Is Flats Fishing In The Bahamas Over?

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

I don’t mean to be alarmist but I just finished reading a draft resolution for new Bahamian flats fishing regulation and I’m shocked and heartbroken at what it says.

I’ve been bonefishing in the Bahamas for some time now. Over a decade anyway. Twice a year, I take groups of ten anglers for guided fishing at a lodge and at least once a year I do a DIY trip. If you’ve been reading Gink and Gasoline for any time at all, you know of my love affair with these beautiful islands, their people and their fish. Today I am wondering if that is all coming to an end.

Flats fishing is a key engine for the Bahamian economy. Not so much for Nassau with its choked streets, barred windows and shirtless frat boys. But on many of the family islands, fishing is the economy. Islands like South Andros would be destitute without the tourism flats fishing brings.

I know I drop a lot of coin with the locals when I’m in the islands.

pasbsI go out of my way to do it. I have a huge pile of shells and doodads I’ve bought from my buddy Lindon who keeps the dock at little creek. Not because I need or even want them but because I appreciate that Lindon keeps the place tidy. I remember what it was like before and I know how hard he works at it. I also know that he’d be destitute without that job and the little extra cash he makes off the shells. So I’ll pay him $20 for a shell I could pick up off the beach myself and I encourage others to do it.

I drink in Joe Sands bar, I tip Kermit the bus driver and I donate money for homecoming and I feel good about doing it. More importantly, I introduce people to Bahamas bonefishing. Lots of them and, as a group, we drop a collective $60,000/week in the local economy. Apparently, that’s not enough for the ministers in Nassau.

Here’s where the trouble lies

The Bahamian government is apparently getting greedy. They have proposed dangerous, protectionist legislation, which if passed will drastically limit access to the Bahamian flats by foreign anglers. Here are a few of the proposed regulations that seem especially damning.

1. No unguided fishing

DSC_4610That’s right. Been thinking about taking the family down for a week and slipping away to  fish for a couple of hours? Forget it. Not without a licensed Bahamian guide.  Are you one of the many Americans who have bought a second home in the Bahamas so you can take trips to fish? You might want to sell it. Under these proposed regulations, fishing without a guide can get you (hold on to you seat) a $3000 fine and three months in a Bahamian prison. Oh, and they’ll take all your gear, your boat and your truck. Maybe I’m overreacting but that’s how it reads.  How good does bonefishing in Mexico sound right now?

2. No foreign-owned lodges

Want to play by the new rules? Book a trip to a lodge and fish with a guide? I hope you feel comfortable wiring five grand to to some guy in the Bahamas who you’ve never met with no protection from American courts. I hope that works out for you. This seems to be at the heart of this attack on foreign investors and anglers. How can the Bahamian government be so blind the the benefit these lodges bring to their economy?

3. No non-Bahamian boats

I have never been lucky enough to sail to the Bahamas and stay on a boat and fish the amazing flats that are only accessible that way. It looks like I never will. Whether personal craft or ‘mother ship’ charters, that will no longer be possible. The same regulations exist about taking those larger boats. I wonder, is it up to local Bahamian officers to decide who is fishing and who isn’t? I’m sure those officers will be completely honest when faced with the possibility of seizing a million dollar vessel.

4. Fishing permits

Non-Bahamian anglers will have to apply for a $30/day permit to fish. I’m fine with that, however this permit can be refused or revoked for any reason. In a country with a lively underground economy it’s easy to imagine you’ll be paying bribes to get a permit.

There’s a lot more to these regulations and, to be fair, some of it is good. There’s mention of half the permit fees going into a conservation fund. If done well that could be great, and frankly I have no problem buying a license to fish the Bahamas or anywhere else. I don’t begrudge the Bahamian people a cent they can make from us visiting those amazing islands. But I don’t think that’s how this is going to work out. 

I have more information, which I am not able to publish, but let me assure you this threat is very real and quite possibly worse than we know.

If you are Bahamian you need to read this!

What I fear is that this drastic protectionist move is going to cripple Bahamian sport fishing.

Americans, specifically, believe fiercely in the right to fish on their own. Make no mistake, this is going to piss them off. They are not going to trust Bahamian-run lodges they have never seen, nor should they. They will simply go elsewhere. They will not pay lodges, drink in bars, tip guides and staff or buy shells from the guy at the dock.

They will fish any one of the myriad of other options where regulations are friendly to foreign anglers. And very soon one of those options, for Americans anyway, will be Cuba, right on your southern border. They will happily line up to give the Cubans their money. Or the good people of Mexico or Belize. Bahamians will be catching bonefish for food again very soon.

This draft document was made public on the 18th, leaving only 11 days before the vote to make it law on the 29th.

Please speak out! Let the Bahamian government know how you feel.

Leave a comment here.

Email the Bahamian Ministry of Fisheries.


Email the Prime-ministers office

You can read the bill here – FR(J&C)(A)Regs2015 ver 2

Thank you for your help!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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124 thoughts on “Is Flats Fishing In The Bahamas Over?

  1. I saw this draft information several days ago but didn’t’ realize how soon the vote would take place. Truthfully, I didn’t think the Bahamian government was naïve enough to shoot themselves in the foot with proposals like this. Like you ,I take 3 to 4 trips to different islands in the Bahamas every year , either with family or take 4 or more buddies with me. We sometimes are guided the entire time but normally take a guide half the time and go DIY the remainder , as there is nothing like catching a Bone on your own and is part of what keeps us coming back. The money I’ve spent in those beautiful islands for the past 30+ years is significant . A license fee would be no deterrent , especially if it went towards the fisheries programs. My letter to the Bahamian government is going out immediately and hope with enough people pointing out how this will negatively effect the always hospitable Bahamian people, they will rethink their regulations.

    • Just reading the draft proposal, if there is a permit at 20 bucks per day and 10 bucks admin, I would consider this more reasonable than using a guide everyday but that still adds 290 bucks per person for fishing, it might make a trip to cuba more likely now. I have been going to Exuma for several years DIY Kayak bonefishing.

      • There is some debate over how the cost of the permit works out. Whether the $10 fee is charged per permit or per permit day. Either way, I have no issue with paying for a permit. The shut down of DIY fishing and foreign owned lodges is much more concerning.

    • I own a house in the Bahamas for bone fishing. This is a disaster. I spend hours landscaping, painting, dealing with the locals, cleaning and am lucky to sneak out for an hour or two for fishing. I will not hire a guide. They do not have enough qualified, motivated, reliable individuals to be guides. They do not license guides.
      We have a guide in New Brunswick. It is required. Duncan spends his time sprawled on the bank of the river snoring. This bill is CRAP

    • Where in Canada requires a guide or limits Foreign ownership/foreign vessels?

      We may make you pay but last time I checked so does most US states.

      • Some Salmon Rivers in NFL and NB for sure demand non-residents use a guide in Salmon Waters on specific areas/times, but NEVER in the oceans.

          • Nate, not a hunter myself so I’ll take your word for that, it might be safer to be in the wilderness in Canada with a guide while hunting anyway, not sure hunting or safety has any connection with this issue but I take your point that other countries may impose various guides for various activities or locations. The consumer will ultimately vote with his feet if he finds this practice to be too costly or just not what he wants. I just find the thought process particuly naiive that the bahamaian resorts will not see a dwindling number of DIY anglers, particularly when other resorts may be better value. If it comes into effect its just another reason for our family to try another location for our 2 week vacation, when we add up all the costs another 20 or 30 bucks per day.

          • This is incorrect. Some provinces require you use a guide for big game (if you aren’t hunting with a friend who is a resident), but you don’t need one for birds, or to fish (in almost all cases).

  2. it;s all about the $ for the people on top… sad state of affairs but you can see it here locally in the states (CT). A lot of conservation efforts are going the way of the dodo as states scramble for revenues & cutting programs.

    Of course, anyone can see the waste in spending that’s taking place but govt. does tend to be corrupt no matter where it is.

    Hopefully – they won’t vote those measure in — but it’s most likely a done deal already & that’s why they are rushing the vote.

  3. Folks, if you feel like emailing the Sandals resort chain, they have a huge resort on Great Exuma that would be hit by lower occupancy if only guided fishing were permitted. Please go to Sandals website and fill in the contact email form under the “contact us” link at the very bottom of the main website.

  4. This is all happening right about the same time Cuba will be opened up to everyday Americans. Cuba’s timing couldn’t be much better.

  5. There are many interesting points in this article to debate, but the key one for me personally is that of “No Unguided Fishing”. Appreciate the Bahamas are on the US’ doorstep and is more in your playground than ours, but we Brits certainly don’t take kindly to being told we must have a guide as well and the Bahamians should know this from their historical background. “Izaak would be turning in his grave”!

    Plus, I was seriously thinking about going to South Andros, but as I live in Mexico and not far from Belize, if they push this through, then I’m one of the lucky ones to have those options on my doorstep.

    • it clear a lot of anglers are spreading the wrong information about the changes that will take effect in the bahamas. as a member of the BFFIA and a guide.we welcome DIY to the Bahamas to fish on there own,just so you have a understanding for what all guide go thru in this country. (1)we are asking the bahamas government for the first time in history to recognize what we do as a profession and make it law. (2) I have worked at Flamingo Cay Lodge at the west side of Andros for four years and witness international guides from the U.S. guided. and laws were broken.these guys are nice guys but.they were taking work from bahamians,not just in Andros island guides came into contact with this issue.this Law will protect the jobs for guides in the Bahamas.(3) as a member of BFFIA. we are asking the government NOT to stop DIY,but to Regulate the location for DIY Anglers were they are aloud to fish.designating location for guides and there paying clients only.and designating locations were DIY waders are aloud to fish with a license. we will be discussing permit fees ect on Thusdays 25th june. this is a draft to the government and comments are open. we do not have any rare materials other than salt, there is not any diamonds,oil,coal,underground gas in the Bahamas.we have a marine resources.and we will work to protect what we have with or with out others.

      • Interesting. Which locations and how will they be managed.

