Bahamas Fishing Regulations: What’s Really Happening

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

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.

If you’d like to fish the Bahamas and make it really simple, join me for the next G&G Bonefish school. Email for details.

Here are the forms you need for your Bahamian fishing license.

Form 2 Form 1

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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15 thoughts on “Bahamas Fishing Regulations: What’s Really Happening

  1. Thanks for the update. This is helpful. Can you re-scan those two pages and save them as either full-sized JPEGs or PDFs? Right now I can either save as HTML or as a very small, very fuzzy JPEG.

    Killer flats photo, BTW!

  2. Sovereign countries have a right to enact any regulation they want. If I’m not mistaken, Belize has a similar regulation, especially with respect to operating foreign vessels with Belize guides. I also think that the US should have reciprocity with these countries, and any fishing regulation US citizens are subjected to in that country, their citizens should be subjected to similar regulations in this country.

  3. Does anyone know where to buy a Flats License in Freeport? I’m headed there next weekend, have the form, just can’t find any info on where to take it. Thanks!

  4. In Central Abaco, licenses are purchased at the Office of the Administrator in the Bahamas Government Complex in Marsh Harbour. I purchased my annual license at the Marine Affairs Office, but a couple of weeks later they changed it to the administrator’s office. No ID is required. You simply fill out the application and hand over the correct amount of cash (most government offices do not accept even Bahamian checks). The clerk uses the application to fill out a separate license on an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet of regular paper. It is relatively painless and nearly the equivalent of buying a license in the states.

  5. I just returned from a trip to Eluethera and I can report that buying a license was no problem. A few minutes at the island administration office and $30. Reminded me of buying a pheasant hunting license at the county court house when I was a kid.

    I have read through the law many times and it seems like it would be perfectly legal for a couple of DIY anglers to rent a boat (Bahamian registry) and fish from it. This reasoning comes from the section that defines what a guide is. That definition requires “compensation or reward” for one to be considered a guide.

  6. I like your clarification about buying a fishing license when intending to fish at any place in the Bahamas. I think that fishing is a great past-time, and it can prove to be a bonding experience with nature. I love inshore fishing, so I’ll look for the best spot in the Bahamas to try it out.

  7. I’ve thoroughly reviewed the law multiple times, and it appears that it would be completely legal for a pair of do-it-yourself anglers to rent a boat registered in the Bahamas and fish from it. This conclusion is based on the definition of a guide within the law, which specifies that being a guide necessitates “compensation or reward.”

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