HOGSTY REEF - Worth the Run?
Day 1 - Long Island to Albert Town, Long Cay
We departed Flying Fish Marina around 10:30am on Tuesday April 22nd with our group of 3 crew and 3 guests. Earlier that morning we took on an extra 150 gallons of fuel, to further the range of LOW PROFILE. Our plan this first day was to fish our way to Crooked Island, then down to our favorite anchorage off of Albert Town, Long Cay. From Albert Town, we planned to reach Hogsty on the second day of our voyage. We decided to high speed troll most of the way, saving fuel reserves in case the need arose to run as a result of bad weather or an emergency of some sort. So lines in it was, as soon as we crossed the outer reef of Long Island. The point off of Flying Fish looked ok, not great, but ok. We watched a boat in close proximity jump off a Blue Marlin, but had no bites to speak of for our selves. We didn't fish the point hard, as we had a lot of ground to cover. We put the big plugs out and bumped the speed up to 10 knots and began to cross the 20 miles of open water from Long Island to the deep water hump off the NW point of Crooked Island. About half way across, we spotted some birds working hard and knew there must be tuna or dolphin under them. We made a good pass and had 2 rods go down immediately. A Blackfin Tuna came in on the first, while the second had a serious bend to it, obviously a nice tuna. About that time, 2 or 3 sailfish appeared in the spread as we were fighting the tuna. We attempted to pitch bait them, but as the boat was stopped dead in the water, they quickly lost interest and faded off. Unfortunately, we pulled the hook on the tuna, and continued on our journey. The rest of the trolling was unproductive. We passed over the hump and directly into the lighthouse at Crooked Island, seeing a free jumping blue marlin off in the distance, but none in the spread unfortunately. The point at Crooked Island was void of life, so we didn't waste much time and trolled fast down to Albert Town where we switched over to snorkeling attire and cooled off before having dinner and settling in for the night. We had a light west wind that evening, so conditions were not very good for bottom fishing and we called it quits as the dinner bell rang and got ready for Day 2.
Day 2: Albert town to Hogsty – 6 for 6 on Yellowfin! Dolphin too….
We pulled anchor and were under way at 6:45 this morning. Our plan was to cover the 70 miles to Hogsty arriving in the early afternoon, with time to explore the reef before sunset. Right out of the gate, things were different this day. We had 3 quick bites, boating a Blackfin, Wahoo, and a Barracuda (which we saved for bottom fishing). The middle of the trip was uneventful as we once again passed right by Castle Island with out a bite. Just a side note here. We have now fished around Castle Island about a dozen times in the last few years and we can not remember having a single good bite there. We are crossing it off our list. From Castle Island we had 40 miles of open water to cover to Hogsty. We bumped the speed up to about 10 knots and put the big plugs out again, hoping for a Blue Marlin. The first 15 miles were uneventful. I noticed that there seemed to be very little northerly current, which surprised me. This changed however, 20 miles out, as we ran into about 3/4 of a knot of north easterly Current. Almost immediately, we began to see sets of birds working to the NE with the current. The first dolphin bite was a double header and we boated both of the 30# class fish. Two more single bites followed, and two more nice dolphin were boated. With about 10 miles to go, we found a really good set of birds and quickly positioned the boat to cut them off. I ran down to the pit to quickly deploy a cedar plug on a long rigger as Joe let out the cedar plug rod always at the ready in the bridge. I didn't even get my the line in the rigger clip before I heard the bridge rod screaming. Next the long rigger I was letting out was ripped from my hand. What happened next, has only happened to me a handful of times in the Bahamas. Every line in the spread proceeded to go down and hook up. Even the largest Moldcraft lures we were running on the flat lines got eaten. We were in the middle of a very hungry school of Yellowfin Tuna. Even better, we were in about 6,000 feet of water in the middle of nowhere, and the threat of sharks was fairly minimal. With only 3 anglers and 6 tuna screaming line, thomas and I did our best to keep the other 3 lines tight. We boated each fish one by one, and the anglers each switched off to their second fish. We finished the blitz going 6 for 6 on Yellowfin ranging from 25 to 55 pounds. We tried to make a quick circle and get back on the fish, but typically you only get one shot at these fish as they are migrating with the current. We could not keep up with them as they steamed to the north-east, so on we plunged to Hogsty. With about 3 miles to go and Hogsty in sight, we spotted yet another very large set of birds working off the NW point. We moved into position and it didn't take long before we had a single bite and boated yet another nice 45 pound Yellowfin. I looked at our anglers and asked if they wanted to fish these birds some more or get onto Hogsty. With a box full of tuna and dolphin on ice, it was unanimous and we left the tuna to go explore the reef.
