Catch the Wave Charters

Phone: (649) 941-3047

E-mail:[email protected]

Big Blue Unlimited

Phone: (649) 946-5034

Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board

Phone: (800) 241-0824

Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association

Phone: (649) 946-2445

E-mail:[email protected]

PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos -- Bonefishing was on my agenda for the first time in my life, and I couldnt wait.

However, the winds kicked up and what had been calm waters near Stubbs Creek and Mangrove Cay in the morning were white-capped by afternoon.

Wind is bad for bonefishing, Edward [Eddy] Missick, boat captain/fly-fishing guide and head of Catch the Wave Charters at Leeward Marina just up the road from Grace Bay Club, told me. You need calm, flat, placid waters. We dont go out in wind.

No matter. Missick taught me some of the basics of holding and casting the rod, and catching and releasing a bonefish, inside his cluttered shop. His fleet of six boats, from skiffs to deep-sea trawlers and dive boats, bobbed in the water at the dock outside.

The technique seemed fairly simple to me. While he tied lures and repaired lines, Missick told me that bonefishing is a love that is passed from father to son.

Kids down here know it, love it. It takes a lifetime to master it, but it sure is fun trying. The thrill is in listening to the reel sing.

The shop and the kiosks outside were plastered with fading pictures of smiling tourists holding big fish. Its all catch and release. The fish are photographed and returned to the sea.

More than 80% of Missicks 6-year-old business is repeat and referral. His is a year-round business, and he can customize just about any kind of boat activity for his clients, from snorkeling and diving to beach cruising and blue-water fishing (day or night), complete with beach barbecues accompanied by fresh conch caught minutes earlier.

Rates vary between $400 and $600 for a half-day boat charter, depending on the activity selected. Three is the maximum number of people Missick or his guides will take bonefishing at a time.

Missick said that 10% of his business comes through agents. He will pay 10% commission or take agents out fishing for free when theyre on the island.

The wind had quieted by next morning but not enough, so my activity that day was a two-person kayak ride through the waters of the Princess Alexandra National Marine Park with my guides from Big Blue Unlimited at the same marina.

The company, founded in 1997, promotes eco-adventures that range from half-day kayak tours and snorkeling trips to full-day explorations of 18th-century plantation ruins on North Caicos and cave safaris on Middle Caicos.

We paddled through mangrove channels, listened to bird calls and spotted starfish 20 feet down in the clearest waters I had ever seen. We docked at Little Water Cay, a 150-acre uninhabited preserve that is home to more than 2,000 rock iguanas.

A wooden sign posted the rules of Iguana Etiquette, which included reminders to stay on the boardwalks; not to feed, touch or harass the iguanas; and to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

The folks at Big Blue worry about the impact of mass tourism on the Turks and Caicos, as does the government.

U.S. visitors, who account for more than 70% of all air arrivals, totaled close to 130,000 last year, up 10,000 over the previous year.

Well exceed that figure this year, said Ralph Higgs, deputy director of tourism.

One percent of the 10% accommodations tax is allocated for conservation efforts, and there are other funding measures in place, as well.

Although tourism fuels the economy, the Turks and Caicos are the pioneers in ecotourism, Higgs said. We were working to protect sanctuaries and marine preserves long before it was cool to do so, Higgs said.

He advocated support of responsible tourism, especially as we experience visitor increases and the impact of more resorts, larger cruise piers and bigger airports.

Its a message thats as clear as the waters surrounding these islands.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].


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