        In my opinion if you are a DIY angler and you see a guide boat show up you clear out. Walk to the shore and let the guide make his living. I think if DIY anglers followed this rule and FL just beat it then folks will be able to get along. If the idea is to restrict certain areas to guided only I get that too but wow, messy in terms of how you make people understand where and how to enforce it.

        • am sure there we be wardens,fish and game wardens come up to hunters all the time in the u.s. its all about common sense.if you wading in a location were you are aloud,all of the local guides will know those area’s so they will give you the freedom to enjoy your fishing.only a warden will check you out by waving you over to sure he will have a uniform on.most of what am saying to you,I’ve have related to the president of BFFIA. imformations of maps for DIY anglers to down load form BFFIA site so they can find the locations were they are allowed to fish.I do most of my fishing at red bays the west side of andros.about 10 guides fish that area and some days am there all to my self.when we begin to train more young guides.10 to 15 years there may me 15 boats up there add the boats DIY anglers may rent from a local bahamian.can turn into 20 boats.then we will be like the Florida keys. that am told, by my clients. that say to me. that’s why they love Andros west side. there are few boats. this is one of the reason why we need to regulate locations for guides only. am hoping that with meetings held in each family islands those guides on there own island will make there own decision on were they designate locations for DIY anglers. and me fair to give you DIY fisherman sufficient flats to fish to keep you coming back. as a Tourist you have the freedom to visit most countrys in the if you want to go to Cuba or Belize ect. am happy for you.

      • Kee,

        You say there is a meeting on Thursday the 25th to discuss this law, but I am under the impression, after talking to the Fisheries Ministry that the meeting is to be on Monday, June 29th. Can you give any more info on the Thursday meeting?


  6. Louis,
    With all due respect, do you believe there is a connection between the burgeoning and sensationalist direction of the fly fishing industry & its demise? I realize my culpability as someone who reads a blog two and fear that I too might be ruining the sport. After all, as much as I despise it, it’s still “All about the Benjamins baby.” I too will write an email even though I’ve never been afforded the opportunity to fish the Bahamas as I have chosen a job as a civil servant. I’ve enjoyed your writing immensely and look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic.

    Many blessings,

    • Gary, I’m not sure is see your point. I do not see the fly fishing industry as sensationalist. I also think the rumors of its demise are greatly exaggerated. I see the fly fishing industry as one full of some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I think we are on the verge of a big growth in fly fishing. Here in the southeast, where I live, fly fishing is gaining popularity at an amazing rate. Companies like Orvis has done studies to prove it. I think there is a great deal of enthusiasm among the younger folks in the community and in the industry and if that seems sensationalist to you I think that’s your perception. What I see is excited young people getting in to fly fishing and nothing makes me happier.

      • I agree, interest in the sport is good. The only way to keep the sport we love alive is to incite interest in the younger generation. New product and exciting presentation of the sport (well produced videos and fashionable clothing) keeps fly fishing interesting and relevant for todays youth. If we keep it to ourselves in ole boys club, our sport, its traditions and culture, will die with us.

    • I think it’s harder for someone involved in the industry to see Gary’s point, and he may not have phrased it very intuitively. I do think that the maturation of the industry itself is driving some of this; that said, broader economic factors probably have a much larger role; everyone is looking for ways to pull in more money and most of the low hanging fruit has been picked already.

      The fly fishing business has transformed dramatically from being a world where its businesses operated in a niche fashion with dedicated focus to one with a much broader vision of appealing to the masses. It seems that in the past 10 years, most major fly fishing players and a number of lodges have been gobbled up by private venture firms or excessively wealthy individuals (might as well use your play money to buy a hobby business when you have no other place to get a return on your money). I’d be interested to see figures on the demographics of the individuals that own most of the fly fishing lodges in the Bahamas.

      I also get an outsider perception that there are a lot more people trying to scratch out a living on the water these days. That leads to creative solutions to overcome obstacles that locals often find somewhat bothersome (i.e. Florida based mothership operations in the Bahamas). The fly fishing world seems to have a lot more “transient guides” these days that simply move around from hot-spot to hot-spot – eventually this gets noticed by the locals and after time they take offense to it.

      I see no problem with the Bahamas wanting to protect their own resources from being excessively utilized by U.S. based guide and lodge operations. For decades this industry was able to fly under the radar thanks to its niche aspect, but we’ve been locked on to and you’ll continue to see more of this.

      I will say that I’m opposed to any legislation that forces one to utilize a guide or prohibits DIY angling in any way.

      Ultimately, if the fly fishing industry wants to play on the “big boy” field they need to start accepting the “big boy” rules.

      As Americans, we ultimately have little control over what the Bahamian government wants to do; what we do have control over is our own fisheries. Why don’t we focus more on trying to improve and expand our own fisheries over being concerned about something that can always be taken away by a foreign government at the drop of a hat?

      • Exactly. You beat me to it. I’m not sure either that Gary is off. Maybe in wording I would guess. I think a prime example of how this is, is to look at iceland. Fishing per day in iceland is upwards of 5gs. Why is that? I guess the fly industry also, I mean look at fly line. You can buy a rigged spin setup with awesome gear for 100 bucks. Hell a decent wf line is that. Mono coated with pvc Is it worth that? I’ve tried to bring people to fly. Then they look at costs and puke. Especially the blue collar people. If the fly industry isn’t careful it’ll price itself out of work for the sake of it’s income. It’s all about the frogbacks.

