Walker’s Cay on the Rebound
Regardless of being solely about 100 acres in measurement, Walker’s Cay within the northern Bahamas is a kind of iconic sport-fishing locations that punches properly above its weight class. The mere point out of Walker’s brings again fond reminiscences of tournaments such because the Bertram-Hatteras Shootout and the Bahamas Billfish Championship, whereas others flash again to the glory days of giant blue marlin—some landed, others misplaced—only a few miles north of the island’s small marina, perched on the sting of the Little Bahama Financial institution.
The Historical past
Walker’s Cay is about 50 miles northeast of West Finish, Grand Bahama, and a bit greater than 100 miles from West Palm Seashore, Florida. A scarcity of pure recent water stored Walker’s uninhabited for a whole lot of years till Florida businessman Buzz Shonnard leased the land from the Bahamian authorities in 1935, after which he constructed a small resort, a 75-slip marina and an airstrip.
Along with his connections to the American sport-fishing crowd again house in Palm Seashore, Shonnard promoted Walker’s Cay as a high vacation spot for the then-burgeoning sport of marlin fishing. After World Conflict II, Bahamas fishing tourism continued to develop; one of many seasonal guests was one other outstanding American businessman named Robert Abplanalp, inventor of the plastic aerosol valve for spray cans. In 1968, Abplanalp bought the lease for Walker’s Cay and continued the island’s growth, whereas additionally cautiously eyeing the affect on conservation within the waters surrounding it.
Over the subsequent three many years, Walker’s grew to become the hub for sport fishing within the northern Bahamas. Other than the well-known tournaments, almost each fishing membership in Florida held occasions there, each inshore and offshore. The angling motion was merely phenomenal, from bonefish on the flats to the inshore wrecks and reefs and the offshore drops and humps, the place the marlin had been thick.
However the glory days by no means appear to final. Abplanalp died in 2003 at 81; the next 12 months, hurricanes Frances and Jeanne mauled the low-lying Bahamian island, destroying the resort and severely damaging the marina. Neither had been rebuilt, and—except for a number of transient boaters—the island remained basically abandoned for the subsequent 15 years.
The Fashionable Period
As a toddler, Carl Allen at all times had fond reminiscences of Walker’s Cay. “The Bahamas has been like a second house to me for many of my life,” he says. “Certainly one of my very first reminiscences was coming to Walker’s once I was 12. My household would at all times cease there on our solution to different locations within the Bahamas, and whereas I like the opposite islands, I at all times needed to spend extra time in Walker’s, exploring and fishing. And I at all times thought that sooner or later I’d like to personal Walker’s Cay.”
Little did he know that it might develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Allen, proprietor of Texas-based Allen Exploration, introduced in 2018 that he and his household had bought the island. Much more fascinating had been his plans for restoration.
Let’s be clear: with Allen’s appreciable monetary assets, he might have turned Walker’s Cay into his personal personal enclave, with No Trespassing/No Fishing indicators posted across the perimeter. However he has fond reminiscences of the way in which Walker’s Cay was once, and that’s what drives his creativeness immediately.
“I’d prefer to return the island to its former glory,” he says. “We now have plans to fully rebuild the marina, together with dredging to 14 ft all through, in addition to probably constructing a small resort and restaurant and some different issues.”
He’s clear that the marina will stay open to the general public, and that Walker’s Cay will as soon as once more host big-game tournaments for visiting anglers, because it had completed for therefore a few years up to now.
Voices from the Previous
Some of the notable captains fishing out of Walker’s Cay is Billy Black, who chartered Duchess there for 30 years and who thought-about the Abplanalp household to be extra kin than employers.
“After Vietnam, I went there for the fishing, and it was unbelievable,” he says. “We’ve caught loads of 600- to 900-pound blue marlin, not less than three or 4 over 1,000 kilos, had some terrific bluefin tuna fishing, loads of bottomfish—you identify it.” At one level, he held the Bahamian file for wahoo at 124 kilos, the women Bahamian file blue marlin at 694 kilos and loads of others, fishing out of his adopted house.
“One half I like about Walker’s is that the sting is so shut,” Black says. “It’s solely a 10-minute run to the drop. The tuna humps in 1,200 to three,000 ft of water are 12 or 13 miles away.”Other than the fishing, Black additionally notes that Walker’s was at all times a family-oriented vacation spot.
“Abplanalp was fairly a gentleman, at all times within the well-being of others,” he experiences. “My sons and daughter had been all married within the little chapel there at Walker’s, and a giant piece of my coronary heart remains to be there on that island. It was a household island then, and it feels like it will likely be a household island as soon as once more with the brand new possession.”
Black nonetheless charters Duchess immediately from Stuart, Florida, and fishes out of Outdated Bahama Bay and Blue Marlin Cove within the Bahamas, with hopes of sooner or later returning to Walker’s Cay to fish these historic waters.
