Monday, February 28, 2011

02.28.11 Put Bimini Big Game Club on your "Bucket List" !

Bimini Big Game Club 

Sunset from North Bimini Island

     Alrighty. After a few days home and jumping back into the real world here's a little recap on my trip to the Bimini Big Game Club (BBGC), a Guy Harvey Outpost. First let me orient you to where I was. The BBGC is located in Alice Town, North Bimini, the Bahamas, which is 48 nautical miles from Ft. Lauderdale. You can get there by boat or plane. For travelers from the United States there are commercial flights that run out of Ft. Lauderdale International Airport and charter flights from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport. If you live close enough you would drive to one those airports, or if you're coming from a distance you would fly down and pick up a connecting flight. My trip included a 2-1/2 hour flight from Newark to Ft. Lauderdale International, then a quick drive to Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport, then the really quick 20 minute flight to South Bimini. There is also regular service out of St. Augustine, Nassau, Freeport, and Marsh Harbour. Price and schedule may dictate which way you travel to Bimini.      
Leaving Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport

Now, second, why I was down there. I was invited along with several fishing writers, editors and photographers to spend a few days down at the newly renovated and recently (2010) re-opened BBGC. The club has been in existence since the 1930's and had seen it's share of good and bad days, years, and decades. It was purchased a few years ago by investors who spent upwards of 5 million dollars bringing the place up to where it is today. Included in the group of  investors, advisers, and managers is world renowned artist, conservationist, diver, and scientist, Guy Harvey. The BBGC is the first Guy Harvey Outpost, and the resort includes backcountry fishing for species such as bonefish and permit, part of Bonefish Bimini, ran by artist and fly fisherman Vaughn Cochran. It also boasts world class diving, and is teamed up with Neil Watson to present Dive Bimini. And lastly, it is a world class big game fishery with anglers docking their own boats or chartering boats from the resort for species such as sailfish, marlin, tuna and wahoo. In addition to seeing the BBGC, we were also down there to join in the celebration of the 40th anniversary when angler Jerry Lavenstein and Bimini bonefish guide Ansil Saunders caught a world record 16 pound bonefish on a 12 pound line, a record that still stands today. The festivities included a dinner and presentation of a plaque from the I.G.F.A. and a parade down the main street in North Bimini, Kings Highway. And, of course, we were also down there to try our luck fishing for bonefish and permit in what the organizers termed, the Bonefish Invitational Writers Challenge. 

February 25, 1971- Angler Jerry Lavenstein and guide Ansil Saunders with a World Record bonefish

Bimini bonefish guide Ansil Saunders today at 79

So why put the BBGC on your bucket list?

      Imagine being one of maybe a dozen fly fishing anglers that are fishing the flats around Bimini on any given day. Imagine water so turquoise and clear that you can sight cast to fish over a hundred feet away. Imagine a comfortable room, a bar and restaurant to relax at after a long day of fishing, diving, or just exploring. Imagine that in addition to lounge chairs, hammocks, a pool, and sandy white beaches only a few hundred feet away. And there's more. Add to that a nice walk down the main street known as Kings Highway to visit the local shops, bakery, and sights of this Bahamian Island. It is an island rich in history. Ernest Hemingway called this island for home for several years in the 1930's. He lived at the Compleat Angler, a hotel just down the street from the BBGC that burned down in 2006, and wrote sections of his 1937 novel, To Have and Have Not. It is rumored that the Lost City of Atlantis was located in the vicinity of North Bimini after an underwater rock formation was discovered off the coast in 1968. It is referred to as Bimini Road or the Bimini Wall. Legend also says Bimini is the home to the Fountain of Youth. It was during Ponce de Leon's search of Bimini Island and the Fountain of Youth that he discovered Florida. Other famous visitors include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

The fishing 

Bimini bonefish guide- Bonefish Tommy and photographer Pat Ford leave the marina

Bimini bonefish guide- Bonefish Ebbie

     The waters around Bimini are home to incredible big game fishing. Boat owners can dock at one of 70 slips at the BBGC Marina. There is also an off shore charter for hire service available. But our group was invited down to get a taste of the world class bonefish and permit fishing. I was able to spend some
time with Vaughn Cochran, a former flats guide, world renowned artist, and owner of Black Fly

Artist and fly fisherman Vaughn Cochran

Outfitters out of Florida. He is overseeing the backcountry operations for the Guy Harvey Outpost known as Bonefish Bimini. Currently there are four guides on the island that fish for bonefish and permit on the flats. They are, Bonefish Tommy, Bonefish Ebbie, Eagle Eye Fred, and Ansil Saunders. I had the opportunity to fish with Ebbie, and was joined by Florida outdoor writer Jim Sutton. After a quick ride we were on "the outside" and were searching for bonefish and permit along the beach. Jim was using spinning gear and crabs and caught several fish quickly, including a small bonefish. We had a steady wind which made it tough to see the fish and tougher for Ebbie to pole the boat. I had a few shots at some average sized bonefish, one that showed interest at 70 feet and stayed on it/ off it all the way to the boat. Refusal after refusal, left, right, left, right, and then it blew out. That was the highlight of my day. It was really cool to try and change the speed of my strip to entice a strike. We continued our search and saw plenty of blacktip and lemon sharks. We also looked for and saw plenty of rays, which is a good sign because permit ride their back collecting whatever the ray kicks up. We eventually shifted inside and found some fish feeding in about four feet of water. Ebbie was looking for clouds of mud that pinpointed the location of grazing bones. I made a few blind casts and hooked into one and soon he was gone and I was deep into my backing. We netted the fish, took a measurement of 22-1/4 inches, a quick pic, and then back into the water. Jim picked up another so our boat had three fish on the day.

                                                                                                      Jim Sutton photo


     A few notes on bonefishing from an angler who never did. It is very weather dependent. Maybe even a little more so then other fishing that I am used to. Yes stripers prefer cloudy overcast days, but you can still get them when conditions aren't spot on. When fly fishing and sight casting for bones on the flats you'd like a nice calm day with a lots of sun. Tides and the locations of the fish go hand in hand, and it's easy to get stuck in a place if you don't pay attention to where you are and when. Sun protection. I thought I was protected, until I realized I was standing on the bow of the boat all day and didn't protect the back of my legs. Bad, very bad. It now hurts to bend my legs in a chair or to sit on the toilet. And then there's always the cast. It needs to be quick and accurate. Excessive false casting will spook the fish. It's load, maybe one low profile false cast and shoot. And oh yeah, 80 feet is a good cast ! Make sure you have what you need before you leave home. I didn't bring any fly fishing gear down with me. I was bogged down with camera gear. I figured there would be a fly shop on-site where I could rent a fly rod, or my guide would have I one I could borrow. I was surprised when I arrived that there wasn't a full service fly/ tackle shop on the property. There is a small selection of flies and tackle available in the Outpost Outfitter, which is mostly a Guy Harvey shirt and souvenior shop. I am sure in the future they will open a shop there. A place where an angler can pick up fly line, leader and tippet material, and flies, and a place where an angler can browse and talk fishing with whoever is manning the shop. 

The Accommodations and Amenities 

Bimini Big Game Club room

     I spoke with some of the writers who had stayed here before the new group took ownership and made improvements. They say it's beyond a world of difference. My room was on the second floor overlooking the pool. It had two queen beds and a balcony with chairs and a table. The bathroom were clean and comfortable. Best of all the air conditioning cooled my sun burnt skin down after the long day on the water. The rooms, like much throughout the resort, is chock full of Guy Harvey artwork. It is everywhere, and on everything. I was lucky to have a Vaughn Cochran piece of art on one of the walls in my room. The bar is located poolside and is covered with televisions in each corner. It was funny but I got into watching Dr. Phil while talking about the days fishing, until I realized I was watching Dr. Phil while talking about the days fishing. I then tuned it out of my mind. The restaurant is located on the second floor overlooking the marina with seating both in and outside.  The food was good and the staff very friendly and polite. It was very busy the night we were up there and the staff was challenged with


the rush. That meant more Kaliks, the local Bahamian beer, while we waited. The property is big enough to take a leisurely stroll around the marina and pool and cottage area. There are wall mounts of Guy Harvey artwork and informational placards to read that go with almost all of them. If you want to take an early morning jog or need to walk off last nights dinner the gates to the BBGC open onto Kings Highway. A quick walk up the hill will bring you to the beautiful sandy white beaches we are used to seeing in brochures on the Bahamas. A right or left will take you for a mile or so to the end of North Bimini on one end and the Bimini Bay Resort on the other. When you get back the palm trees create great cover for the hammocks that hang from them. It is truly a place where you could drift off into a nap while trying to finish the last chapters of your favorite book.


