As you’re headed for the launch ramp in Lowe Sound each day, the sign on the side of the road says “Andros Island – Bonefishing Capital of the World” and it isn’t local hype. A complete chapter in the book “Fifty Places to Fly Fish Before You Die” is dedicated to fishing North Andros”.
Our staff of top “north end” guides can introduce you to this world-class angling destination from 40 miles down the west side of the island to 20 miles down the east side and north to the Joulter Cays and on to Chub Cay and the Berry Islands.
The guides will pick you up in the morning at the lodge in Nichols Town and it is only about a 10 minute drive to the launch ramp in Lowe Sound. If you are fishing the south end of the Joulters you can easily be casting to Bonefish a half hour from “home”. The Guides will fish you late and never say ‘get in the boat’ when are you are standing in the middle of feeding fish as the sun gets low in the sky, but somebody better call the chef or you will all risk catching her wrath when you arrive back at the Lodge.
The “Joulters” comprise a myriad of sand flats, which are roughly 15 miles long by 7 miles wide dotted by a hundred or so small cays from a couple hundred square feet up to over 2 miles long. On a ‘busy’ day there might be 4 or 5 guide boats spread over the entire 100+ square miles. Access to the flats in shallow-draft boats, “flats boats”, is via deep-water channels, usually 4 to 12 feet in depth, which are formed between the individual flats by the ebb and flow of the tides.
The consistency of the flats ranges from hard bottom to soft sand with essentially no coral or other bottom feature, which can snag a fly line, making them perfect for stalking Bonefish on foot. At higher tides fishing is done from the boat with the angler manning the bow and the guide poised on an elevated platform on the stern propelling the boat along stealthily with a “push pole”.
Bonefish are usually found in groups from a handful to a few thousand with the larger fish tending to travel in singles, twos and threes. When the fish are up on the flats they usually feed in water from 10″ to 14″ deep moving along slowly preying on anything that tries to make a run for it.
The average Joulters Bonefish is about 3-4 lbs but fish in excess of 10 lbs are seen on every trip. Seeing Bonefish of this size is fairly commonplace on the Joulters but catching one is a challenge . . . first getting these very smart fish to take the fly, then break-offs and getting spooled are the obstacles. Their power is unbelievable. Usually the biggest fish are taken from the boat for these reasons.
Lowe Sound Creeks
North of Lowe Sound and to the west is a series of creeks that wind almost through to the west side of the island save a couple of hundred feet. The largest is very wide, essentially an inlet known as “The Sound” or “Back by the Airplane”. Besides holding some very large fish at certain tides, the area is excellent on particularly windy days to pole along the mangrove-covered edges of the creeks, which provide some shelter. Permit, Porpoise, and Sea Turtles are many times found in these areas as well. Have that crab pattern ready to tie on quickly if a sickle-shaped dorsal fin appears.
The West Side Creek Outflows
Andros Island is approximately 100 miles long and is totally uninhabited by humans along its west side. There is only one access road leading to the west coast of the island and that is at Red Bays, located only a few miles down the west side from the northern tip of the island. Once you have run south ten or so miles there are a series of creeks that flow into the ocean. That continues for the next 20 miles along the west coast heading south.
Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit concentrate on those outflows waiting for their next meal. The farther south you travel, the less chance that fish have ever even seen boats and anglers before. For this for this reason the fish are far less spooky and will immediately jump on most any fly they see.
You can target Permit or Tarpon going farther south or just fish along for Bonefish and you will still get shots at an occasional Permit or Tarpon. You should plan on always having one rod on the boat rigged for Tarpon and another rod with a crab pattern ready to go for Permit. When they appear you do not have time to tie on a new fly many times. Some anglers also have a rod ready with a wire leader for Barracuda, some as large as 5 ft long, which pop up everywhere.
The west side of the island tends to be more silty and so most all fishing is done from the boat. The west side cannot be fished on many days, especially after westerly winds, due to poor water visibility caused by the silt being churned up.
West Side South
Running approximately 30 miles south of Red Bays, you come upon a vast system of creeks (estuaries) that go back many miles inland from the coast. You need to pick the proper day as a 45 minute run on smooth water, becomes an hour and a half pound in a flats boat if it is choppy and the wind has come up.
The area along the coast at the outflows of the creeks holds your best chance of getting multiple shots at Tarpon and Permit. The Tarpon are not particularly spooky and will usually follow and take a fly with no problem. Landing the monsters is another issue! The Permit are sometimes cooperative and sometimes not – that’s Permit.
This area also holds Bonefish which are probably the least wary of boats and humans as any in the world. They just don’t see very many boats to the point where they have been seen following right behind the boat as you pole along seemingly curious about this big, white, fish that has come to visit.
Outside Joulters (The Permit Flats)
To target Permit without the 30+ minute run to the west side or Chub Cay, there is an area beyond the Joulters known as the Permit Flats, which holds a good number of fish during certain periods of the year. Fishing is done from the boat in shallow water looking for large rays, which the Permit follow as they cruise along scaring small shrimp and other prey that scoot out as the ray passes over.
Conch Sound can actually be fished from the shore but the boat can cover the area in about an hour and sometimes with great results. Not getting as much pressure, since the area is not fished as much, the fish are less spooky and spread out many days “tailing”, with their heads down and tails up nosing into the sand for the little critters they pray on.
Chub Cay and the Berry Islands
On days with minimal wind we cross the deep water to Chub Cay and the “berries”, The Berry Islands. Chub Cay is literally the “home of the rich and famous” with a marina filled with mega yachts and corporate jets lined up at the small airport. The fishing yachts are there for the deep-sea fishing. We are there for the Permit primarily and some bonefish. Low pressure makes for cooperative fish.
Whether walking the flats back in the creeks or running down a channel on the way to the next flat, the ubiquitous Barracuda show up. Keep a wire leader ready with about any fly, usually bigger and brighter the better, and you will get a shot at a “Cuda”. If you see what looks like a dark 2 x 4 lying on the bottom it is “money in the bank” as when a “Berri” is motionless, that is when he is hunting. Pitch it four feet passed him and 6 feet in front and strip like hell. He will strike like a cobra and the show begins. Barracuda go ariel and the aerobatics are usually higher and longer than even Tarpon.