Cruising to fish in the Turks and Caicos

Off Grand Turk, in the Turks and Caicos islands, south of the Bahamas, I went fishing.

Anybody who knows me might wonder about that decision, but the simple truth is that I saw “Light Tackle Fishing” on the shore excursion list during a Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s new Nieuw Amsterdam. I thought, why not? I can tackle some light fishing.

I had fun, thanks partly to the luck of the draw. Six men from a ship of 2,100 passengers showed up to fish. One guy from Indiana brought his own equipment, and four of the guys quickly gathered to talk about their exploits and prowess. I got number 5 for a partner, Tony from New York. Nice guy, fun story-teller, not much of a fisherperson.

We bonded. Tony and I felt lucky to be sitting in a boat where the sun was shining and waves were crashing over a nearby reef – all this in the dead of winter while our friends in the north were shoveling snow and dreaming about days like the one we were living off the coast of Grand Turk.

You guys want to fish or what?

Our guide, Francisco, probably did not understand why Tony and I continued to laugh, even as our fishing lines brought little up from the sea. Our 17-foot boat bobbed in about 40 feet of water for a couple of hours. Up came a red grouper, with enough meat to become bait, and later a queen trigger fish that gave me a good fight, before Francisco unhooked the fish and released him back into the Caribbean.

Francisco had instructed both Tony and me how to lower our baited hooks to the bottom, then reel them about a foot higher, to entice grouper to bite. He explained how it would feel when a grouper was taking the bait.

Alas, the only grouper that bit ended up with the bait but not on our hooks. So, eventually, we headed back to shore, through an opening in the reef, home to our cruise ship  — two happy and satisfied “fishermen.”

Choosing a fishing excursion

The name of the excursion was Light Tackle Fishing, for three hours on a skiff with a local guide who will help you find bone fish, tarpon, snapper and grouper, all equipment provided for $189. (Holland America also offers a Grand Turk Offshore Sportsfishing excursion, all gear included at $149 adults, $99 children).

I can recommend the Light Tackle Fishing excursion highly, whether the fish are biting the hooks or just stealing the bait. If you are lucky enough to book a guide like Francisco and pair up with a man like Tony from New York, the success numbers won’t really matter.

You can tell your friends that you went fishing in the Turks and Caicos, where the barracuda run, the grouper hide and the sun shines warmly in January.

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