Now we have to talk business, how much will it cost

Pat Ford casts with guide Eagle Eyes Fred on the pole

     Those bucket list dreams do sometimes cost some money. And this dream does have some costs attached to it. I was told that the BBGC is currently working on putting bonefish packages together. Here is a simulated breakdown of what it might cost two anglers traveling from here in New Jersey,

- round trip airfare from Newark to Ft Lauderdale               400.00  x 2  =          800.00
- round trip airfare FTL to Bimini                                          220.00  x 2  =          440.00
- lodging 4 nights/5 days   (2 Queen beds)                         225.00  x 4 =        1,000.00   
- guided fishing 600.00 per day (three days)                      600.00  x 3  =        1,800.00   
- food/drink 100.00 per day per person                              200.00  x 5 =         1,000.00
- gear/flies/clothes/ ect for trip 200.00 per person              200.00  x 2 =            400.00
- tips (guides,staff,ect)                                                        175.00  x 2 =            350.00                                                   

Per person for four night/five days w three days guided bonefishing-         $ 2,895.00

It was a pleasure to meet the fine owners, managers, and staff at the Bimini Big Game Club. I think this destination is great for a wide range of travelers. From the single angler, or one in a couple who fishes, to a small group of anglers looking for a trip of a lifetime. This is a place where you can dive, fish, explore, and relax and feel like you are truly a world away, yet only a short 17 minute flight from Florida.

 For more information and to book a trip go to

Bimini Big Game Club Marina


Sunday, February 27, 2011

02.27.11 What a difference a day makes...Bimini to Asbury Park

     Yesterday I woke up in Bimini and had breakfast overlooking the marina and watching the sunrise. Today I was yelling, gently coaxing, my kids to hurry up so they wouldn't be late for CCD. But hey here in New Jersey its not bad, 53 degrees air temperature, and the striper-almost-ready water today was 41 degrees. Soon stripers will move into the Delaware Bay and Delaware River and the back bays of south Jersey. Striper season "opens" March 1st.

     I have been filing the images from the Bimini trip and should have a complete recap on the Bimini Big Game Club Monday or Tuesday.

02.26.11 1137 pm, lucky to be's why

A warning to all Jet Blue customers...double check your itinerary. Here's why. Yesterday I had, or I thought I had a 6pm flight from Ft Lauderdale to Newark. When I went to check in they said I had no reservation. The agent checked a little further and said I was booked to return, March 26th, at 6pm, to Newark. The earliest he said I could get home was Tuesday morning. That was checking Newark, JFK, LaGuardia. After waiting and waiting, a seat opened up on a 6pm flight tonight to LaGuardia. Fantastic. I knew my buddy was going into the city with his girl to see Wicked and catch a meal at Tao. So, I could fly in, take a cab to midtown Manhattan, wait for him to be done, and he could give me a ride home. Perfect.and that's how it went down. I started my day in Bimini at The Big Game Club with a breakfast and goodbyes to the staff, guides, and writers and photographers, and then I started the rest of my journey home. 

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Friday, February 25, 2011

02.25.11 Day 2 at The Bimini Big Game Club

It was a little hard getting up this morning. Late night last night, and lots of Bahamian beer to go with it. We had a nice dinner that included a presentation to Ansil Saunders, the bonefish guide who was on hand 40 years ago when the World Record 16 pound bonefish was caught here in Bimini. And then there was more laughs, and more beer.
     Today we got to go fishing. I was teamed up with 'Bonefish Ebbie" and an outdoor writer from Florida. I was fly fishing and he was using plastics and bait. We had a great day. Tough wind, some cloud cover, skittsy fish, a few missed shots, but we had targets. I had a fish bite through a hook and got a few refusals which was cool to watch across the flats. I landed a nice 22 inch bone that screamed through the fly line and backing once it realized it was hooked.
     Lame photographer forgot the USB card reader so I have to rely on the screen grabs till I get back. Tonight it's a Bonefish Parade and dinner and, well, more beer.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

02.24.11 Arrived at the Bimini Big Game Club

     So I was up at 3am and out the door at 330. My brother gave me a ride to Newark Liberty International for my 6am flight to Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Then a quick ride over to the Ft Lauderdale Executive Airport for a private charter flight to South Bimini. Then a ferry ride over to North Bimini, and a quick walk and I arrived at The Bimini Big Game Club, a Guy Harvey Outpost. The weather is beautiful down here, around 80 degrees with full sun to some cloud cover. So far it's been good, good drink, good company..and tomorrow hopefully good bonefishing on the Bahama flats!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

