Florida Flats Fishing for the Bonefish

Bonefish swimming on the flats of Florida

Bonefish swimming on the flats. Image by anoldent on Flickr

Millions of people visit Florida each and every year. The economy thrives thanks to its tourism. Visitors come for many reasons: the beautiful beaches, sunny weather, famous theme and amusement parks, and much more. But one of Florida’s little known economic heroes is the Bonefish.

How the Bonefish Contributes to Florida’s Economy

When you think of fishing and economics you likely think of Japanese whalers driving endangered species to extinction. You might think about the Discovery Channels popular reality TV shows like Wicked Tuna or Deadliest Catch. But what you probably don’t think about is that each bonefish is estimated to contribute $3,500 to Florida’s tourist economy each year. Seeing as the average bonefish will live for 24 years that adds up to a sizeable sum.

Because of this the bonefish is a heavily regulated species and is strictly catch-and-release in Florida. They aren’t particularly delicious, and they don’t grow to be very large. They aren’t even known to put on spectacular displays, such as the jumps common to the redfish. They’re popular for two simple reasons: their beautiful, bone-like color, and the epic fight they put up once on the line.

How to Catch Bonefish in the Flats

There are two ways to catch these gray ghosts. The first is with traditional tackle and bait. The second is with fly fishing techniques. Bonefish can be found in shallow waters not far from the coast, in mangrove flats, and in many rivers. Whether you use bait with a traditional tackle or fly lures is largely a matter of preference. Some anglers enjoy the relaxation that comes with casting a line and waiting for the fish to bite while others prefer a more interactive experience.

How you approach your trip to catching bonefish is largely a matter of preference. It’s possible to “stalk” them, as they can be found individually. If, however, you’re more interested in snapping the perfect picture and want to get right to it, chartering a boat for a fishing trip may be a better idea. Many times schools of several hundred bonefish can be found near reefs.

The hardest part about fishing for bonefish is spotting them. Because of their white, bone-like color they can be virtually impossible to spot when the wind picks up. It’s best to have a good pair of polarized sunglasses to eliminate the glare caused by long, steady winds. If you take this tip seriously you should have no problem spotting bonefish in the clear waters of the Florida Flats.

The Biggest Secret to Catching Bonefish

Bonefish aren’t just known as “gray ghosts” because of their color. They spook very easily. Many can be startled by nothing more than your lure hitting the water, and then you’ll be forced to watch them dart off into the depths, never to be seen again. A boat with a motor will exacerbate the problem tenfold.

To improve your chances of catching bonefish be sure to bring a pushpole to move your boat silently. When in position cast your lure far in front of the fish, then slowly reel it towards it. This decreases the chances of startling the fish, making it far more likely that you’ll get to experience the exhilarating thrill of fighting a bonefish on your line.

For more reading about these fish I recommend this bonefish blog Bonefishonthebrain.com