Bonefish (Albula vulpes)
There scientific name Albula vulpes translates to “white fox” but they are more commonly referred to as the “grey ghost of the flats”. They are one of the most difficult fish to catch because they are some of the strongest, fastest-running saltwater fish. They can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour when running away from prey. These torpedo-shaped game fish can sprint 300 miles in the blink of an eye. Bonefish is one of the premier game fish in the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay. Bonefish can grow up to 31 inches and can weigh anywhere between 13 pounds and 14 pounds. Bonefish have a lateral line that helps them to sense sharks and other predators nearby. They can sense predators from 300 miles away. They also use their senses to hunt for crabs. Trying to catch a Bonefish is like playing chess. You need to monitor their every move and stalk them until you can develop a strategy that works for you. An adult Bonefish can live more than 23 years and grow to three feet long and 15 pounds. There is not much information regarding the biology of these fish but spawning occurs from November through May offshore in deep water. You can find multiple species of bonefish that are similar looking which inhabit Florida waters, but the most commonly found is the Albula vulpes. Other species that have been caught in Florida are the bigeye bonefish (Albula garcia). Juvenile and medium-sized bones often feed in schools but the larger ones tend to roam in pairs.
How to catch Bonefish in Miami
When the tide is higher the Bonefish congregate in schools to help them outsmart sharks and other predators. Once the tide falls they start to spread out across more area making them more difficult to catch. Bonefish are very tricky to catch because once they sense danger in the area they will jolt away. One of the most crucial elements of catching Bonefish in Florida is to be extremely quiet. There heightened senses can be triggered by the faintest noise. The most common tackle to catch Bonefish is a flyfishing rod and a marabou jig. In order to catch Bonefish, you need to throw your fly to an area where they are plentiful and then start to work the fly until you get a bite. You need to work the fly so that it looks real and attracts the Bonefish’s attention. When casting the marabou jig you need to make sure you get within close proximity to the Bonefish. Perfecting your casting method is a crucial skill for catching one of these grey ghosts. To the untrained eye all bonefish are the same but once you catch a couple you will quickly realize that they all fight and feed differently. The key is to match the rod size to the place and conditions where you are fishing. For calm days a lighter outfit is effective but if the wind picks up then switching to a heavier outfit will work best.
Where to fish for Bonefish
Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys are both considered world-class fishing destinations for catching large, trophy-sized bonefish. They are typically found in crystal clear water around one to two feet deep. These conditions allow the Bonefish to spot Anglers from far away which is why being as stealthy as possible is important. Shallow coastal waters, sand flats, grass flats, and mangroves are all great places to find Bonefish. A flats skiff or bay boat is required to get into the shallow flats or backcountry areas of Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. People from all over the world come to South Florida to have the rare opportunity to fish for bonefish.
Best time of the year for Miami Bonefish fishing
Bonefish peak season is from March to October in Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys. When the water is relatively calm it is the best time to catch bonefish. The average bonefish that are caught in the Keys are between 3 and 5 pounds. Large Bonefish are also caught in the Florida keys weighing over 19 pounds or more but are not as common. The record for the largest Bonefish in caught in Florida was 15 pounds, six ounces and was caught just off of Islamorada.
The best bait to catch Bonefish
Small live crab can be a great option for fishing Bonefish but live bait is not required when fishing for Bonefish. Most Bonefish charter captains in Florida have multiple flyrods on board. Choosing the right fly rod is a crucial element when fishing Bonefish. A good casting rod and big game reel are essential for catching that trophy Bonefish. The rod you choose highly depends on the weather conditions and the area you are fishing in. If you have to choose just one rod then the four-piece Cortland Big Sky 6-weight or the Helios 908-4 Tip Flex saltwater fly rod are both effective Bonefish catching gear. Picking a lightweight fishing rod will make fishing for Bonefish easy and allow you to be very accurate when you find a school of Bonefish. If the wind is starting to pick up then a 9-weight setup will be much more effective. A Mirage leader/Tippet combo pack is another great addition as they are made from fluorocarbon making them durable and invisible in the water. When choosing a fly make sure you have at least one light and one heavy fly just in case weather conditions change while your fishing. Some of the most experience Bonefish charter captains in Keywest recommend using flies like the Gotcha Bonefish fly, Clouser Minnow fly, Whisper Crab, trip-Tease Bonefish Fly, Crazy Charlie fly, Meko Special, Merkin crab fly, and Foxy Bonefish Clouser fly. For grassy flats, you may want to tie a small bead-chain with a smaller hook and weed guard to avoid catching grass. Bonefish feed on benthic creatures such as crustaceans, worms, and mollusks in sandy bottoms.
Florida Bonefish fishing regulations
Bonefish fishing in Florida is currently catch-and-release only. The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust was established to protect Bonefish and Tarpon in Florida waters but also extends the catch and release regulations into the federal waters off of the state of Florida. The new regulations discontinue the bonefish tournament exemption permit that allowed tournament anglers to temporarily possess bonefish while being transported to the tournament scale. To learn more about bonefish you can visit the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT) A current Florida saltwater fishing license is required to fish for all types of saltwater species in Florida. You can obtain a license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission by going online, calling or going to a bait and tackle shop.