02.23.11 Took a walking tour of the JSTU home water, the Toms River

Toms River , May 19, 2010

     It's not the South Branch of the Raritan or the Flatbrook, but its the Toms River and it's the Jersey Shore Chapter of Trout Unlimited's (JSTU) home water. For those anglers who live south of the big bridge on the Garden State Parkway, pickins' are slim. As far as rivers, it's the Manasquan or the Toms, plus a few smaller ones here and there. When I was in high school and my dad lived in Spring Lake Heights I would fish the Manasquan, and that's where the love affair started. Split shot, worms, meal worms, snags, snags, and more snags. I eventually found fly-fishing, and that's where the addiction started. The Toms looks like a prettier version of the Manasquan, although I am told it is a great place for and to fish. Constant water temps, good structure, good cover...well plenty of cover, and a Trout Conservation Area that keeps the harvesters at bay. It also has the JSTU looking out after it. April 23 rd is the JSTU stream cleanup and fishing contest located at Riverwood Park. For more info check out the JSTU website HERE.

We help clean it, stock it, and attempt, as below, to provide signage along it.

Toms River, February 23, 2011

02.23.11 Governor Christie signs the free New Jersey Saltwater Registry Bill

Photo by Tim Larsen/ Office of the Governor

       For those who weren't watching if New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was going to sign New Jersey's free Saltwater Registry Bill into law, well he did it Tuesday February 22nd. A823/S1122 requires the DEP to establish a free Saltwater Registry for the residents of New Jersey. Other states anglers have to pay the 15 dollar federal registry fee in order to fish salt water. 

Even though you don't have to pay, you still have to register. You can register HERE

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

02.22.11 A lot of little things...well rants, fishing access, boat motors, ect


  First topic of the day. Shrinking access on the Upper Delaware River. No, this topic isn't from the early 2000's, it's from today. I started fishing the West Branch in the early 1990's. It's now 2011. To say the areas when anglers have access to the rivers has been reduced would be a joke to say the least. The available areas are getting smaller and smaller. I look to the above example in Deposit, NY. What you see are plots of land that are sold or are being sold. The West Branch of the Delaware is on the bottom, Gentleman's Club out of the frame to the left, Airport Road along the top. For those that fish sections on the West Branch known as The Gentlemen's Club, The Cornfield, Barking Dog Pool, and Indian Country, soon it will be harder to access those areas on foot. No longer will the footpaths be available to traverse the land to get to your, and the 100 other anglers, favorite spot. They might as well build a walkway that goes right down the center of the river from Stilesville to Shehawken. For 300 dollars you can walk the length of it, or for an extra 100 take a Jazzy down the walkway, stopping to fish your favorite spots. I also see more and more development as the waterfront properties get sold off. Anyone floating the West Branch has seen the cabins slowly multiplying around the Route 17 Pool that belong to Dream Catcher Estates (wasn't meant to be a plug). Even the West Branch Anglers over the years has expanded to both sides of the river. And, remember those days parking along the tracks and fishing the Upper Gamelands and the along the Monument Pool. "Those were the days my friends.." Hey, I'm not complaining about a persons right to own and develop their land, it just stinks when places you once enjoyed get shutdown. 


     Today I stopped by the boat and jacked up the boat to inflate the tires. A guy at the yard asked me how long the boat has been sitting, "Nine years I answered." Needless to say he laughed when I told him about getting it in the water this season. While there I took some images of the motor info, so I could have some info on the motor, in case someone I speak to needs info on the motor. One thing I really never got into was cars or engines, or boats and engines for that matter. But I can tell you this. I am learning that boats that sit for nine years are never a good thing. Another update, I pulled the rusted spark plugs out. Even though they fractured when I ratcheted them out, they finally did come out. That must be a positive thing!