        • Actually, the fly fishing world is more accessible now than at any point I can remember. The “cheap” stuff that’s out there now generally exceeds the performance of the high end stuff from 15 years ago. Lines have gotten more expensive for sure, and manufacturers focused their attention on that very high end line market for several years, but I think there’s a renewed focus on the mid-range market again. That’s part of the equation to “appealing to the masses”.

          It doesn’t change the fact that if we are going to prance around waving our arms and yelling “Look at ME!” we shouldn’t be surprised when people and governmental entities take notice.

          Want to tell the Bahamian government that fly fishing is a vital part of their economy – great, but also expect them to focus on figuring out how to best utilize that to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number. As Americans we may be shocked when a government chooses to focus on the well-being and economic protection of its own citizens over business interests, but that may not be out of the ordinary in the Bahamas.

          • True story. As Americana we may have a hard time seeing through our own blight.

  7. Just tried to email the fisheries and my email was sent back. i think you have a typo and bahamas is misspelled in your blog fyi.

  8. Email sent. I’m in Houston and right now it’s about the same in terms of travel time to get from Houston to the lodges in the Bahamas or Mexico and Belize- more flight time to Bahamas, more driving/water taxi in Mexico & Belize- but with Southwest about to start cheap, direct flights to Belize that’s about to change. I won’t go to the Bahamas again.

    • Thanks Scottie. There was a problem with that link earlier but it has now been fixed. Again, I encourage everyone to copy the Prime Ministers office. I can not over emphasize the importance of this.

  9. I would also comment that on a recent trip to the Berry Islands, I saw several big ass boats with multiple skiffs operated by Florida guides…our local guides were very familiar with the boats, but pretty pissy about the US guides poling them. We had one skiff of our own, but used locals to run it and hired another guy and his skiff.

    The local guide spoke of this regulation, and agreed some of it is bad news, but some of it welcome. Guys will Million dollar boats should be forking out more than marina fees

  10. I am amazed how government works and ignores something my Father always told me. “Don’t cut your nose off to spite your own face”. I will write and email later today. One thing I do wonder is who is ACTUALLY behind this nonsense. Any clue?

  11. I must have missed something, but where does it say you need a guide to fish the flats? It seems to say you just need a license… I’m fine with that.

    • Ben, there are several things at work here. If you read the bill closely you will see that you can not fish a flat that uses any conveyance to get you there. There’s a lot of room for interpretation.

      I wish I could publish all I know about this. There are some legal issues that would be compromised if I did. Trust me on this. There is more happening than is plain in the bill. The intention is, and the practice will be, to shut down all DIY fishing.

      • I read the bill again, I’m still confused. I am reading that if I buy a 2 week permit I can paddle my kayak to all my usual spots and fish as before.

  12. I agree that these regulations are troublesome on many levels, but i have read them 3x and my interpretation of them is that for flats anglers not fishing in a boat, a permit will be required. It does not state that a guide will be required to fish the flats on foot.

    “A non-Bahamian shall not, unless the holder of a personal permit, engage in foreign fishing within the flats.”

    Sounds like they are proposing a fee of $20 per day, plus a one time $10 fee to apply. $130-$150 for a week of diy fishing is my interpretation.

    If fishing by boat, that may be another story.

    I urge all interested anglers to write the bahamian government and voice their opinions.

      • So you’re saying that what is written in the regulations and what will be enforced are different? The military will be instructed to arrest unguided anglers who have valid permits and are within the stated regulations. Will be interested to hear about this when you are able to reveal your secret information.

        • What I am saying is that sources with inside knowledge, which I can not corroborate but trust, tell me there is more to this agenda than is in the draft legislation. You have heard of bills being altered at the last minute, have you not?

          • I hear you and I don’t doubt that you know a lot more about how it works down there than I do. I really hope that that’s not how it plays out.

            Aside from that the regs read pretty similar to rules I have seen in other countries. Not sure about the lodge ownership bit.

  13. Louis would you consider copying this page with all its comments and context to the fisheries minister and the finance minister before the deadline ?

  14. Seems their government wishes to prevent the profits made by US guides and lodge owners from leaving their country and being retained in the Bahamas. Whilst certainly there are financial contributions from these US based people and businesses to the local economy such as employment and shell purchases, it is for certain that the real money is made by foreigners and their businesses at the actual expense of the locals whom own the location and the resource. Its clear that the government is trying to prevent what they see as exploitation for samller benefit than the foreigners are taking out. This is a typical model of US business and many US guys cant see it as they look at things from their own financial perpecrive only. Cue outrage

    • Mal,
      This will hurt Bahamians more than anyone. I know folks who run lodges over there. The truth is they barely get by if that. The bulk of the money stays in the local economy and everyone knows that. The Bahamas has plenty of laws protecting its workers. A lodge owner can’t even fix a toilet, they have to hire a Bahamian to anything at all. They are not allowed to do any work other than administration.

