Fishing the Bahamas – What You Need to Know

December 10, 2019

Fishing in the BahamasCourtesy of WildOutdoor Media

The Bahamas rank as one of the world’s top vacation, tourism and fishing destinations.

The Bahamas encompass 700 islands and 2,400 cays. From the northernmost tip at West End to the southernmost community of Matthew Town, the island nation covers 1,101 miles. That is 200 more miles than the distance from Atlanta to New York City.

If a trip to these islands is on your fishing list, here is what you need to know before ever leaving your house.

FishAnywhere has the top guides in this island paradise. We make the connection. You make the memories.

Another Country

The Bahamas are another country. They have their own set of laws and you are expected to abide by them while in Bahamas territory. For practical purposes, the laws there are much the same as in the United States and Canada. How laws in the Bahamas compare to other countries is going to vary widely.

If you have questions about conduct, local laws and rules, then ask someone. Residents of the Bahamas are generally friendly and will try to help you out. If you think it is a serious matter, ask someone in law enforcement before you do it to be sure.

The government has a section of its website for visitors that addresses common questions and concerns.

The US Embassy is on Queens Street, Nassau. The business phone is (242) 322-1181 and the emergency number is (242) 328-2206. Other embassies for other nations are located in Nassau.

Getting There

You can travel to the Bahamas by boat or plane. West End, the northwestern-most point of the Bahamas is 66.8 miles from West Palm Beach. Any boat capable of handling offshore fishing can make this trip. Otherwise, you can ride a ferry or board a plane for the short trip over the ocean.

Getting In

Get a passport. You can do this at many Post Offices. Sometimes your local courthouse can do this. A few other places that process passports are listed in the FAQ section of this website. Scroll down to the FAQ section to get the list of locations near you.

“It is possible to travel to the Bahamas from the United States without a passport, but it is not advisable. The reason is because although US citizens can enter the Bahamas without a passport, they can not legally re-enter the US without proper documentation. Effective June, 2009, a passport, passport card, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant documentation is required for US citizens to enter or re-enter the United States,” says Travel Insurance Review.

If you go over to the Bahamas in a private boat, clearing customs is different than flying in or taking a ferry. The government’s website explains the entry process in detail. Briefly, you must have:

• A yellow quarantine flag.

• A Bahamas Customs Clearance Form. This is available on the website linked just above.

• Passport.

• Proof of who owns the boat.

The fee you pay customs covers the boat and gives you a fishing permit.

Clearing Customs

When you are clearing customs, the local officials will ask what you are bringing in. Guns are prohibited. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not allowed. “Anything except fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products can be brought into the Bahamas. All meats must be canned or frozen,” says the FAQ section of the Bahama Beach Club resort. Otherwise, you can generally bring anything you’d have in the United States. This includes fishing gear.

Fishing Gear

Orvis has a comprehensive list of what fly fishermen should pack. Briefly, you should bring:

• Two fly rods, with eight-weight to 10-weight recommended. Pack an 11-weight or 12-weight rod if tarpon and cobia are on your list.

• The flies you will throw.

• Two reels with at least 200 yards of backing. If you have 300 yards, even better.

• Leader material.

Anglers using traditional fishing gear should check with their charter about what to bring. Most Bahama fishing charters have everything you need to fish, except you. If you have a special rig you want to use to create that lifetime memory, talk to your guide about that. Guides are usually accommodating.

Going Fishing

If you are fishing from your boat or a boat not owned by a Bahama resident, you must have these forms filled out.

If you are fishing from a boat owned by a Bahamian resident, fishing permits are generally covered by their license.

If you are fly fishing or fishing the flats by wading, then more regulations apply, including the need to buy a fishing license. Fees are on page 14 of the PDF linked just above. Bahama law specifically defines flats fishing as anglers going after bonefish, cobia, permit, snook and tarpon, listed on Page 3 of the PDF. Click this link for the short version with just the fees and license application.

The Fish

The sea around the Bahamas is loaded with fish, thousands of species. The most popular inshore species are bonefish, permit, cobia and tarpon. The top offshore fish is the blue marlin, which can tip the scales at more than 1,000 pounds. Tuna, snapper, big sharks, grouper, amberjack, wahoo and plenty of other billfish species pack the offshore fishing roster.

Going Home

When it is time to go home, you may want to bring fish back. If so, the US has some specific regulations on how the fish can come into the US. In short, reef fish, dolphin and wahoo can be brought back as fillets with the skin on. All other fish have to be brought back whole.

If you can’t have the fish in US waters, then you can’t bring it from the Bahamas. An excellent example is the goliath grouper. Goliaths are catch-and-release only in Florida.

Trophy fish destined for the wall are best handled by a taxidermist in The Bahamas.

Come To The Islands

World-class fishing, beaches, food, and some of the friendliest people on the planet are waiting for you. When you decide to visit, let FishAnywhere put you in the hands of an expert fishing guide.

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