We moved to the South side of the reef, as the wind was from the NW. Our first stop was the ruins of an old delivery boat, grounded back in the 1990's. Everyone got in the water to snorkel both the shallows and deeper reef, where we found some good bottom. Things looked pretty good there, with lots of smaller fish life and good live coral. Unfortunately, the wind was again not cooperating, so we decided to seek shelter inside Hogsty and anchor behind the Cay on the NW corner, seeking as much lee as we could find. The night was a bit bumpy, but not bad. The food was excellent. Joe made one of our specialties, buffalo dolphin, over a bed of fresh spinach, topped with blue cheese and bacon!
Day 3 - Hogsty Exploration Day – Diving, Bottom Fishing, Trolling, & Sightseeing
This day was set aside to explore as much of the reef as possible. We set out our trolling spread and headed for the SE corner, which appeared to offer the best chance of holding pelagics. We immediately had a wahoo bite on a Yo-Zuri plug on the SW corner in 500 feet, quickly boating the 40 pound hoo. We trolled out to the SE point, but had no other bites and really saw very little signs of life, so we decided to see what lived on the bottom. Well, the bottom here is great. We deep dropped in 200-600' of water on the south side of the SE point, just inside the tip. We caught on every drop. Black Snapper on the shallower drops, button snapper in 250-450', and yellow-eye snapper in 500-600'. All nice quality fish, and get this....no sharks. I'll come back to this later. We could have filled the boat deep dropping here, but we settled for a nice varied catch of good eating fish and moved on. We went directly into the reef (we had very calm conditions this day), and got very close to the huge Liberty Shipwreck positioned on the north side of the reef. It was quite a site. The bottom here didn't look all that good however, so we moved back to the eastern side and found some good shallow reef on the SE corner again. A few of us got in the water and saw some great live coral and decent fish life. I shot about a 10 pound grouper, but failed to get him out of his hole and lost a spear for my efforts. But again...no sharks. We did not see a lot of grouper, which surprised us all, and the ones we did see were all 5 to 10 pounds...not very large.
After grilling some burgers and snorkeling the south side of the Reef for a while, we decided to go back out to the NW side where we'd jumped the Yellowfin on the way in. We hooked up a double header of dolphin on the way and found the birds right where we left them about 2 miles off the point. This time, it was all skip jacks though. We couldn't get a Yellowfin bite out of the birds this day. We decided to get in the water one more time and check out the reef along the western edge of Hogsty this time. Again, it looked pretty good. Nice shallow bottom, decent fish life with some small grouper (one of which I shot for dinner). We did not see any Lobster, Conch, or larger fish however, which was surprising. It was now getting on in the afternoon, so we moved back to the south side where we anchored for the evening. We were able to set up inshore of the drop off, and slide back just inside the edge, holding in 75' of water. We began chumming expecting a flurry of yellowtails, but none showed right away. We were catching a good number of jacks and strawberry grouper off the bottom. We figured that after the sun went down the tails were sure to show, along with maybe a mutton or two, but they never did. Also, again, with all the chum we threw in the water and jack after jack being caught, no sharks...very strange indeed. Again, the night was ok, not great, but everyone managed to sleep all right. The wind was still out of the NW, not ideal for anchoring anywhere at Hogsty, but it was light and we were comfortable.
Day 4 - Hogsty to Rum Cay – Our Weather Window Closes
After making a satellite phone call and getting the updated forecast, we understood that our favorable weather was about to come to an end. With 20-25 knot north easterly winds predicted in the near future, we decided to cover as much ground as we could while the calm seas prevailed. After having to quickly dive up the anchor this morning, we were off and trolling back towards Castle Island. We had debated the evening before whether to head up the east side of the Acklins and anchor at the Plana Cays, or to stick to the back side of Crooked and the Acklins anchoring again at Albert Town. We all wanted to take the easterly route, as it seemed the current was funneling the fish up that direction. With the forecast the way it was however, we decided to make the prudent choice and stick to the leeward side of the Acklins. The fishing suffered this day, as a result and we trolled all the way to Albert Town with little action to speak of. Again the current was moving to the NE up toward Plana Cays and not going up the backside of the Acklins as we've seen it do in the past. We did try deep dropping at Castle Island, and as has happened every time, we immediately had bites and immediately lost the rig to sharks. On we trolled north. By the time we got to Albert Town, the wind had begun to blow about 15 knots and it was once again the wrong direction for this anchorage. We had a few choices; First, either go back down around the south end of Long Cay and tuck in. Second, move up to Crooked and tuck in tight to the beach, where we know a good spot in about 7 feet of water, or finally, suck it up and get out of dodge. We all decided to suck it up and get out of dodge. This meant a 60 mile jog to Rum Cay. It was 4 pm and we had just enough daylight to make Rum before dark, and that's exactly what we did, pulling into the marina about 7:15. The weather got progressively worse as we moved north and it was clear we had absolutely made several good decisions. The first, not to go up the east side of the Acklins, the second, to cover the 60 miles before the seas built even more. Our run to Rum was in a quartering head sea of about 5-7', which the LOW PROFILE handled nicely. Everyone was very glad to be tied up that night and after a burger and Kalik at Sumner Point Marina, we all turned in for the evening and enjoyed a great night's sleep.
