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Friday, January 22, 2010
On to the Abacos!

By George Poveromo
ESPNOutdoors.com

George Poveromo, who resides in Parkland, Fla., is a nationally-recognized sportfishing authority who serves as Editor-At Large for Salt Water Sportsman magazine, and the producer and host of his own television series on ESPN2: George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing.

For those who have never fished in the Bahamas, you're missing out — big time!

Of course, if you know where to go here and how to fish the local waters, the action is world-class. However, truth be told, getting here is just as adventurous as the fishing when you're taking your own boat.

Think about the anticipation of setting forth on a journey ranging anywhere between 50 miles (distance from Miami to Bimini, the closest Bahamas island to the U.S.) and 240 miles (far southeastern Bahamas). Add in a mid-size, twin-outboard-powered center console, and the thrill increases 1,000-fold.

I've long stated that the Bahamas are my favorite place to fish, and why I've been coming here for more moons than I can remember. And while most of my trips are to Bimini (a quick sprint from my home in South Florida), I take my Mako 284 center console on at least one long-range run each year. This season's "extra distance" event was to the Abaco Beach Resort & Marina at Boat Harbour, in the Abaco chain. From the Palm Beach Inlet, that's an approximate 190-mile run.

Riding shotgun was friend and fellow angler Carl Grassi. Carl owns Carl's Sunoco on Sample Road in Coral Springs, Fla. When he's not managing his business, Carl can usually be found chasing everything from bottom-fish to broadbill swordfish in his home waters off Pompano Beach.

On this expedition, he and I planned on trolling offshore during July, a traditionally "slow" period for both pelagic fish migrations and tourists. The former didn't concern me, as there are usually always fish here, and I was thrilled with the latter, knowing we didn't have to contend with a bunch of other boats. Traditionally, spring is when the Abacos come to life, as blue marlin and droves of large dolphin migrate past the Islands. Traveling light is not an option, as there are no major tackle centers in the Bahamas. We brought some 20-fishing outfits (for inshore, reef and offshore), terminal gear galore, dozens of meticulously-rigged offshore trolling lures and natural baits (I worked on these for a week!), hooks of all sizes, sinkers, and 36 seven-pound blocks of Captain Mark's Pure Sardine Chum.

All this, of course, was in addition to coolers packed with drinks, lunch meats and ice. I'm always amazed at how my boat even floats when it's loaded this heavily.

A calm sea and clear sky greeted Carl and me when we cleared Palm Beach Inlet that morning, so I throttled up my twin Mercury Verado 300hp outboards, fine-tuned the Mako's trim tabs and settled into a quick, but fuel-efficient 4,300 rpm cruising pace.

The crossing was so beautiful and uneventful, that it seemed like the six-hour run was over in no time. We ran the initial 55 miles from Palm Beach Inlet to Memory Rock, which marks the edge of the shallow Bahama Bank. From there we headed to Mangrove Cay, and then onto Little Sale Cay.

Our next set of programmed routes brought us into the Sea of Abaco and to points that included Centre of the World Rock, Crab Cay, Angel Fish Point, Powell Cay, Crab Cay, No Name Cay, Whale Cay, Matt Lowe Cay and, finally, the Abaco Beach Resort & Marina.

Every leg on the entire route was pre-programmed into my Lowrance HDS 10 unit, which made getting here a breeze.

Two other valuable navigation and safety aids included the Sirius Satellite Weather option on my Lowrance HDS units, and my Lowrance radar. The satellite weather shows any rain or storm cells and the direction they're moving.

For example, this lends the option of either pressing forward, knowing you'll encounter just a slight drizzle, or altering your route to avoid an intense storm. And if you find yourself smack in the middle of a rain shower, the radar will get you through it safely.

As mentioned earlier, Carl and I were here during the offseason. We missed the blue marlin and dolphin migration by three months. However, scattered fish still roam past the Abacos during this time. In fact, some of the largest blue marlin here have been caught toward the end of June, with some bruisers hooked around the full moon in July. That's what we were banking on.

