By Joe Byrum
With its nearness to the southeast coast of the U.S., the Bahamas isn’t a new billfish destination. However, exploring the outer reaches of the islands can provide a break from the norm for anglers looking to expand their horizons. Crooked Island is in the far southeast corner of the Bahamas. It has a newly upgraded marina that provides close access to some of the best blue marlin fishing in the region. And when I say close, it’s no exaggeration. Crooked Island Lodge & Marina General Manager Andrew Barksdale tells me that their record was 19 minutes from picking up a customer at the nearby airstrip to hooking up a blue marlin!
The prime marlin season in Crooked Island is April to July, with both blues and whites early and then mostly blues, with many larger fish in the 400-to-600-pound class as the season progresses. There are very few unfishable days due to weather here because of the protection from predominant winds and the proximity of the fishing grounds. I spoke to Capt. Danny Ford, who runs the 80’ Weaver Hit N Run, and who spent 13 days in late July fishing at Crooked. He went seven for 12 on blue marlin, with the biggest fish at about 450-pounds. Ford told me that his average fish in the area was around 250-pounds, and they were primarily fishing with a spread of lures and pitch baits with 30-to-50-pound class tackle.
He compared the fishing around Crooked to St. Thomas, where you’re fishing in a relatively small area on a big vertical wall for structure. Capt. Joe Trainor, who runs the 55’ Gwaltney Low Profile and has spent a lot of time in the Southeast Bahamas over the years, told me that the full moons of May and June were the best for billfish action in this region. One to three fish a day is the average with the possibility for big days with five-plus fish. Trainor also told me that the winter months often had awesome wahoo fishing, with both large fish and large numbers. He said the billfish action seemed to slow down after the full moon in July. The area from the lighthouse to Bird Rock is one of the prime blue marlin areas near Crooked Island, as is the seamount just north of Bird Rock.
If you’re looking for fishing other than for pelagics, everyone I spoke to raved about the amazing bonefish and permit action on Crooked. Boats that come with a skiff can comb the shallows around the island. Or there are a handful of flats guides on the island that you can book through the lodge for both wading or fishing from a boat. Everyone said that there was excellent deep dropping in the area but did caution that there could be sharks and barracuda to contend with at times.
Crooked Island Lodge & Marina
Crooked Island Lodge & Marina is located on the north tip of the island and has recently undergone serious improvements. Barksdale told me they have expanded to 35 slips with six that accommodate vessels up to 130 feet. 40- to 80-footers can fit in almost every slip. The approach depth is about 15 feet, and the entire marina has a depth of at least 10 feet. The captains I spoke to said that the channel going in was well-marked and easy to navigate.
The lodge has the only fuel available on Crooked with a capacity for 60,000 gallons of diesel and 12,000 gallons of gasoline. Barksdale tells me that this fuel system is all new, properly filtered to ensure clean fuel, and is always among the cheapest in the Bahamas. Power comes from four new CAT generators, with each slip rigged for three-phase 100-amp power. Water is available at each slip and filtered through a reverse osmosis plant. The lodge provides provisioning when ordered in advance. Or there is a ship’s store stocked with many of the usual necessities.
A ship from Nassau comes to Crooked once a week with supplies, and special requests (such as mechanical parts) can be brought in, if necessary, this way. Barksdale tells me that their dockage at the lodge can be more expensive than some Bahamas marinas because of the remote infrastructure, but they try to minimize the cost to the customer on every other expense because of this. He and the captains that I spoke with said that the marina had some surge at times with a north wind, but the lodge would soon be extending their north jetty to combat this issue. They hope to have this project completed by December of this year. The lodge offers eight air-conditioned private rooms if guests or crew need arrangements ashore.
The Island: Things To Do and Eat
Crooked Island is very remote, with a population of only about 200 people. This means there are few food options, and you won’t find South-Beach-style nightlife either. What you will find is miles of empty white sand beaches with virtually no one in sight. Crooked Island Lodge & Marina has a restaurant and beach bar that is open six days a week for all meals. It’s received great reviews from the people with whom I spoke. Barksdale told me you could sometimes watch boats fighting marlin while sipping a cocktail at the bar. While restaurant options on the island are sparse, he did recommend Gibson’s Lunch Room as a local eatery. Non-fishing activities outside the lodge include lighthouse and island tours of Crooked and Long Key where guests can see goats, flamingos and the beautiful tropical scenery that surrounds this area.
Crooked Island is located roughly 425 miles southeast of Miami, with a slightly longer commute from ports farther north in Florida. A Bahamas Cruising Permit is mandatory in order to operate in this area and is obtainable online through the Bahamas Cruising Permit Module. A Bahamas Fishing Permit is also necessary but can only be obtained after the vessel has been approved by a customs officer upon arrival. What is noteworthy is that there is no customs port of entry on Crooked Island, so you’ll have to take care of your immigration requirements before arriving and fishing here. For those flying in on their own planes or charter flights, the Pitts Town Airport is located directly beside Crooked Island Lodge & Marina with a 3200-foot private airstrip. Plane fees are exempt if you are staying at the lodge.
Those with larger planes or flying commercially use Colonel Hill Airport (4000-feet airstrip), which is about a 30-minute drive from the lodge. Transfers from here to the lodge are available for a fee. Bahamas Air is the only airline currently providing commercial flights to this airport, with service twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
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