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Bonefishing habitat a ‘best kept secret’

  • Thomas Rolle, son of Israel 'Bonefish Foley' Rolle, is following in the footsteps of his late father as a bonefish guide at Old Bahama Bay in West End, Grand Bahama. He is hopeful that the craft becomes a part of the school system in The Bahamas. FRED STURRUP


Published: Sep 11, 2013

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The original ‘Bonefish Foley’, the legend, is no longer with us on this side of eternity. The replica is doing quite well though, while refining a special Bahamian art, in his very own way. Reference is to Thomas Rolle, the son of ‘Bonefish Foley’.

Rolle considers himself the master at any kind of fishing, but acknowledges that bonefishing is the “love sport” he inherited from his father. The bonefish guide at Old Bahama Bay in West End, Grand Bahama, Rolle is dedicated to his craft and laments the fact that the sport has “not been maximized” in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

“I don’t understand it. This is a unique gift. We’ve got a jewel here in The Bahamas with this sport. My father, through bonefishing, took The Bahamas all over the world through the guests he guided. He and because of him, The Bahamas, was known in almost every little corner of the world. Bonefishing could be a huge marketing tool for The Bahamas. We just need those in authority to recognize the value of the craft and pay full attention to what it could bring the country.

“The excitement guests get for an hour or two at bonefishing, is invaluable to them. They come back time and time again for the joy of battling with the bonefish. This is sports tourism material for sure. The folks involved in sports tourism really need to look seriously at bonefishing and make full use of it. We have the best bonefishing flats in the world. For some reason, you talk about bonefishing and most people think about Andros. Well, I can tell you that most of my guests go between Abaco and here in West End. I have to admit though that for bonefishing, West End is the best kept secret in the whole Bahamas. It’s as good here as anywhere else in the country,” said Rolle.

The skill to be found in The Bahamas in bonefishing is unique, said Rolle, and the environment is like no other, he brags. Rolle pointed out that in most “other places” where bonefishing is popular, it’s in fresh water. The salt water fishing provides more excitement, according to Rolle because once hooked, the salt water bonefish “fight harder”, making the man-fish battle in The Bahamas one of a kind.

Rolle is thankful that his father took him under his wing. He is doing the same to his son and one day, he hopes the craft becomes a part of the school system.

“What are we doing? Why can’t we see the benefits in this gift that has been given to us. A teaching program should be adopted in schools. It’s sad that we don’t grab the kids at an early age and teach them how to cast, and the other techniques to bonefishing. Bonefishing is extremely important. It attracts many visitors and could bring to The Bahamas much more if there was more of a concentration on the sport,” said Rolle.

He speaks proudly about the thrill of helping a guest land a fish 9-13 pounds, and is convinced the bonefishing industry could be much bigger.

“The government needs to get more involved in promoting the sport throughout the country. We, the guides, offer a special experience. The focus is about catching the fish for sure, but we think also about being hospitable. That’s a part of the whole package. There is the challenge of landing the fish and at the same time getting that gracious hands-on treatment. Man, that sports tourism. All we need is for somebody to wake up to what we have and come and help us take it to higher levels,” said Rolle.

Hopefully, his plea will be answered. Meanwhile, he carries on the tradition, enhanced by his father, the inimitable Israel ‘Bonefish Foley’ Rolle, who hailed from North Andros, then settled in West End during the 1960s. The father was humble and quietly went about orchestrating a legacy. The son, on the other hand, is quick to tell anyone listening, that he knows his business quite well, and has a vision of a “great big bonefishing industry in The Bahamas.”

The legacy indeed continues.

(To respond to this sports feature, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at sturrup1504@gmail.com)

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