     Life just goes too fast. That's me about 35 years ago, with stick and fish in hand. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

02.20.11 Stopped by the Musconetcong River in Asbury

     Today I was out in Asbury, just Asbury, not Asbury Park, and I stopped by the Musconetcong River. A few guys were fishing. One with a few poles with Power Bait and another guy with worms. One had just released a 3 pound rainbow and the other had caught two fish, which his buddy had taken off with. I wish I had my fly rod with me as the water was up a little and looked like it was holding good fish. I'll have to hit this spot when I get back from Bimini.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

02.19.11 Just hating photography, cameras, and computers lately..another rant

Same image, different color calibrations

   And here's why. Film, I loved film, I miss film. I miss shooting a roll of film, either developing it myself, and making prints or taking them to photo store to have prints made up. Simple, well simplier right? Then came digital. I remember my first digital point and shoot. It was an HP, about 2.0 megapixels  if I was lucky. I would connect it to my HP printer and boom, nice 4 by 6 prints would eventually come out. Fast forward to now. I have 10,000 dollars in camera bodies alone, a 2,500 dollar computer, and I can't get my images to look even across the board. JPEG, RAW, Adobe RGB, sRGB, iMAC calibrated, yada yada yada. Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperature, iPhoto, enough. Last night I posted a blog and someone commented back on a few of the images, "Nice pics." So after that I had to take a look again to see how they looked. I fired up the families Dell and logged on to the blog. Puukkkkkeeeee, thats puke. That's what I wanted to do. I couldn't believe how horrible those images and many others looked, horrible. So then I checked it out on my daughters HP laptop, better, but no where what it should look like. The other day I sent a bunch of images over via the whatever to Costco to have them printed out, more puke. Horrible. I watched as everyday folks, well, I should call them professionals, asked for their prints, opened the envelops, and stood there happy as a clam as they viewed their pics. I was even trying to look over their shoulders to see how they looked.

     In addition to my frustration with the above, I am now getting sucked further into the trap of Apple. I am contemplating getting an iphone, and even more so contemplating getting an ipad. I feel comfortable with the look and feel with how my images appear with that Apple ( but that's not really what I did to it in Lightroom !) look that things have. A touch more saturated, more contrasty, just more POW!. Maybe soon they will also make cameras and printers, that would help out a ton. 

     So if you happen to have an iMac, an iPhone, and an iPad, then maybe, just maybe, you'll get to see exactly what I see when I hit the send bottom to move images to my website or blog. Uuuurrrrgghhh. My rant is done. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

02.18.11 "What a long strange trip (to Roscoe, Hancock, & Deposit) it was"

Another nutty adventure up to the other house, the time to Roscoe. It was supposed to be 65 degrees in New Jersey today, so, I assumed, that it would spring like and 65 in Roscoe. Most of the snow around my house had melted, or is close to being gone. Must be the same thing in the Catskills. So I started my day getting up at 430 and taking a quick trip to Jackson to pick up a sofa at my brothers house. My mom was off so she wanted to take the ride so I picked her up at 6am. After a easy ride we were sitting and eating breakfast in the Roscoe Diner by 930. It was cloudy and cool and there wasn't a spring feeling in the air. I figured it was early so not problem, the "spring" would be here in a few hours. I took a quick drive through town, passing the Baxter House, and an open Catskill Flies and Beaverkill Angler. I then drove up the hill to the house, where I figured I would drop off the sofa and shovel any snow that MIGHT be left on one of the roofs of the house before heading to fish the West Branch. As I neared the driveway I was met with a frozen mound of snow at least four feet high. So I dug that out, and then dropped the new truck in 4 wheel drive and backed down the 1000 foot driveway through the 2 feet of snow that was still covering the ground. Down at the house I first shoveled off the 3 feet of snow that was covering the flat roof of part of the house. Then we unloaded the sofa from the pick up and slid it on a plastic basin into the house. And then we tried to leave. It took 2 hours to get the truck from the house,  up the driveway, over the frozen mound of snow and into the street. It was hell, and I damaged my bumper, tailgate, and rear lights in the process. I was mad, exhausted, but relieved it was over. Thankfully that leg of the journey was over.

                                                             Baxter House

     We then took a drive to Deposit to check on my friends house. He is located in a sweet spot right on the river. While up that way I watched the water at the Route 17 bridge to see if I could see any signs of bugs or fish. There was neither. We then headed back down 17 and stopped at the Hale Eddy bridge before going into Hancock. I found a few guys fishing the 191 Bridge so I stopped to make some images. One of the guys had just released a 15 inch fish he caught on a white wooly bugger. I stayed for a while and watched and soon I saw a few stoneflies making their way up across the snow. We grabbed a bite at the pizzeria in town and headed out back home to New Jersey. I never got a chance to wet a line. Maybe in a few weeks I'll come back.

                                                                    Hale Eddy riffles

                                                                 Hale Eddy pool

                                                                   191 bridge

                                                                    Got stones?