Facts About the Bonefish
If you’re visiting Florida to fish you’ll have a number of options. You can go deep sea fishing for marlin. You can fish the shores and streams for redfish and snook. Some species are only good for sport, while others prove to make a rare, delicious meal. One of the more popular species is the bonefish.
The Bonefish’s Appearance
The bonefish is a largely unremarkable specimen. It has a stereotypical fishlike appearance with only one exception: it has an “inferior” mouth. In laymans terms, this means that the mouth does not protrude as far from the body as its nose, which is conical. They are typically known by their nickname, “The Gray Ghosts of the Atlantic.”
While they may live to 24 years or more, they are fully mature between three to four years of age. They’ll be between seventeen and eighteen inches and can weigh up to fifteen pounds. There are several species of bonefish, but Albula Vulpes (known as the common bonefish) is the most prevalent. The second most common species is the Albula Garcia, also known as the bigeye bonefish.
Bonefish Conservation in Florida
The University of Miami has conducted studies concluding that a single bonefish located near the Florida Keys can be as much as $3,500 dollars. Over the 24 year lifespan of the fish that adds up to a hefty $75,000. The fish is worth this amount because it is a “catch and release” species that attracts anglers from all over the country. It’s vital to the local economy thanks to the large influx of tourists coming to fish it.
They’re primarily located in the intertidal flats, but can also be found near river mouths, mangrove flats, and some deeper waters. Their habitats can range from rocky to sandy to grassy substrates. One biological trait that works to the bonefish’s advantage is its air-bladder, which serves a purpose similar to lungs. Because of this it can survive in waters that have a low oxygen content. The fish can swim to the surface and gulp in air to breath, much like the beta fish so commonly found in pet stores around the world.
The Bonefish Diet
Of all of the facts about bonefish their methods of obtaining food are the most interesting. Their inferior mouth and conical snout allows them to dig into the dirt in search of prey. Once found they use their jaws and teeth to crush their food up before swallowing it. Common components of the bonefish diet include snails, clams, various shrimp and crabs. They are known to occasionally eat small fish, such as the gulf toadfish.
While bonefish are most commonly found alone they have been observed to school while feeding. They will gather in schools with a uniform pattern, maintaining a constant distance from one another. They will break off from the school to feed, but will quickly regroup and move as a singular unit if frightened. Schools can range in size from four fish to thousands of fish, with the average school being approximately twenty.