First published in The Eleutheran, September 2008; Edwin’s Turtle Lake Marine Preserve, with a fine new dock and the bottle shack restored, opened in December 2014, where kayaks and canoes can now be rented.
Three miles south of Governor’s Harbour, on the right side at the S-bends as the road plunges toward Palmetto Point, is a large saltwater lake. Passersby who stop to investigate will find the remains of a curious shed built of mortar and beer bottles, the amber, green and clear glass sorted by colour, bottoms facing out. A few yards away, obscured by bush and weathered by the years, is a wooden sign whose words are just legible:
Edwin Fishing Lake
Established March 10th 1954
The First Fishlake of the Bahamas
Over 20,000 fish of 32 varieties have
been placed in this lake.
Enjoyable entertainment for
tourists and sportsmen
Edwin Burrows, Founder
The curious will wonder: who was Edwin Burrows? Why did he establish the first (only?) “Fishlake of the Bahamas”? What happened in this place and when? The answers, like most Eleuthera stories, are more complicated than people might expect.
Residents of a certain age tell spooky stories of the Fishlake. Some have encountered a ghostly woman hitchhiker with a bundle on her head and/or a bag in her hand; drivers have given her a lift, only to find a few miles later that no one is there. The spectral apparition has also been spotted headless, rising out of the mist on moonlit nights!
A fisherman known to Arrington McCardy of Hatchet Bay told of a midnight crabbing trip when “something really big came out of the water….I didn’t waste time investigating—I ran. I went there a few more nights with the sweat rolling off me. After awhile I wouldn’t go back.”
Eleuthera’s version of the Loch Ness Monster? Probably not, says Shirley Burrows, Edwin’s daughter, of Governor’s Harbour. “Most of the people who saw these things were from my Daddy’s time, when there were fewer electric lights and high powered search lamps…”
Edwin Burrows, who passed on in 1982, was a farmer and fisherman who raised twelve children in Governor’s Harbour. Ingenious and ambitious, he constantly sought new ways to support his large family. “My father was the first on the island who ‘doped’ pineapples, applying a spray that induced them to produce fruit the year round,” Shirley recalls. “In those days, when most of the tourists were clustered around Governor’s Harbour instead of spread out in developments, the market for pineapples was best in the tourist season rather than in the late spring and summer when they normally matured.
“Daddy also observed that everybody else was growing tomatoes to sell to French Leave Resort. So he grew lettuce, broccoli and sprouts, and had the market to himself.”
Edwin also ran a club on Cupid’s Cay, built with his unique combination of beer bottles and mortar; the remnants of a wall are still there, but you have to look sharp to see it.
Noticing that visiting fishermen were sometimes unable to get out on the ocean, either for lack of boats or high seas, Edwin Burrows decided to stock the placid lake with ocean game species and invite the public. He caught the fish by line, with traps or with a net. He also made a beach for turtles to lay eggs. Today the turtle population is thriving. (Maybe that’s what comes out of the water on dark nights.)
Burrows Fishlake is tidal, with an underwater opening to the Atlantic, but like most such pools has high mineral and salt concentrations. This makes for interesting anomalies.
“Ocean fish grow bigger in the lake than the ocean,” Shirley continues, “but some develop oddly. Caribbean grunts are usually soft-skinned and tender; in the lake they would grow huge, but much tougher—they actually turn up at the ends in the frying pan!”
There are still big fish in the lake. Sidney Burrows of Governor’s Harbour says that a Caribbean lobster with an eight-pound tail was caught there, and he once hooked a 600-pound turtle on a long line, that could not be landed. A diver saw a 150-pound jew fish, and Sidney trapped 50-pound groupers, but the meat was too tough. He finally gave up on the pond because “everything in it is too big.”
Edwin’s Fishlake it is not much used today, though the Burrows family has recently restored Edwin’s shack and built a nice jetty where you can rent kayaks. The ghostly legends persist, though, so if you’re inclined to be superstitious, or frightened by things that go bump in the night, you might just want to postpone any midnight reconnoitering.