Brimming with anticipation on our first day of fishing, Carl and I set out a trolling spread comprised of Williamson offshore trolling lures, some plain and some tipped with a fresh ballyhoo. We used fluorocarbon leaders from 150-pound test (smaller baits) to 400-pound test (larger baits and lures). We used VMC hooks exclusively, with O'Shaughnessy-style hooks in sizes ranging from 8/0 and 9/0 for the smaller baits (model 9255) on up to 12/0 and 13/0 Big Game Hooks (VMC model 8709) for the large baits (Spanish mackerel) and lures.

We also towed a 96-fish dredge teaser off each corner of the transom, as well as a squid spreader bar (port outrigger) and large hookless marlin teaser (starboard outrigger) at the surface, from T-top-based teaser reels. The chance at hooking a large marlin had us fishing with Penn 70 International Reels and matching six-foot, Penn International V Stand-Up rods (model VS5010ARD60), and Penn 50 International Reels and matching five-foot, six-inch, Penn International V Stand-Up rods (model VS5010ARD56). The 70-Internationals were spooled with 100-pound test Sufix Performance Braid and a 150-foot long top shot of 80-pound test Sufix Superior monofilament. The 50-Internationals were packed with 80-pound test Sufix Performance Braid and a top shot of 150-feet of 50-pound test Sufix Superior monofilament.

An unseasonably cool water surface temperature turned out to be our nemesis; The offshore waters seemed devoid of life. We kept at it, however, using our radar to detect birds, and our fishfinder to look for bait and major bottom structure. Outside of prominent bottom structure, all else seemed nonexistent.

The water behind the MARC VI was as lit up as a Christmas tree, between the teasers and baits  but nothing was happening. We pulled a "skunk" for day one! Depressed? Yes, but we would be right back at it the following day, not knowing the fishing would be just as dead. The biggest slap in our faces turned out to be a large raft and mast we detected on our radar. The "find" had been in the water for quite some time. There was growth all over the bottom, and baitfish all around it. Carl and I just knew we'd score, only to end up shaking our heads in disbelief after three passes failed to produce a hit.

We changed tactics the next day. It was time for the reefs, and action! The reefs lining the Abacos hold fish virtually all year. After identifying a prominent reef on the fishfinder, Carl and I drifted between 70- and 180-feet of water. We used Williamson Abyss flutter-style jigs and Williamson six-ounce deep jigs tipped with a medium size fresh ballyhoo.

The jigs were rigged to five feet of 50-pound test fluorocarbon leader which, in turn, was joined to the 65-pound test Sufix Performance Braid fishing line with a small barrel swivel. Our jigging outfits were Penn Torque 200 and 300 reels paired with Penn Torque Jigging Rods. We scored strawberry grouper, a Nassau grouper and several big amberjack. We stayed with the bottom fishing, which provided a lot of action and fun.

An added bonus of visiting the Bahamas is that you can run and gun for fish across the Gulf Stream on the way back home. Right off the Bahama Bank, by Memory Rock, Carl and I noticed a couple birds some two miles away on our radar. We sped off in that direction. Sure enough, two Frigate birds were feeding at the surface. I quickly grabbed a Williamson Sailfish Catcher lure (Bleeding Dorado color) I had paired with a ballyhoo, attached the rig to one of my Penn Torque 300 outfits, and dropped it some 200 feet behind the boat. Carl swung by the Frigates, and I hooked a beautiful bull dolphin!

As I was fighting my dolphin, a 20-pound class cow (female) dolphin swam up behind the boat. Carl threw just about everything at it, but couldn't get it to eat. It eventually swam off. I, however, led my big dolphin to the gaff, and we ended up taking a beauty of a fish home for dinner!

Despite the slow offshore trolling at Boat Harbour, Carl and I had a terrific time. Credit that to the fast bottom fishing, great resort, and catching a big dolphin on our way back home.

And, of course, you can't beat the thrill and rush of running your own boat deep into the Bahamas. The sights along the way are magnificent, and the sense of accomplishment after completing such a trip is something that is really difficult to describe. It never gets old. In fact, it makes you want to do it all over again ASAP!

and you have the ingredients for a neat saltwater fishing destination, and family-friendly locale!



For more on "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing," visit www.georgepoveromo.com.