The politics of DiY bonefishing.

The politics of DiY bonefishing.

Tracy&James | Thursday, 6 October 2016

In the last year or so there has been a lot of discussion about the topic of do-it-yourself fishing in the Bahamas. This at times has become very heated and politicised. From what I can make out there appears to be a lobby group, comprising of some guides and lodges, who would like to see DiY flats fishing banned for non-Bahamians. They propose that inshore sport fishing should be fully guided and these guides should be licenced by a central government agency.

At this point I should state that Tracy and myself are keen DiY flats anglers and our first choice of destination is the Bahamas, so I’m pretty biased with regard to this discussion.  I do, however, have some sympathy with what this pressure group is trying to achieve.  Being in close proximity (relatively) to Florida it is quite easy to make it to the Bahamas by boat.  In recent years there have been a number of reported ‘incidents’ where a boat has made this crossing whilst towing a fleet of skiffs.  These skiffs are then operated by US guides with US clients.  In my opinion this isn’t right and the Bahamian guides have every right to be up in arms at the bare-faced cheek of such an enterprise.  It contributes little or nothing to the Bahamian economy as they tend to operate from the ‘mothership’ which is fully stocked for the trip prior to leaving the US.

Including lone DiY fishers within rules to stop the practices mentioned above are a mistake though.  From the moment they land in Nassau the DiY’er has to start paying: the local airline to the chosen out-island, the accommodation (with government tax now), the car hire and petrol, maybe boat hire (or kayak), groceries, restaurant meals, bar bills etc. etc.  The DiY’er may well choose to hire a guide for a day or two also, this is always a good option on a new island or if you’re not too sure regarding how to go about things.  So, all in, the DiY angler contributes a lot to the local economy, certainly more so than a typical ‘beach tourist’.  


There seems to be a misapprehension amongst the politicised guiding organisation that somehow banning DiY angling is going to result in an uplift in the economy.  I guess they’re reckoning on converting most of the DiY fishers into customers for guides at $500/day or whatever.  For me, and for many others that I’ve spoken to, this simply won’t happen.  We’ll simply find somewhere else in the world to fish.  As such the economy will actually shrink, not that the guides will notice as they’ll still have the same customer base as they always did.  However those Bahamians who make a living from other tourist-related means will be left to take the hit. 

I have a rough idea of how much Tracy and I spend in the Bahamas on a typical trip.  If you multiply this figure up by the thousands* of anglers that must visit then you end up with a substantial figure.  Hopefully the politicians will see through some of the arguments being made by the guiding organisation and do some proper analysis of how much income lone bonefishing brings to the country.  Hopefully then us DiY’ers will be welcomed with open arms to wander their beautiful flats and spook their bonefish in our own time.


* I don’t have figures but the government must have as there’s a ‘bonefishing’ box to tick on the customs form.

Incidentally, Tracy and I were in the Bahamas in the immediate run-up to one of their general elections once.  The political rallies seemed to consist of beach parties where free rum was dished out, one night by the PLP and the next by the FNM.  I can’t remember which party we’d have voted for if we were eligible because we were too drunk!  I do think the rest of the world should try this though – it’s much more fun than televised debates and the usual drivel we’re fed.

It’s the last BFCC competition day of the year on Sunday.  I’ve been practising with one hand only due to my shoulder injury.  I will be using two hands in the competition though.  I’ll see you in Brentwood if you’re going, if not have a great weekend.