A tropical trip report from Mangrove Cay, Bahamas

During low tide anglers can find bonefish cruising the flats in front of the lodge at Swain’s Cay. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

“Fish ahead,” I hear. Standing on the bow, I scan the shallows. Seconds later, I realize there is not “a” fish ahead, but a whole herd of bonefish coming toward me.

I cast.

“Let it sink,” says my guide Ornald Greene, better known as “Shine.” “Strip. Strip sloooow. Stay calm.”

No takes.

The scenario plays out several times throughout the morning. My partner and I do have success in hooking and landing several bonefish, mixed in with more than our share of tangles, “buck fever,” and poor casts. In the afternoon, the herds of fish turn into larger fish cruising the flats in singles and doubles.

Guide “Shine” Greene shows off one of our early morning bonefish. Photo by Polly Dean.

Shine puts us on fish after fish. We enjoy his company and appreciate his patience. A popular guide, he was among the first to guide independently in the area. Shine fished commercially until Hurricane Lili capsized his vessel and nearly took his life in 1996. He decided guiding was safer and purchased a flats boat that he still uses today. “This boat put four kids through college,” he tells us with pride.

Mangrove Cay

Mangrove Cay is an island within an island. Situated near the center of Andros Island, it is surrounded by water, notably the Middle and South Bights to the north and south. Because of the island’s unique positioning within a greater land mass, finding refuge from the wind is rarely a problem.

Andros and Mangrove Cay are home to some of the largest bonefish in the world, with some reaching double digits in size. In addition to the big ones, bonefish averaging 3 to 5 pounds are plentiful in the bights and on the hard sand flats to the east. Regular shots at 6- to 10-pounders are common.

Guide Randy Thompson releases a bonefish while fishing Middle Bight off of Mangrove Cay. Photo by Polly Dean.

Swain’s Cay Lodge is located on the east side of Mangrove Cay, with hard flats just a short wade away at low tide. Owner Cheryl Bastian is a true ambassador to the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Working hard to welcome fishermen–groups and individuals—she happily helps with details such as fishing licenses, shuttles and more.

The area has a reputation for having the best guides in the Bahamas. Both guides we fished with were exceptional, and we heard the same from other anglers staying at the lodge.

Cheryl and her staff make Swain’s Cay a standout in hospitality and service. The lodge is exceptionally clean and comfortable, and the food will satisfy any angler.

Swain’s Cay Lodge provides a hospitable atmosphere for guests. Photo by Polly Dean

The prime season for bonefish runs from fall through next June. If one doesn’t mind fishing in the heat, the lodge hosts anglers throughout the summer as well. With easy and affordable air service from Florida to Nassau, and a 20-minute puddle-jumper to Mangrove Cay, it is a cinch to plan a holiday or post-holiday escape to this Bahamian out island. Visit Swainscaylodge.com for details.

To explore more options in the Bahamas, contact GoFishBahamas@gmail.com for a free 2019 Bahamas Fishing Map & Angler’s Guide.

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