Getting from Florida to the Bahamas by boat can pay off big time. The journey may seem long, but considering the excellent chances of landing a Marlin, it’s but a short ride.
As a matter of fact, you can get to some of the best fishing grounds in the Bahamas in just over two hours.
Blue and White Marlin, Swordfish, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna are just one part of the equation. Add to that the iconic Bonefish, and you’ll see why a trip to the Bahamas is your ideal weekend fishing getaway.
Read on to learn some useful tips when planning your Bahamas fishing trip.
Where is the Bahamas?
The Bahamas lies east of the Florida east coast, with the closest point just 50 miles away from the US mainland. This 5,358 sq mi archipelago comprises about 700 islands, cays, and islets in the Atlantic Ocean. More importantly, it spans 180,000 sq mi of ocean space. This means you have a lot of fisheries to explore.
The Bahamas enjoys long spells of hot and dry weather, though summer months tend to be wet. On average, the temperature stays above 80°F throughout the year. The sea temperature goes from 70°F in colder months (January, February, and March) and rises over 80°F during summer and early fall. It’s these warm waters that let you fish for Marlin more than once a year.
Bahamas fishing grounds
The islands of the Bahamas are famous for the shallow waters that surround them. After all, this is the place where Bonefish flats fishing is the absolute best. The luminous waters encircle all the major islands and serve as a perfect place to swim, surf, and wade fish.
But, don’t think you have just traveled 50 miles only to chase Bonefish in the flats (though that’s a feat in itself). The Bahamas boasts one of the deepest ocean canyons on the entire planet – Great Bahama Canyon. It cuts right between Abaco Island to the north and the Eleuthera island to the south. While the average depth of the water over the banks is 30 feet, here the seafloor plummets to an astounding 13,000 feet. It is so steep that its walls are almost vertical.
So, why is this a big deal? Because such a dramatic change in depth and water temperature brings the big fish to the table. You need to thank the Great Bahama Canyon for the incredible big game fishing opportunities in the local waters.
According to the FWC, about 50 recreational boats cross the Gulf Stream each day to reach the Bahamas. Floridians set out from Miami, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and even the Keys. Apart from Floridians, many anglers from the Carolinas trailer their vessels all the way to Florida, then hit the water. Now that’s commitment!
Boat to Bahamas from Florida
So now you know what kind of paradise lies ahead when you set out from Florida.
Let’s talk about how to get here.
Bimini is the closest island to the mainland US (it’s actually a set of three islands – North, South, and East Bimini). If you’re looking for a fishing trip with your buddies, chartering a boat to take you out from Florida to Bimini is by far the best way. It’s a road trip on water, with massive fish in sight.
If you want a real treat, then hire a multiday charter. You will have two or three days to fish and a chance to go past Bimini, to other excellent fishing grounds. These charters cost about $2,500 per day for a group of up to six people. What’s great about them is that you can focus on fishing – captains usually provide all the fishing gear, boat equipment, and snacks. All you need to do is to get ready for the Billfish.
Miami to Bimini by Boat
Anglers discovered the excellent fishing off Bimini in the mid-twentieth century. And this little island has lost nothing of its appeal to this day. For anglers who live or happen to be in Florida, going to Bimini by boat is a rite of passage.
The journey to Bimini itself takes about two hours. This depends on the boat type and engine, of course. A well-maintained boat with a pair of four-stroke 250 Yamahas can make it to Bimini in under two hours, on a single tank (about 400 gallons of fuel).
The type of boat you choose depends on how you want to travel. Some anglers prefer the speed and don’t mind limited cabin space. You will see a lot of 30’ boats that brave the open ocean to reach Bimini. Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama, is another popular destination.
Generally, beefy center consoles, used for offshore fishing, will do well on this trip. They can cruise at greater speeds than bigger boats. Plus, they have enough space for all the fishing gear and a group of anglers. Once you reach Bimini, you could then either spend the night in a resort marina, or stay onboard, if you want to fish on a budget.
Anglers who like to anchor out whenever they want choose a bigger boat with enough accommodation for the whole pack. Think 40’ sport fishing boats that have a full cabin, toilet, beds, Tuna towers, big livewells, and all the gear. These boats can cruise at about 18 knots on average, so it could take more than two hours before arrival.
Weather conditions en route to the Bahamas
Going from Florida to the Bahamas by boat takes you through the open ocean. And this is likely the main concern anglers have when they plan their trip. The conditions on the open ocean can change rapidly and the Gulf Stream can give you a headache, especially if you’re aboard a smaller size boat. So, you’ll need a strong and stable enough boat to face the wind and the current.
