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Branching out to the Bahamas: clubs offer camaraderie for the crossing.

THE BAHAMAS BASH

A few years ago, the Jupiter Inlet Offshore Fishing Club (JIOFC) created its Bahamas Bash getaway to show its members how easy and affordable it is to head to the Bahamas.

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"We always stop in West End to clear Customs and then go to Port Lucaya," said Scott Lafave, JIOFC member. "This way we show everybody two inlets. It's a family trip mixed in with a little fishing. At last year's Bash, some of our folks logged in 10 hours a day of pool time. We had 41 people make the trip in six boats last year and expect at least as many this year. We all stayed at Pelican Bay Resort."

Last year, members crossed on boats ranging from 24 to 35 feet in length, in good seas. "Our average speed over the 66-mile trip was around 32 mph," said Lafave. "With several stops, we arrived in West End around noon. It took about an hour for all of us to complete the forms and clear customs. Then we were off to Lucaya. West End to Lucaya is approximately 26 miles. Most of us stopped for a quick swim along the way in the beautiful blue water. We made it to the hotel around 3 p.m., unloaded our food and bags and headed straight for the pool."

No one fished on that first day, but on the second, 5 boats headed to the Tuna Canyons. The total catch consisted of skippies and a few dolphin, but unfortunately, no yellowfin. Other days, members made trips to snorkel at dive spot Double Breasted, to deep-drop fish for snapper, and of course there were nightly pool-side dinners and parties. Some folks fished before the crossing on the fifth day.

"Estimated expenses for my crew were: $450/person (includes Bahamas Customs charge, gas, ice, lodging, food/drinks brought over, dockage and one dinner out). The fishing was a bit disappointing, but we all had fun," Lafave said.

This year's JIOFC Bahamas Bash will be July 21 to 25.

THE BAHAMAS FISHING NETWORK

The Bahamas Fishing Network (www.bahamasfishingnetwork.com) is a non-profit referral service for experienced anglers based out of Florida. The network, still in its first year, helps recreational anglers to arrange trips to The Bahamas, learn about new techniques and conservation issues, benefit from the experience of other anglers and put together crews, and of course, share the costs of multi-day trips. Monthly meetings, including guest speakers, are held at various locations along the east coast.

"We all met on the Florida Sportsman Forum," said founding member Jeff Johnson, of Boca Raton, "so thanks go out to the FS organization for helping us get together."

Johnson's crew for the club's inaugural trip included Will Diaz and Cliff Jensen of Fort Lauderdale and Oliver Pacheo and Thomas Nesbitt of Miami. Early in April, they cleared the Boca Raton inlet on Johnson's Contender 31 and headed for North Bimini's Seacrest Hotel and Marina.

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"We started out the next morning south of Bimini high-speed trolling for wahoo and right off caught a good black grouper, so we switched to drifting and jigging for grouper and ended up with a limit of blacks, red, strawberry and rock hind, as well as a mutton. The next day we crushed a variety of species, too. The winds and waves increased for the final day, and we'd underestimated our fuel needs. So to be safe, we headed home early."

Johnson and his crew enjoyed new friendships and an economical and educational trip. Everyone brought their own tackle, food and drink.

"All told," Johnson said, "we each only spent about $350. I've never spent so little and had so much fun in the Bahamas."
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Title Annotation:Tropical Sportsman Roundup
Author:Conway, David
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:5BAHA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
Words:623
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