Day 5 Rum Cay to San Salvador – Fishing Turns on, So does the Fan
We awoke to 18-22 knots of NE wind and a sporty 8 foot sea. We dropped the riggers as we cleared the outer reef at Rum Cay and trolled the contour around and out towards the SE Point. We got half way and saw a totally different ocean that we had seen previously on this trip. First of all, it was rough...very rough. Second, there were birds EVERYWHERE! We were immediately into action, lots of action. We picked up 2 dolphin, 2 yellowfin, a few skip jacks, blackfins, and numerous other bites that didn't connect. Knowing we had 25 miles to cover, with a lot of good structure along the way, we left the fish biting and headed towards the NE point at Rum. We were en route to San Salvador, where we would end this trip. The first few miles from SE Point towards the NE Point were brutal. I almost turned us around, and this is at 8 knots. I was having to steer up and over the waves so as not to take them head on, or too much on the beam. As we got further away from the SE Point, the seas subsided just enough to keep moving ahead, which we did. At the NE point, we found much less bird action. We missed a dolphin, but really didn't see much to hold our attention, so we began to make the 10 mile cross over to Sandy Point at San Salvador. A few miles out, we found a set of birds, finally caught up to them and hooked a good double header of dolphin. We boated the 40 pound bull and released the cow. About 5 miles off San Salvador, we found another large set of birds which appeared to be on tuna of some sort. We got a couple skip jack bites, but couldn't get a Yellowfin bite, so we moved into Sandy Point and began deep dropping on some productive numbers we hit regularly. Maybe the tide was slack on us, but for whatever reason we couldn't get the yellow-eyes going in our honey hole this day. We called it quits and pulled into Riding Rock about 4:00pm that afternoon.
Day 6 San Salvador – Back home and Fishing is really turning on
This was to be our final day of fishing and we had very high hopes given what we had experienced the previous morning at Rum Cay. We left Riding Rock at 7am and turned right out of the cut, heading to the North Ridge and Hump which always seems to offer the best Tuna and Wahoo fishing at San Salvador. It was still rough, but better than the day before. Again, everything looked good...really good. We set out our normal 6 line tuna,dolphin, & wahoo spread of Yo-Zuri Plugs and a Ballyhoo on the flat lines, two Rick's Fancy's on the short riggers and a combination of cedar plugs and smaller lures on the long riggers. The bite got really good about 9am as we were boating nice dolphin to 40 pounds. Out on the hump the tuna were up this morning. We boated two, to 30 pounds, and missed a couple of great bites. One was on a flat line screamer, probably a nice Wahoo. The other was a shotgun bite on a cedar plug, a nice yellowfin no doubt. The bite pretty much lasted all day and was pretty consistent. Often the bite will die off with the tide, but not this day...the birds stayed up and the action continued. We pulled into the marina about 3:00pm, just as we saw our plane overhead bringing in George Poveromo to begin filming for ESPN2. Boy did we have a good report for him!
Conclusions and Observations – Hogsty: a long way to go..is it worth it?
We covered a lot of ground on this trip and fished some of the best locations in the Bahamas, including Long Island, Crooked Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador. We are not jumping to put Hogsty in this category just yet. Admittedly, the fishing was probably off the two days we spent at Hogsty. We know this from talking to others fishing various places like Rum, San Sal, etc those same two days. When the fishing is on, it tends to be good everywhere and when it's off, it's off everywhere. That being said, we didn't see the type of structure off the SE side of Hogsty that we had hoped for. It is unclear whether there is enough pronounced structure to hold pelagics for long periods of time, as is the case in Rum Cay, San Salvador and Long Island. Clearly, the NW point had the most signs of pelagic life and we did have three wahoo bites near the SW corner. We all agreed that the reef was a bit of a let down. It would appear that Hogsty has possibly suffered from over fishing from commercial interests. This is just a guess, but one that is probably worth investigating. The fact that we did not see a single shark in our two days at Hogsty is the most troubling red flag. I never thought I’d say that I was disappointed not to have any shark encounters, but this is clearly not a good indication of the amount of game fish that are living on this reef. Also, we did not see any lobster or conch in our diving. We saw a decent amount of grouper, but again, they were on the smaller side, and no mutton snapper or hog-fish. We must say that there is MUCH that we did not have a chance to explore, especially the inside of the atoll, which undoubtedly may hold grouper, lobster, conch and more of the type of life we had hoped to see. So, our conclusion is that while not rushing to go out of our way to visit, we would like to have a few more more days to really explore the reef in more depth, especially the inside portion.
Capt. Trey Rhyne - Owner/Operator