On a calm day, you can expect 1-2 feet of water swell, but in case of storms and wind, the current can rise up to 10 feet. That’s why crossing the Gulf Stream can be tricky. Just make sure you’re fishing with a pro, or that you yourself know enough to make a safe journey.
The Gulf Stream will carry you northwards, no matter how strong or fast the boat is. When you’re crossing the ocean, you can either set the course right for Bimini and fight the current all the way, or – head straight east out of Miami and then sail south once you’re on the other side of the Gulf Stream. This applies also if you’re heading to Freeport.
Stay in touch
Make sure to fish aboard a boat with top-notch electronics. Although it’s just a two-hour boat ride away, you don’t want to risk losing connection with communication towers. Most charter captains will have external antennae and a cell signal amplifier, but you should check with them before setting sail. You will want to be up to date with the current weather info on your VHF weather channel. If you’re traveling to the Bahamas often, you might want to buy a local phone number. You’ll ensure you have signal coverage and it’s also cheaper.
From Bimini to Other Fishing Spots
Thanks to its location, Bimini is one of the best weekend fishing spots in the Bahamas. In the ideal case, you can set out early from the US on Saturday morning, have two full day fishing trips, and get back home on Sunday evening.
Realistically, you can get two amazing six-hour fishing trips on each day of the weekend – and this should be enough to get you big game.
If you want to treat yourself to an extended weekend – and you should – Bimini is a good spot for a quick cooldown before you venture further around the Bahamas. Other Bahamas fishing spots include Exuma, Andros Island, Grand Bahama, Long Island, and the capital, Nassau.
These places offer not only diverse fishing, but a chance to go snorkeling, diving, surfing, and taste conch! Be careful though. Conch are endangered species in the US, so don’t bring it back unless you want to pay a hefty fine.
Fishing in the Bahamas
Once you have made it to the Bahamas, the fun begins. These islands have a stellar reputation for fly fishing, reef fishing, and deep sea fishing. It’s a sport fishing feast year-round.
You can catch Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, massive Tuna, Blue and White Marlin, and Swordfish right off Grand Bahama. These waters also hold plenty of baitfish, including Mackerel, Little Tunnies, and many more. If you’re aiming for smaller fish and if your boat can safely get to the flats, you should definitely target Bonefish and Permit. A boat ride around the wrecks will get you Snapper and Grouper.
The fishing stays on fire throughout the year, as does the water temperature.
Marlin fishing in the Bahamas
You haven’t braved the Gulf Stream for nothing! Marlin are abundant in these waters, so you better be ready.
To warm up, chum the waters with squid and wait for Yellowtail Snapper to take the bait. Then move offshore and start trolling to get Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna, using the Snapper as bait. Once you’ve got yourself solid live bait, you can start trolling for Blue and White Marlin. Don’t be surprised – you can easily get a couple of them hooked on the same day!
These brutes are present almost year-round. However, you will have the best chances during the summer months. White Marlin show up already in April and stick around until late summer, while Blue Marlin peak from June to August. But even outside these months you can hope to winch up one of these mighty fish.
Bringing Fish Back from the Bahamas
If you want to bring home some of the tasty fish you caught in the Bahamas, you need to follow the regulations to avoid fines. The Bahamian sportfishing regulations apply to bag and size limits when you’re fishing in their waters.
Once you get back to US waters, the US regulations will apply. This, for instance, means that you may bring back Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and reef fish as fillets (keeping the skin on the entire fillet), but you need to bring all other fish in whole condition (such as Tuna and Swordfish).
When coming home, remember that you need to move through federal and state waters without stopping and keeping your gear stowed all the time. If you’d like to find out more about these regulations, consult the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
What to Pack for your Florida–Bahamas fishing trip?
- Valid passport with current Bahamian stamps and travel dates
- Fishing permit for Bahamas waters
- Long-sleeve shirt and pants
- Polarized sunglasses
- Seasickness medication
- Fishing gear
- Snorkeling gear
- Diving gear
- Sun gloves
- Cooler for the fish/food and drinks
- Money to purchase a local SIM card
- Camera to snap some awesome fishing photos
So, have you ever gone fishing to the Bahamas from Florida by boat? We’d like to know all about it! How did you get past the Gulf Stream? Which places in the Bahamas did you fish? What fish did you catch? Let us know in the comments below.