Eye of the Guide

Saltwater Chronicles - part 21

Tom Travis - May 2015

Sysadmin Note
Part 20 can be found here
Saltwater Gamefish of Florida

One of the most popular species of saltwater gamefish that tops the saltwater fly fisher's dream list are bonefish. Though I have been told that during the months of summer bonefish occasionally move through the inlet and into the Indian River system generally you need to travel a little further south to get reasonable action on this highly sought after fish. 

Bonefish [Albula vulpes] are also known as the Silver Ghost, White Fox, Gray Ghost, Phantom, Silver Streak and the Banana Fish.

As of April 2011 FWC Commission (Florida) issued a rule making bonefish a catch and release fishery. They want to preserve and enhance this outstanding gamefish so future anglers will have an opportunity to stalk this magnificent gamefish on the flats of Florida.

For those who would like a fish mount it takes is a reasonable photograph and a couple of quick measurement to have an excellent replica mount completed at any number of qualified businesses.

Bonefish are found in intertidal waters, around mud, sand or grass flats as well as mangrove lagoons, estuaries, bays and reefs. They also are found in water up to thirty feet deep and are able to live in oxygen-poor water because they can breathe air as they have a lung-like bladder which allows them to do so.

Bonefish can weigh 20 pounds plus and can grow to 41 inches in length and live for 25 years. They will travel and feed in schools containing similar sized fish however larger bonefish over say six or seven pounds will often travel in small groups of two or three and the extremely large "Bones" are often found alone.

Spawning occurs from November to May in the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay are very popular destinations for trophy bonefish. Bonefish are found in many other places including Hawaii and throughout the Caribbean.

They prefer water temperatures of 76 to 82 degrees and during the warm months of summer some bonefish will migrate up the coast and have been found as far north as Nova Scotia but they move south as soon as the water temperatures cool since water temperatures below 60 degrees can be deadly to bonefish. When the water temperatures rise above 82 degrees the "bones" will seek deeper and cooler water.

I suspect that the first image of fly fishing for bonefish is of the angler on foot or in a boat stealthily stalking the bonefish across the shallow water flats. However my first encounter with "bones" came in the Florida Keys where I was fishing a deep water grass flat (15 to 18') using a 1/0 shrimp imitation and working on a groups Jack's. Suddenly I was hooked up with a fish that ran off 100 feet of line in the blink of an eye and this turned out to be a 7 pound bonefish. So not all bonefish are stalked in the shallow water and when you are in an area that contains bonefish understand that they can appear or be hook unexpectedly.

Bonefish feed on worms, fry, shrimp, crabs and small minnows and in my experience they prefer to feed on a rising tide and are often first spotted by seeing them feeding in a head down tail up position with all or parts of their tail fin protruding from the surface of the water.

These are referred to as tailing "bones", however they can also be spotted by the observant angler as they move along the bottom stirring up the mud as they feed, this is called mudding and give away the "bones" position.

As for tackle for "bones" the recommendations are all over the place and everyone claims that their advice is correct. However I believe that the choice of rod weights, fly lines and fly patterns are best determined by the water to be fished, the depth, the wind and the expected size of the bonefish being targeted. The size of the flies and the weight of the flies is also a determining factor in the choice of rod weights.

The key to being a successful bonefish angler is to be prepared with a knowledge of the water and area to be fished. Then the expected size of the fish and what presentation methods are need to be mastered and what patterns are needed paying attention the size and weight of the patterns.

For those angler who are serious about catching Bonefish you might check on the Internet, however I would suggest reading Fly Fishing For Bonefish by Chico Fernandez published in 2006, Bonefishing by Randall Kaufmann in 2000 and Bonefish Fly Patterns by Dick Brown published in 1996.

Now I know that two of these volumes are a little bit older but the information is still excellent and the patterns still work, remember that the fish are always the final judges when it comes to flies. If you feel the need to have the  latest and greatest patterns just go online or browse the fly fishing magazines such as Bonefish and the flies used for them are always hot copy.

Bonefish are exciting and catching one is the dream of many anglers and bonefish are on your "Bucket List" then try your luck in Florida.

Now I will share a couple of my favorite patterns for "bones". I call this pattern the Bonefish Buddy and I tie this pattern in several different color combinations and I actually use it on a variety of species that feed on shrimp.

The story of the development of the pattern is amusing as the proto type was tied with scraps on my tying table and during the construction the idea began to take shape and the pattern fully emerged and now it is one of my favorites. When I am tying, I start out very neat and organized with all the materials laid out, but when I am writing articles or class seminars where I am tying one or two samples of each pattern for photographs then the fly tying desk tends to get a little cluttered and it was during such a time period that this pattern was developed. This isn't the first pattern that has come to life that way and I am sure that it won't be the last.

Bonefish Buddy-Tan

Bonefish Buddy Variation

Now I could offer several more patterns but the already mentioned books are filled with recipes for highly effective and proven Bonefish fly patterns.

Enjoy & Good Fishin'

Sysadmin Note
Part 22 can be found here



Comment on this article

Archive of the Eye of the guide

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ]

FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice