Cat Island, Bahamas
The easternmost islands in the Bahamas chain lie directly in the path of a main migratory route for Atlantic blue marlin as well as white marlin. Traveling to and from their summer grounds off the U.S. mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts from their winter grounds in the Caribbean, a great many of them pass by the remote Bahamian islands of Crooked Island, Samana Cay, Rum Cay, San Salvador and Cat Island.
Some of these fish eventually reach the better-known Abaco Islands, a major population center for the island nation. Fishing there can be awesome as well, but there’s something about the sparsely populated islands of the southern Bahamas that fascinates many serious marlin fishermen. These islands are completely different than the more tourist-oriented destinations in everything from geology to the social makeup of the natives who live there. Oh, and by the way, the fishing is better, too.
Rich in History
Of all these southern islands, Cat Island holds a special charm. The island sits just to the southeast of Eleuthera, running north and south for about 40 miles. Only about 1,500 people live there, mostly in settlements in the center part of the island. Actor Sidney Poitier was born there, a notable claim to fame, but for the most part, life on Cat Island is pretty laid-back and serene.
Cat Island also has some unique geographical attributes, including the highest point in the Bahamas, a 206-foot rock hill known as Mount Alvernia. On this rock, a Catholic priest named John Hawes, who later became commonly known as Father Jerome, built a miniature monastery called The Hermitage, where he lived as a hermit in the last years of his life. Hawes was a prolific architect and builder; he built five churches in the Bahamas during his lifetime and many more in Australia, where he lived before the Bahamas. Cat Island has lots of history, including ruins from several prominent 18th-century estates, but all of this serves as a mere side note for passionate marlin fishermen. People like us go there to sample the spectacular fishing the area offers.
Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina
Only one marina currently exists on Cat Island, the Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina on the southwest tip of the island. In years long gone by and due to its remote location and its 3,100-foot runway right at the front door of the hotel, Hawk’s Nest briefly served as a major drug-smuggling base. When I first started going there in the mid-1990s, a large metal shed at the marina still had two scales hanging on the wall where shipments were weighed before transport.
Thankfully, those days are long past. The Hawk’s Nest Marina, which for years offered only nine slips, got enlarged substantially and now can accommodate 28 boats. Situated along the natural Hawk’s Nest Creek, the marina sits with a couple of hundred yards of extremely deep water. As is the case everywhere in this part of the world, drop-offs are abrupt and quickly fall to substantial depths.
The southern shoreline of Cat Island runs essentially east and west and provides miles of productive reef line where trolling can be spectacular. This is particularly true of the waters between Devil’s Point to the southwest and Columbus Point at the extreme southeast tip of the island. And offshore, a few miles south of Devil’s Point, lies an amazing seamount known as Tartar Bank.
At its shallowest point, Tartar Bank rises to within 45 feet of the surface from depths of 3,000 feet or more. You almost always find flocks of birds following tuna schools around Tartar, and marlin often follow the tunas. But of all the hot spots around southern Cat Island, I like Columbus Point the best. As in many other parts of the Bahamas, a shallow finger of submerged reef juts out several miles from shore at Columbus; being on the eastern side of Cat, only open ocean lies to the east. The currents flowing by the point bring an incredible amount of life to the area most days, including big tuna schools, birds, whales and, of course, marlin.
Huge marlin represent the exception and not the norm in this area. Cat Island has lots of smaller and midsize blues as well as a fair number of whites. Multiple shots aren’t uncommon, and we’ve twice caught three blues in a day at Cat. In addition to great marlin fishing, the tuna fishing can be awesome, too, although Cat Island has an unusually large number of oceanic white-tip sharks that can make landing a tuna challenging at best sometimes. Huge dolphin roam these waters in the summer, and the winter wahoo fishing rivals that of neighboring San Salvador, long considered the top big wahoo spot in the world.
With light fishing pressure, incredibly beautiful scenery, friendly people and, most importantly, lots of hungry fish, Cat Island might offer the best marlin fishing in the Bahamas. I know that’s a big claim, but if you haven’t tried it yourself, you should, to see what you’ve been missing.
Cat Island Marinas
While Hawk’s Nest is still the only operating marina at the moment, a new marina is under construction on Cat Island’s southern shore. The new Flamingo Hills Resort and Marina is being built on the eastern side of Springfield Bay and will feature 120 slips as well as a real estate development.
This will obviously give traveling fishermen a choice and will enable a larger number of boats to access the great fishing in the area. Flamingo Hills Marina will be located between Devil’s Point and Columbus Point, putting it squarely in the middle of the prime fishing grounds.