By Louis Cahill
As of January 19, 2017, new Bahamian fishing regulations are in effect and confusing both anglers and authorities.
I was recently on South Andros for the G&G Bonefish school and our group was the first to be issued Bahamian fishing licenses on the island. Implementation is a little messy but flats fishing in the Bahamas is operating as usual.
Here’s what you need to know about the new Bahamian flats fishing regulations.
Who does it affect?
The great majority of anglers will see no real difference fishing under these regulations. You will be required to buy a license ($20/week, $60/year), and for the time being, buying that license is a little cumbersome, but it’s very inexpensive. Anglers fishing with lodges or independent guides can count on help getting their licenses. DIY anglers will have to get licenses on their own, and will be restricted to wade fishing or single-person water craft.
There are only two groups who are really negatively impacted by the regulation. Anglers who DIY fish with a boat. Folks who, for example, own a second home in the Bahamas and have a boat, will have to hire a guide. That’s silly but it’s the law. Still, that’s a small group of anglers and if you are one of them I’d suggest you get busy organizing and lobbying for a change in the law. The other group negatively impacted are the guides themselves. All guides now have to pay a $150/year license fee, which they are not happy about. Interesting for a law which was supposed to support guides. If you are not in one of these two groups, once you have your license, the new regulations will not affect you.
How do you get a Bahamian fishing license?
This is where it gets tricky. The new law was put into effect without any mechanism to fulfill license applications. There will eventually be an online license site, but for now the process is quite cumbersome. When I landed on South Andros, even the local officials had no idea the law was in effect. This meant two things: no one knew how to sell me a license, and no one was enforcing the law stating I need one. I didn’t actually get my license in hand until the last day of fishing, and no one cared.
Buying a Bahamian fishing license is a two-part process.
Step 1: Fill out an application and, as crazy as this sounds, your own license. That’s right, your fishing license is a form you print and fill out by hand.
Step 2: Submit your application and payment to the Agriculture Agent on the island where you are fishing. The Agent will sign your license and you’re good to go. The only trick is finding the agent. There’s one for every island, but, if you are a DIY angler, it will be on you to track them down and get the paperwork done. If you are with a lodge or guide, they will likely take care of it for you.
There has been a lot bluster from anglers, especially in the US, about these new regulations. Having fished since their introduction, I can assure you that, for almost all of you, nothing has changed. Before you complain, remember that the Bahamas is a sovereign nation in control of its own waters. We are guests. Please respect the new regulations and, if you are angry, don’t blame the Bahamian people. They have no more control over their government than we have over ours. Fly fishing in the Bahamas is one of the best experiences an angler can have. Enjoy it knowing that, at least some portion of your license fee will go to preserving this world class fishery.