      Islands like S Andros will be crushed by this. I care about that because I have friends there. The commercial fishing business has collapsed in recent years and there is nothing else, legal, for those guys to do. This is not about keeping money in the Bahamas. This is about a small and greedy group legislating away their compaction.

      I don’t think your going to get any outrage. I think you are just in informed and off the mark.

  15. I was doing a week in South Andros next year but wont have any problem booking another country, wont they lose 3 or 4 k in revenue minimally. Maybe the place is getting dangerous and ya need protection, wouldn’t that just kill that country. Who knows what gets in the minds of politicians? I know that only Belize citizens can only guide in their country. What these countries don’t realize is it won’t be too hard to book somewhere else more fishing friendly. Heck I may go back to east Roatan for their Permit or do some sail fishing in Guatemala. Heck I’m sitting in eastern Slovakia looking at some great trout streams and this country is about as friendly as it gets.

  16. What’s New in the Bahamas? Foreigners come in and get a business up and running and the government takes it over. That’s SOP, you can’t change it. The people that write the legislation are lobbied by the Bahamian money that wants to buy the foreign run lodges for a song and fully staff them with their kin. Without foreigners developing the bone fishing business the Bahamians would still be net/bait fishing for bones for subsistence and running dope. Let them learn that bone fishing has international competition and fishermen will go where they feel the most competent, business like lodges are. Leave the Bahamas to the Bahamians, maybe they can turn it into Chicago.

  17. What do the owners of Deneki stand to lose in this situation? All other foreign owners will be in the same boat. I know my wife wanted to rent a house in Exuma “where pigs swim” I could try to walk and fly fish but if that’s not possible I won’t go. I have a friend who went to Cuba and grand slammed three days out of 10, but accommodations and food were terrible. It was also very expensive, I mean very expensive.

    • That’s a good question. I don’t think anyone knows at this point how that would play out. I have not spoken to the owners of Deneki and I do not know what their stand is. I reached out to Mike who Runs Andros South but have not heard back as he in in camp at Alaska West. Many of the lodges in the Bahamas have both foreign and domestic interests. I suppose it would have a lot to do with how aggressive the government is. It could just be another opportunity for extortion. Pay to play if you will. I am obviously concerned because I enjoy fishing at Andros South and other lodges in the Bahamas. I enjoy teaching the bonefish schools there. However, it is the opposition to DIY fishing I find especially troubling. That feels down right hostile.

      • Frankly it is a sovereign nation and they set the rules etc not foreigners. If they wish to reap the rewards in a bigger way it is up to them not foreign interests whom are there for profit and pleasure. This sounds a bit imperialistic in attitude and attempts to preserve lifestyle and cash at local expense- .cloak it how one likes but its about business first and the line about we help the locals are valid but clear far more is taken out than left behind. The locals can do it themselves in time and its unethical and self important to suggest they cant.

  18. Just though it might be more personal if individuals names were used along with their offices.

    Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources : Hon. V Alfred Grey

    Prime Minister : The Rt.. Hon. Perry G Christie ;

  19. Hi guys, thanks for making everyone aware of this issue. It is very disappointing if it goes through. I sent my emails to prime minister, and fisheries guy. Also cc’d it to minister of tourism and every hotel operator, car rental place, guide, paddle board rental agency, etc…, you guessed it anyone I have done business with in the Bahamas. I love the Bahamian people, never had a bad experience, but the reason I go is for the Bones! If this legislation goes through it will make my fishing experiences change locals due to increased financial cost.

    We need to get higher tech! How do we get a petition out there, or something on Facebook, so that we can gather some names from the fishing community and industry to the legislators in the Bahamas. This is wrong on so many levels, the process needs to be stopped, then corrected, or the Bahamas is at risk of loosing millions of $$’s .

    The process in Florida is a prime example of reasonable fees, with quick internet processing. The money gets quickly allocated to the resource and gets the fishers on the water!
    Surely your contacts have some folks with experience getting the message to a wider audience? How can we reach more concerned people?


  20. Absolutely bonkers. Those who frequent the Bahamas to fish unguided are not going to suddenly pony up for a guide, they WILL go elsewhere! This is going to cost the country, and particularly the outer island communities dearly. How very very sad indeed. I sincerely hope this doesn’t come to fruition.

  21. I am a proud Bahamian…I live on Long Island, one of the beautiful family islands. This is a touchy situation…I think the main reason for this proposed bill…is to protect the “real fishing lodges” and guides. At the moment we have many foreigners coming to the island and building “second homes”….but in essence they are operating private lodges, they bring in their own vehicles and boats, they even import the majority of their groceries from the U.S. Yes they still support a few businesses, but they also have cut out the business of the real lodges, the fishing guides and the car rental companies. We have many genuine Foreign Investors, who love and respect our island as much as we do and we are always thankful for them, but its those that just want to make what they can from our beautiful Paradise with no regards to the well being of the locals.

