On August 20, 2019, hurricane Dorian decimated much of Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. It has been a long road to recovery. Many of the communities’ populations have dwindled, as the residents moved away since they lost everything. On a recent visitation to Grand Bahama Island, Yellow Dog’s Ian Davis experienced this firsthand. The drive from Freeport to the east end of the island conveyed the devastation the island suffered. The vast pine tree forests that line the road for this 40-mile-long drive have been folded in the same direction from the devastating 180+ MPH winds. Most of the trees are snapped off halfway up the pine’s trunks for as far as the eye can see. From Pelican Point to Sweetings Cay, Dorian paused for upwards of 20 hours and scrubbed this part of the island to an unworldly state. Very few structures survived.
The heartbeat of this end of the island is McClean’s Town, which is making a comeback and recovering. Water and power have been restored and the sound of busy construction is commonplace. One of the main economic driving forces today in McLean’s Town is East End Lodge, which has been totally rebuilt (and improved) with amazing speed. While the original lodge was one of Yellow Dog’s top Bahamas destinations, as well as one of the finest values in the realm of saltwater fly fishing. The new expanded facility provides more social space, upgraded amenities, and more availability with the addition of a few single rooms. The main lodge now has a large, shaded deck which is ideal for post fishing stories and beverages, the bar is larger and now faces the water, an expanded sitting area and fly-tying station allows for more social interaction space between the guests.
The owners of the lodge did not just reinvest the property, but they also purchased all new Dolphin Super Skiffs since the original boats were never recovered from hurricane Dorian. These new addition skiffs are comfortable, have plenty of storage, ride well in chop and can access super skinny water in search of tailing bonefish.
The main question is whether the fish survived hurricane Dorian? We can attest that they did in fine numbers, and the fishery is stable and productive. Flats species have been surviving hurricanes for thousands of years. In fact, we found the fish during the visitation to be aggressive which made for strong numbers of healthy bonefish. One of our favorite traits of the Grand Bahama fishery is that most of the flats are adjacent to fairly deep water, which creates an ideal situation for larger-than-average bonefish and occasional permit to have direct access to the flats. We found larger schools of bones, trophy singles and doubles, and fish tailing in the shallows. Flies like the EP Spawning Shrimp and Jacoby’s Revenge were gobbled up as they settled to the sandy bottom of the flats.
While much of the mangrove forests and islands on the east end of the island were stripped of all their leaves, thus killing the plant, there are signs of hope to these vital plants. Mangroves are a dense wood and do not decompose quickly after they die, so they will continue to stabilize the land and flats for many years. New seeds will drift in from other parts of Grand Bahama or adjacent islands, which will repopulate the landscape with mangroves over time. The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust conservation group has recently launched a mangrove seedling planting program on Grand Bahama. Numerous volunteers led by Justin Lewis, who is the BTT Bahamas director have planted thousands of single mangrove shoots to hopefully speed up the recovery process. Once these shoots take hold, they can intern repopulate the immediate surrounding terrain.
Unfortunately, the historic Deep Water Cay Club just off the mainland from McClean’s Town remains closed after much of the facility was flattened by Dorian. This is another blow to the community since it provided numerous employment opportunities over the past decades.
The Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation (YDCCF) has been involved with the recovery efforts on Abaco and Grand Bahama as soon as Dorian passed. Thanks to the hundreds of donors, YDCCF provided direct economic relief for individual Bahamians with-in the fly-fishing communities, funded a mobile health clinic on Abaco, and paid for numerous charter flights to Freeport with vital supplies (baby products, SAT phones, generators, fans, tents, food, water, and fuel) as soon as the airstrips were cleared. YDCCF is continuing to support the northern Bahamas with ongoing projects. We hope to create a community center in McClains Town to support the community to promote healthy lifestyles. Such as healthy cooking, exercise and yoga classes. Feel free to contact YDCCF on how to support this project. For more information, please go to www.ydccf.org