh Harbour together with nine others.
From the early 60’s to the 80’s, there were six guides out of Cherokee Sound. They are now seven. Five guides operate out of Crossing Rocks and fourteen out of Sandy Point.
The bonefishing industry has become an important part of the Abaconian economy.
With so many guides around, forming an association was necessary. The Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association (AFFGA) was formed in 2008. Partnering with the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and the Bahamas National Trust the following year enabled the association to start research on the fish behavior, thus taking a proactive stand in protecting the fishery.
In 2012, members of the AFFGA started tagging the fish to find out about their spawning habit. The fish were surgically implanted with transmitters and receivers were placed on the ocean floor. It was discovered that the fish tagged in the Marls traveled to Cross Harbour to spawn in deep water, a distance of approximately fifty miles.
Following that discovery, AFFGA partnered with Friends of the Environment and the Bahamas National Trust to take actions that would protect the fish and its habitats.
During meetings with those organizations, it was proposed that the Marls and Cross Harbour become National Parks.