    • I hope the proposed laws can be ammended to target the non-bahamian business taking advantage of the region, but leave the anglers alone that come onto the islands to support the local economy year after year. We fish a few hours when we can, we are not operating businesses or taking money away from guides, we just don’t want to spend hours away from the family for hundreds of dollars, we are not the ones that should be penalised. This draft proposal as it stands worries us immensly. I already told my wife to start looking for alternatives for our 2016 vacation.

    • Chea do you believe that there is more behind these the regs than trying to stop what you are describing? Because that is exactly how they read to me. Requiring that lodge operators be permanent residents in the country may be overboard to some in the industry, but seems like a good step to cut down on what you are describing. Enforcement is another issue.

      • Enforcement also concerns me, will each island have easily identifiable officers in boats/uniforms to check we have our permits? Or will we be subjected to random locals in boats shouting at us to prove we have them. A friend of mine actually had a guide come up to him while he was kayaking and told him to get off the flats as he was fishing a “protected” area, which was total bs. The last thing I need on holiday is random locals asking me to produce paperwork while I am trying to carefully stalk bones .

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  23. I’m seeing lots of folks that are saying that Cuba would be a good alternative in the future if these changes go into effect. I’m going to Cayo Largo Cuba to fish in August & there is no DIY fishing allowed.

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  25. Gary there has been a noticeable decline in fly fishing in Maryland also possibly in Florida in the 11 years I fished here. In Md I can think of 3 or 4 shops that have gone out of business, maybe as many in the Fl. area I fish. At least 2 of these shops had been in business for decades before closing. I believe there were some economic issues involved but also a decline in the fishery brought on by poor fisheries management and increase in pollution and loss of habitat. Lets face it, you need fish to catch, to entice the fly rodder. Also from a media point of view there appears to have been a sharp decline of saltwater fly fishing shows which originally got me interested in salt fly fishing in the late 80s. Shows such as Flip Pallot’s Walker’s Cay Chronicles are gone which were featured on ESPN Outdoors, which is also gone. Many of these shows brought fly fishing to the living room and were a great source of advertising for the industry. The Bahamas remains strong because the fish are there, and bonefish eagerly eat flies, maybe better the any other species. My hope is that the industry improves mainly on the fisheries front. Countries such as the Bahamas realize the economic impact on the industry The fly fishing business industry has increasingly made fly fishing more affordable and we need to get younger people involved in the sport to improve the industry as a whole.

  26. Hey Louis,

    Thanks for writing this up and bringing it to so many peoples attention but there are a number of errors in your interpretation of the proposed bill. That’s not to say I’m for it, but if we are contacting the Bahamian Government about it then we should have our facts straight.

    Firstly, I am a expat who lives in the Bahamas and has temporary status, so this affects me a lot more than most. So with that I will clear up some things:

    1. Unguided fishing is fine, as long as you have a permit and you are not fishing from a boat. So you can drive to the flats and walk them all day long fishing as long as you have your permit. Guides are only required on boats.

    2. Foreign owned lodges that are currently set up through the Hotel Act will not be affected. In the Bahamas, any business that involves tourism must be Bahamian owned unless they have been granted an exemption already. As well, as long as a Bahamian owns a 60% share in a business, the rest can be owned by anyone and still be considered Bahamian. This is how many foreign companies set up and do business in the Bahamas. If the current lodges don’t have exemptions then that is how they operate now and will have no problem going forward.

    3. You can fish from a non-Bahamian boat just fine. It will become the same way that non flats sport fishing is done in the Bahamas. Any foreign boat must get a sport fishing licence currently and there are restriction on how much and what they can fish for. So foreign boats will be required to have that sport fishing licence, but the difference is that now if that boat wants to fish the flats, then they need to have a guide per 2 people fishing as well and the people fishing must have their flats permits. This can be expensive but I expect the rates to drop drastically if this goes through as many people will see this as a new source of income. Previously you really only became a guide if you already owned a boat, because no one would pay for your services otherwise.

    4. Fishing permits for foreigners will actually be $20 per day and a $10 one time application fee. The permits will be able to be issued by the government office for Fisheries, by certified guides, and by certified lodges. If you hire a guide or stay at a lodge there will be no issue getting a permit. If you try through the government I can’t promise anything swift or total above board (I am aware of the culture I live in), but with most things tourist here, they don’t tend to give you problems. From what I gather, you will also be able to apply in advance so you know you have your permit before arriving to fish.

    Finally, the law is not being voted for on the 29th of June. On the 29th there will an town hall meeting to discuss the legislation with stake holders. I will be attending. If anyone else happens to be in Nassau, here is the info:

    June 29th from 9:00AM to 1:00PM
    at the Island Trades Building on East Bay St
    in the Agriculture Conference Room

    Please let me know if there are any specific questions that I may be able to ask at the meeting for you guys.


    • Thank you very much for this information Ken. This is how the bill reads and how I hope it goes down. Also seems very reasonable to me. Please post again if you attend the meeting or have information after the vote.

  27. I’m a Bahamian and I have been addicted to the the sport ever since I caught my fish bonefish some 5 years ago. I’m gutted by my government decision to prevent DIYers from fishing the Bahamas and I believe that this will have dreadful affect on the economy. Nothing comes close to stalking the flats by yourself.. NOTHING!!! I know the government wants to provide jobs / business for local guides, but you can’t deprive people from this experience. This can only be the work of the greedy politicians, a true angler would not agree to this. I just want to say SORRY to all the DIY anglers out there.. I hope my government reconsider this treacherous act.

