"A dozen! Listen, I spent a whole day looking at none," I said. "Let's go after the dozen."
"Oh, don't worry. You gonna see more," said Rudy. He was out of the boat now, pulling it along, watching for ripples. When bonefish feed they plunge their noses in the sand for small crabs and sea worms, and their tails flutter on the surface. When our eyes became accustomed we could see them, too, and the direction in which they were feeding—many schools, some of them 50 yards wide. They were all around us. And the more remarkable—we were the only boat on the flats. "What did I tell you—what'd-I-tellya!" Bill shouted.
Rudy prides himself in beating his father at bonefishing (he concedes Granville's mastery at boar hunting), and in the two hours we were on the flats I had nine strikes and boated seven fish, four to six pounds. The procedure was to cast ahead of the feeding fish, allowing the crab meat to settle on the bottom, and then back off. When one struck, Rudy had what he said was a simple but foolproof formula: "Jerk your rod three times. If it still on, you got him." Because the bonefish are the fighters they are, there is considerable crane work to be done, too, but Rudy's Law proved accurate enough. Every now and then a barracuda invaded the flats to grab one of the bonefish, but these forays disturbed traffic only momentarily. In the other boat Bill and Granville were engaged in rather noisy polemics on Bill's use of the jig—"We come out here to catch fish, not to scare them," Granville was saying—but our triumphs continued regularly before the outgoing tide forced us off the flats.
We ate lunch there in the boats at the edge of the channel. Later we explored the reefs for tarpon, which happened to be somewhere else for the day, and then Granville chased and netted a green turtle that had surfaced between the boats. The water was alive with activity. Going down the channel we passed over a huge pack of bluefin sharks, a hundred or more, some of them six feet long.
On the way back to Lowe Sound, Rudy chased a manta ray, a devilfish that was bigger than the top of a car, and, in a moment of sport, powered across the lines of two settlement women fishing alone in a dinghy. They stood up in the little boat shaking their fists at him. He giggled happily. One of them, he said, was the mother of one of his children. I suggested that stunts like that could get him in bad with the chickcharneys, but he said he did not worry because he keeps on their good side.
"Have you ever seen them at work?"
"Oh, yes, many times. There was once a man in our settlement who did not believe in them. He said we show him a nest and he'll laugh right in it. We took two cars and we took him to a nest and he got up there where it was and laughed into the nest. The moment he did that, all eight tires on the two cars went flat." He clapped his hands together to emphasize the action.
Time did not allow us to go back to the other side of Andros for the wild boars, and I had the impression it was just as well, because in my mind I could see Rudy dropping me off on the shore where the herds were and leaving me there to fend for myself. His respect for the pigs is too great to suit me. Some other time, when Granville is with us, we will go again, for if Granville and Rudy Knowles say the pigs are there then they are there.
We had, nevertheless, proved that the safari Bill Curtis dreamed up months before made for entertainment of a high order. We had caught marlin and dolphin, barracuda, snapper and wahoo, jacks, yellowtail and a green turtle. And we had seen the teeming bonefish flats (just as Curtis had described them) and squadrons of ducks, and had explored a strange and beautiful land. And we had discovered Rudy Knowles.
Boats for sport-fishing in the Bahamas can be chartered in Miami ( Key Biscayne or Pier 5) or out of Nassau. A typical charter will sleep four to six, plus a crew of two. Prices are largely a matter of negotiation. They start at $100 and go to $150 a day. Fuel, dockage, bait, food and ice run to another $50 a day. Big bluefin tuna appear off Bimini and Cat Cay in late May and early June. White marlin and sailfish are most common from February to April; blue-marlin fishing is best from June through August. The Nassau Charter Boat Association operates year round out of Nassau. Boats go out for a week or longer to Abaco, Andros, the Berry Islands, Eleuthera and the Exumas. They cost from $600 to $1,000 a week with the usual extras. Big-game tackle is provided, but fishermen should bring their own light spinning tackle and fly rods for the flats, and their own guns if they wish to shoot. Native guides for bonefishing and duck hunting cost $20 a day, $40 with boat. The closed season on quail or duck is April 1 to September 1, and many birds are permanently protected. Anyone convicted of infringements is liable to the confiscation of all his goods (including his yacht).