One other notable voice from the previous belongs to none aside from Flip Pallot, whose tv present, Walker’s Cay Chronicles, helped put the small Bahamian island on the worldwide fishing map. Alongside the way in which, he additionally developed a relationship with the Abplanalp household and fell in love with the island itself.
“It’s a romantic vacation spot,” he says. “A part of it’s the geography, being shut sufficient to Florida that it’s simply accessible, and with an ideal number of fishing. The entire high captains hung out at Walker’s Cay at one time or one other, together with guys like Skip Smith, Gary Stuve and a bunch of others. Walker’s was the glue that held the northern Bahamas collectively for many years.”
Two Days Off Walker’s
At Allen’s invitation, I joined him and his crew aboard Frigate, his 52-foot Viking Specific, for a pair days of marlin fishing in late 2018. As we toured the island, it was clear that the land had regressed to a virtually pristine pure state, with simply the shells of some buildings remaining, like ghosts of the previous—the chapel, nonetheless, stays principally intact to today, maybe an indication of divine intervention. Stunning wild bougainvillea had fully overgrown the muse of the previous resort.
Allen was affable and down-to-earth proper from the beginning as we toured the few remaining landmarks in his side-by-side utility car earlier than heading out to his fleet of boats anchored simply offshore between Walker’s and Grand Cay.
Although it was well-past marlin season, we caught yellowfin tuna and jumped off a small blue on a lure in a half-day of fishing—yep, rise up early, on the troll till midday, then head again to Allen’s 164-foot Westport, Gigi, for lunch.
That afternoon, I went out for a dive to 350 ft down on the reef in his three-person Triton submarine. The sub is housed on the again deck of his 180-foot Damen help vessel, Axis, together with an Icon A5 seaplane, which successfully turns the Dutch-built yacht into an plane service. To say it’s a powerful fleet is an understatement—particularly when it’s complemented by the aerial drive consisting of a Quotation X+ jet, Cirrus SR22 and the aforementioned seaplane.
A 39-foot SeaVee, a pair of Hell’s Bay flats skiffs and several other RIB inflatables spherical out the armada above, on and beneath the ocean. And since the Damen holds 60,000 gallons of gasoline and has the capability to generate 20,000 gallons of recent water a day, it’s a fleet that may stay self-sufficient in distant places for a really very long time.
There isn’t any doubt that fishing drives this system. Allen enjoys working his personal operation, which is one cause for the 52 Specific. Whether or not sharing the helm with Capt. Ian Weber or within the cockpit ready for the subsequent blue marlin or large tuna to crash the unfold, he loves each second of it. He additionally enjoys the fun of chasing bonefish within the shallows.
“The numbers aren’t as massive as among the different locations within the Bahamas, however the measurement of the bonefish at Walker’s makes up for it,” Allen relates. “There are some actually large ones right here.”
Allen additionally is worried concerning the well being of the oceans of the world—particularly all through his beloved Bahamas. One space of particular curiosity is microplastics.
“We discover them now in deepwater species like golden tilefish,” he says of those tiny pollution. “Microplastics might dwarf bigger issues like mercury content material in fish within the very close to future.”
To that finish, Allen additionally plans for Walker’s Cay to be house to an oceanic analysis facility, the place research may very well be carried out with easy accessibility to the depths of the Atlantic actually proper out entrance.
“Till I bought my enterprise, I used to be one of many largest producers of trash baggage,” he says. “A part of the give again for me is to check the affect of air pollution within the ocean, not simply alongside the island shores the place we see it, however beneath the floor. We will take samples at totally different depths within the water column with the submarine. Plastic bottles and stuff are ugly to take a look at on the seaside however they’re not likely hurting the setting. The microplastics are what we needs to be involved about. It strikes. It floats.”
It’s Allen’s intention to have the island restored to its former glory as early as 2020—with gasoline, water and energy for visiting sport-fishers, liquid-natural-gas and renewable energy options to offset diesel mills, a desalinization plant, villas or probably a small boutique resort, a brand new customs workplace and constitution boats, amongst different enhancements. As of this writing within the spring of 2019, Allen Exploration is concerned in negotiations with the Bahamian authorities on allowing and different particulars earlier than the beginning of any heavy lifting on the island.
Study to rig the swimming mackerel for Bahamas blue marlin.
“I envision this rebuild as a partnership with the Bahamians to create jobs—good-paying and safe jobs that strengthen households and develop a long-lasting financial driver for future generations,” he says.
It isn’t typically now we have the chance to witness the rebirth of an iconic vacation spot resembling Walker’s Cay. The challenges are monumental, but when there’s one particular person ideally suited to the duty, it’s Carl Allen.