    However ,I don’t share the same sentiments towards foreign lodges operating in my country.I know that came out of no where but i’ll explain myself. There is no way on earth I’d be allowed to own 100% percent share in a lodge in the US,Mexico, Belize etc. It’s just not happening. So it shouldn’t be any different in the Bahamas.It seems like the Bahamians lodge owners are being deprives of their birth right so this is excellent news. We deserve better.

    It would be cruel to close down the existent foreign lodges but I believe they should force them to seek partial Bahamian ownership if they want to continue doing business in this country.

    Btw – Mr. Cahill I can assure you that your moneys would be in safe hands if if you ever decide to do business with a Bahamian lodge.I’ve never heard about about an incident where a lodge stole cash from an angler. If so you can have them contact the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I LOVE you Blog 🙂

    • Hey Gilbert,

      To add to your point about money being safe here. The Bahamas banking system is run by Canadian banks for the most part and credit card transactions are protected the same way they would be in Canada or the US. If people are so concerned about being ripped off that they will only pay a US company to come down and fish here then maybe they should take their business to Mexico or Cuba where I can assure them that their money is at much higher risk.


  28. Here is a radical idea. Let them change the rules as proposed.

    This will last for one season. It will cause tremendous economic devastation, lead to the ouster of the politicians who promoted it and give the flats a rest for one year. As long as we all go somewhere else for a year if this passes, the ship will right itself.

    The key is simple, if they vote this in as policy, do not fish in the Bahamas. This will then be fixed right away. If they vote this in and we still go, the blame is all on us.

  29. Just wondering why my previous comment has not been shown. I live in the Bahamas, this directly affects me. I have good information on the whole issue yet my comment hasn’t made it past the moderator. Is there some reason why?


      • Hey Louis,

        Sorry, I had thought I might have offended with my original comment. I am very concerned about this proposed legislation as well and I find it very vague in a lot of the wording. I am hoping I am interpreting it the way it will go down but I have seen how politics works here, so my confidence is a little shaky.

        Thanks for bringing this to so many peoples attention. I’ll report back what I here at the meeting.


  30. I think it’s about time, can we as foreigners come into your country and do as we please,hell no. When I go hunting and fishing every year in Georgia I have to spend up to $300 just to three days worth of lisences. So why can’t we do that here in the Bahamas to increase our economy and to protect from over fishing.this will only help our people to make a living etc. stop thinking you own the world and can do whatever you please. Just because you can’t have you own way ??

  31. The Bahamian government should take this one step further and seize all foreign owned property. They can then distribute it to deserving Bahamians. As Cuba opens up, the Bahamas looks like it is starting to close up to foreign investment.

  32. I love to fish flats without a guide. I don’t want to just catch fish, but to become a great fisherman. That means seeing the fish, casting to the fish and releasing that fish. Please keep unguided fishing an option. Thanks, RT

  33. Pingback: Some more thoughts about the proposed Bahamas flats regulations | Bonefish on the Brain

  34. Let them change the bill, there are tons of other locations to fish for bonefish. There will be a huge kick in the pants for the government and they will soon fix this issue.

    BLUF, Fishermen aren’t rich and rich ones don’t fish like we do. Cuba will be open soon, we can go down there.

  35. I’m a proud Bahamian, always will be, and for a long time now the preservation of the ocean has been something I care about, and the distinct lack of legislation and care to protect one of our main resources is severely lacking. every year that goes by I see less and less fish, conch and wilks and quite frankly it’s disturbing. what is it about protecting Bahamian economy with preserving / regulating the flats and keeping business local that disturbs you so much? is it because you will no longer have unregulated and unrestricted access to Bahamian resources? I understand that you all have a passion for the sport, but in order to maintain and preserve our heritage and also the flats there has to be some sort of regulation. a lot of foreigners come to our country and try to dictate to us how and what we should do with what we have, and while the govt has many faults, this legislation is not one of them. this is an act to protect something that as far as I can see, is being taken advantage of. from what I read of the draft they are not telling you that you will never be able to fish, simply that if you do you must have a permit to do so, and to keep business local. this is to protect our land and sea, and also the fisherman that make a living from the flats. i wouldn’t be able to fish & hunt freely without permits in the U.S., so why should you be allowed to open and operate businesses as a foreigner with no ties to the country? it clearly states if you aren’t a citizen or permanent resident, permits and paperwork are needed. I feel like the attitude of this article / comments is entrenched in entitlement, and truly disrespectful to a country you claim to love.

  36. Well said Louis. Coming from somebody who has fished the Bahamas many, many times, this is terrible news and completely shocking considering how valuable bonefish, permit, tarpon and the flats are to the Bahamian economy. Unfortunately, I think you are right, Louis — the threat is very real. A shortage of young up and coming Bahamian guides was scary enough, this has taken the threat to Bahamian bonefishing to a new level.

