Choosing a favorite Bahamas fishing destination can be a tough proposition.
With so many hot spots available, deciding which one gets the nod often comes down to my sense of adventure, and whether I want to target a specific species or catch a variety of fish.
However, for sheer trolling excitement during spring and early summer, Treasure Cay in the Abacos ranks among the best.
Located on Great Abaco Island, an approximate 195-mile crossing from Palm Beach's Lake Worth Inlet, this area usually offers solid spring action with blue marlin, as well as some of the most incredible dolphin fishing anywhere.
It was the prospect of tangling with big dolphin that convinced Harry Vernon III and me to make the trip to the Treasure Cay Resort and Marina aboard my 28-foot Mako, MARC VI, last June.
The stop was part of our 500-mile, roundtrip Bahamas fishing excursion. Our first stop was the Chub Cay Club, where we caught dolphin, sailfish and wahoo. From there, we cruised up to the Abacos and to Treasure Cay.
Vernon (owner of Capt. Harry's Fishing Supply in Miami) and I were also hoping to catch a marlin or two during our visit, so we brought along 50-pound-class tackle and an assortment of large baits. However, if the marlin didn't cooperate, we knew we could always count on the dolphin.
Unlike Bimini or Andros, Treasure Cay isn't exactly right around the corner for South Florida anglers, especially those traveling in small- to mid-sized boats; and attempting the run in April and May is always risky, given those late-season cold fronts that always seem to usher in several days of strong easterly winds.
But that's the gamble you must take, if you want to cash in on the offshore fishing. Fortunately for us, fair seas and bright skies prevailed throughout the first leg of our journey and for the 150-mile crossing from Chub to Treasure.
Although it has been growing more crowded each season, the Treasure Cay area still sees fewer anglers than most other closer-to-home Bahamas destinations, and is especially true between tournaments.
In addition to being on the open Atlantic, where near-shore currents fuel the nutrient- and bait-rich waters, Treasure Cay is also relatively close to deep water and several major offshore mounds and depressions. (Depths exceeding 6,000 feet lie a mere half mile from shore in some spots.)
Big marlin patrol the deep contours, as well as the Abaco shelf. The second-largest marlin ever caught in the Bahamas — a 1,030-pounder — was taken in May 1996 off Treasure Cay, and came close to toppling the record 1,060.5-pounder caught off Bimini in 1979.
And during the spring of 1999, a crew out of nearby Boat Harbour fought a huge marlin for over 30 hours before losing it. They reportedly had the leader in hand more than 60 times, but couldn't budge the fish.
Given the size of the marlin known to migrate through this area, many anglers believe the local waters will yield the next Bahamas record.
Some of the world's biggest dolphin also migrate through these waters during the spring. Fish in the 40-pound class are common, and 50-pounders are to be expected now and again. A few 60-pound-class bulls are even boated each season, along with one or two brutes topping 70 pounds.
Even the school fish are big, with 15- to 20-pounders being average.
It's believed that these dolphin migrate up from the open Atlantic, foraging on the abundance of bait that gathers along current edges, weed lines and over bottom structure. The Abaco shelf provides plenty of forage, and, when washed by a strong offshore current, it's common to see big dolphin chasing flying fish in water as shallow as 90 feet. As the migration continues, many of these dolphin enter the Gulf Stream off central Florida and move up the East Coast.
To locate the fish, look for distinct temperature breaks, especially those occurring over major drop-offs or mounds, along current edges or in the vicinity of working birds. If you find a good temperature break and there's baitfish around, you'll catch fish.
Other good signs include schools of flying fish and frigate birds, which dive-bomb the fliers, and often shadow the dolphin and other game fish.
(As a general rule, some of the most consistent dolphin action is found from Cherokee Sound south to Hole-in-the-Wall, a stretch of about 30 miles.)
However, upon our arrival at Treasure Cay, Vernon and I got word of a tropical wave heading our way. Since this wave was less than a day away, we weren't sure what the morning would bring.
When we woke and looked out our window, the winds were blowing every bit of 15 knots. We knew we were close to getting socked in, but we decided to get in at least one day of fishing — close to Treasure.
Once we reached the offshore grounds, Vernon and I dispatched a five-bait spread consisting of skirted ballyhoo and lures. We also dragged three teasers: a MoldCraft squid spreader bar, a large hookless marlin teaser, and a 96-fish StripTeaser dredge.
We began a zigzag trolling pattern that took us from 400 to 6,000 feet of water and back again. Between scanning the surface for flying fish and the horizon for birds, we concentrated on locating thermal zones.
Vernon and I ended up scoring three big dolphin before the weather deteriorated. The tropical wave moved over the island, and parked itself for three days, lashing us with 30-knot winds and driving rain. We basically lost the rest of our trip due to the storm.
Resort and Marina
For additional information, call (800) 327-1584, or visit their Web site, www.treasurecay.com.
Tourism Web Site
To learn more about planning a trip to the Bahamas, visit the Ministry of Tourism's official Web site, www.bahamas.com.
During the spring, it's rare to find dolphin less than 20 pounds. There are plenty of them during this time, and they're suckers for a ballyhoo trolled past them. The rips that often form close to the edge are also famous for holding big dolphin, yellowfin tuna and wahoo, and on a trip there some years ago, we scored with wahoo up to 50 pounds and dolphin to 30 pounds.
In my opinion, the run to Treasure Cay is definitely worth the effort.
If you catch the weather just right, it's a beautiful cruise over and back through Abaco Sound. And if you catch the fishing just right, you should raise a marlin or two — or end up "cherry-picking" bigger dolphin from schools of fish you'd drool over back home.
In fact, Harry Vernon and I will be back there this spring, to get in the fishing the tropical wave cheated us out of!