In the 1930s, Bimini was home to many of the pioneering anglers of offshore big-game fishing, with legends like Zane Grey, Ernest Hemingway and Michael Lerner catching marlin and tuna in the Gulf Stream little more than a mile offshore of the tiny island’s beautiful sand beaches. Their exploits were heralded in the media of the era and continue to lure anglers here to this day to experience the excellent fishing and the ambiance of this magical place that inspired many of Hemingway’s later writing.
Bimini is a cluster of three small islands that are the closest of The Bahamas to the US mainland, just 57 miles from Miami. The islands’ proximity, beautiful blue waters, abundant sea life and folklore continue to attract generations of anglers, adventurer seekers and sun worshippers to learn its history and experience all it has to offer.
As a fisherman’s playground, Bimini has plenty to offer, with seasonal migrations of blue and white marlin, sailfish, wahoo and dolphin, as well as yellowfin, blackfin and bluefin tuna. Bluewater fishing is at its best from March through early July, with the exception of an amazing wahoo run that extends the season from November through March. Bonefish prowl the flats between the islands year-round. They have produced numerous line and tippet class world records including the IGFA’s all-tackle record of 16 pounds.
Many visitors arrive by air, landing at the airport on South Bimini where a small community of private houses is located along with the rumored Fountain of Youth. Could it be true that this is where Ponce de Leone made his widely heralded discovery when he discovered the islands in 1530? Most visitors come to Bimini on private boats or aboard the Bimini Fast Ferry that departs Fort Lauderdale daily. When entering the cut between North and South Bimini, fishing boats head to the marinas at the legendary Bimini Big Game Club or the luxurious Hilton Resort World. Once there, be prepared to enjoy a stroll down memory lane, also known as Queen’s Highway.
Starting at its southern terminus in Alice Town, Queen’s Highway is the main road on North Bimini. Walking northward, you can stop along the way for the famous cracked conch and an ice-cold Kalik beer at Joe’s Conch Stand while enjoying the enticing aroma of baking Bimini bread wafting through the warm Bahamian air. It’s a delicious staple throughout the islands and many loaves find their way back to the States. Your walk brings you past the location were the historic Compleat Angler stood from 1935 until it was lost to fire in 2006. Hemingway was a frequent quest there during his time on the island. A little further up the road is the equally prestigious Bimini Big Game Club, the epicenter of fishing activity on the islands today. It features a full-service marina, a famous restaurant, bar, hotel, dive shop and liquor store. It also hosts charters for the island’s big bonefish or offshore action for marlin, wahoo, dolphin and yellowfin tuna. For a day of more relaxing day of fishing, grouper, amberjack and snapper prowl the reefs around the main islands and smaller cays nearby.
Great Isaac Cay to the north is home to a historic 150-foot tall lighthouse built in London in 1852 and transported to its current location on the tiny cay in 1859. The island is abandoned—the buildings roofless from numerous hurricanes—but an automated light still guides boats away from the rocky reefs of the Northwest Providence Channel. Expect to catch amberjack and grouper in those very reefs and rocks. To the south, there is a chain of cays that border the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank that includes Turtle and Piquet Rocks, Holm, Gun, North Cat, South Cat and Ocean Cays. All offer fish attract structure for bottom fish, midwater structure for wahoo trolling and a drop into the deep where the Gulf Stream flows past.
Other places to see include the Healing Hole, a pond of mineral rich fresh water that flows up through the surrounding saltwater habitat that has been fabled to have healing powers dating back hundreds of years to when the Lucayan Indians roamed the islands. The Bimini Biological Field Station and Shark Lab in Port Royale on South Bimini provides tours and instructional talks on the island’s marine life and there are some of the most beautiful soft, sandy beaches to be found anywhere in The Bahamas running up the western shoreline.
Bimini holds a very special place in sport-fishing history and is still providing anglers with stories of their own today.