    • To be fair, it’s actually not that valuable as a whole. For some people it most certainly is, but for a country with 70% of it’s ~$8.4 billion GDP being tourism, the ~$140 million of which is associated with bonefishing represents just 2.3% of an impact on tourism and only 1.7% of the entire economy.

  37. They need to come up with a system where you can buy a license for a week/month/year. Fisherman would have no problem with that. 20$ a day is a little steep but 10$ i would have no problem with. I’m in the midst of planning my trip top the bahamas, renting a boat for a week and spending my honeymoon bumping around the abacos. If this legislation goes through where i will need a guide to go wade a flat, I’m cancelling the whole trip. I was hoping this was going to be my first trip of many to the bahamas but I know how governments work and it looks like I’ll be going elsewhere with my money.

  38. I am a Bahamian. Born and raised on one of the out islands and I think it is about time this came into effect. I am sorry you feel this way but there are too many local guides that are hurting because foreign fishermen abuse the current bonefish laws. Many locals who own lodges need support too. I feel as though if everyone had upheld t h e current laws this would not be necessary. So forgive me if I’m wrong but when I go to another country I must abide by the laws regardless. My opinion on the laws do not matter. A law to protect our bonefishing industry I agree wholeheartedly. And I do hope you allow this post as you refuse to post many others that I’ve witnessed.

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  40. I think if the Bahamas wants to protect the fishery and put in place licensing to fish there, that is great. I believe no one would have a problem with that. But if what Louis and others are saying is true, then what they are actually doing is trying to alter the flats fishing industry in the country and make it so that Bahamian lodges and guides control nearly everything and prevent solo anglers from fishing there. I’m not sure what to make of the legislation myself, since it seems vague on some key points, but again, if Louis and others are correct and this is where it’s heading, then I don’t see how anyone and especially how any Bahamians think this is going to benefit the Bahamas. I hear the problems loud and clear about some foreigners taking advantage and acting irresponsibly, and I have no doubt that occurs in some cases. And it should be stopped. But I have also seen first hand many foreigners as well as locals fishing the flats there with nothing but respect for that wonderful part of the world. Having so many people outside of the Bahamas interested in protecting those areas and the bonefish is a powerful constituency. Unfortunately, this legislation is going to destroy all that goodwill if (again) characterized correctly here and in other articles, and it will drain the Bahamian tourism economy. I really don’t see how Bahamians can see that any of that as a positive. Certainly, we in the U.S. have no say ultimately in what the Bahamas does with their laws and resources. But we can let it be known that locking everyone out of flats fishing on their own makes it pretty certain that we won’t be traveling there any more. Hope that makes sense to those of you who live in the Bahamas and think this legislation is all good.

  41. I think it’s important to point out for those outside the Bahamas reading these comments that this a very political issue in the Bahamas. It’s a lot like listening to Dems and Reps talk about global warming.

    I don’t mean to be dismissive, but keep that in mind as you read the comments from our Bahamina friends. Some of them may have legitimate concerns and some may have personal interests. Some may just be shills for the parties at work. We will let them have their say regardless.

    For the record, I do love the Bahamas and it’s people. I have many Bahamian friends who I worry about. I do not trust your government. No more than I trust my own. No more than I think anyone should trust any government. Nothing here is intended to be condescending or insensitive in any way.

    It’s clear that we foreigners are the cause of this bill. You can not expect us to have no opinion. You can’t pass a law that specificly names a group of people and then say it’s none of their business.

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  43. I assume this does not apply to offshore sport fishing?
    I have seen a US guide try to circumvent the immigration restriction of having a work permit and was called out on it. There are laws on the books for that. Guides are important for neophyte fishermen, but second homeowners and frequent visitors who know the ropes, should probably be exempt. They bring a lot of income for the locals just by coming(lodging, fuel, food, auto/boat rental, etc). The Bahamas’ economy is over 50% dependent on tourism and second homeowners and any inequitable restrictions will only hurt the average Bahamian.

  44. the 29th has passed – any update on the status of this proposal? I did not find any information on the Bahamian Government site..

  45. Pingback: Breaking: The Bahamas Punts on Any New Regulations | Orvis News

  46. Soooo, I am going to Exuma in March. I have a guide for 2 days but another 5 I hope to DIY. Do I need a license for those other days and if so, where do I get one? I’ve searched Google with obvious terms to no avail.



  47. Pingback: Bahamas 7 Piece | Travel To The Dominican Republic!

  48. Same question as last post…going to Exuma in July. Where did this whole regulatory scare shakeout? Have you guys posted an update on where the laws, rules, regs stand as of now for DIY expat/tourist anglers? Is this battle still pending, or over?

    – Alan

    • The legislation is now law. It really does not negatively affect most anglers. If 2 or more anglers fish from a boat, you will need a guide. All anglers need a license. Licenses are issued by fisheries and agriculture officials on each island. Most islands are still figuring this out and it can be difficult to get a license. I didn’t get mine until the end of the week on my last trip. That said, no one is interested in keeping you from fishing. Do your best to get your license but don’t let it stop you from having a great trip. Everyone down there knows its a cluster.

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