Making the Elusive Bonefish Less Elusive: Tips for Catching One of These Fat Fish

Bonefish (Albula vulpes) are plump, silver-colored fish that like to hang out in mudflats and near any place where smaller crustaceans and worms live. They are considered near-threatened but not vulnerable or endangered, so fishing for them usually involves catch and release, save maybe one kept for dinner. However, the skill needed to catch them—and the tasty meals that one of these fish can provide—make bonefish one of the prizes of fishing in the Caribbean. You would do well to learn ways to make catching a bonefish less of a chore and more of a game of skill.

Practice Your Casting Skills

Bonefish are always on the move and will quickly swim away from signs of trouble. They will also not swim far distances to investigate strange noises, preferring the relative safety and familiarity of their feeding grounds in the flats. Windy conditions in the Caribbean also make silent, accurate casting very difficult.

The solution is to practice your casting, especially in the wind, so that each cast you make lands in a relatively good spot. You may also want to practice using a heavier wire leader rather than a line of split shot to help sink the bait. Split shot splashes, and that's going to scare off the fish. Wire is suitably heavy and cuts into the water with less of a fuss, increasing your chances of keeping the fish in the area.

Be the Fly

Bonefish eat live sea creatures like shrimp, which means that if your bait lies in the water like a dead shrimp, the fish aren't going near it. Once you've cast your bait and are sure the fish haven't fled, you've got to start moving the bait a little so that it looks alive. One of the problems people often encounter is that they move the rod and wire but don't actually move the bait itself as it sits on the flats. Ensure there's no slack in your fishing line to reduce that problem.

Learn the Local Water Temperatures

Bonefish are thought of as warm-water feeders, and that's true to an extent. But water temperatures aren't consistent throughout all of the water. You can have cool surface temperatures but adequately warm temperatures deeper down. If you find the weather is unseasonably cool or you want to fish outside of the summer season, learn where the channels and trenches are near the flats. Or just have patience because eventually the fish will have to come out and get food regardless of the temperature.

How many bonefish you have to throw back and how many you can keep will vary by fishing charter. But chances are, with the right amount of practice and patience, you'll be able to see at least a couple caught during your trip. Talk to the charter staff about limits and locations to get a better idea of what to expect.

Talk to a company such as Puerto Rico Magic Tarpon for more information.