It start’s with a distinct sound; the sound of something slapping the waters surface. I begin to scan around in search of where the sound is coming and then you see it; a big tail slapping side to side. Every time I take a friend out in search of bonefish, they confuse everything for a bonefish tailing. I always tell them no, that’s not a bonefish; when you see one, you’ll know 100% without doubt that it’s a bonefish. It’s almost like a majestic middle finger being waved at you from across the flat. When bonefish tail, it’s almost like a pack of wild hogs; scavenging across a grass flat, neurotically. They won’t quite tail along a straight path, it’s almost like a side to side, back and forth motion. Ultimately, they’ll make their way across the flat, after they scavenge through the grass in search of shrimp and crabs.
The bonefish, my favorite fish to catch on a fly rod. Once you spot them tailing, you have to try to position the skiff ahead of them quickly, for as quick as they show up and start tailing, they will be gone. Next thing you know, they now popped up tailing 50 yards away facing the other direction. Once you finally get the shot, you have to put that fly in the right spot. Not too close, as they will spook easily, but not too far so you get a chance for them to see it before they change directions and swim off away, never even noticing your offering. Then comes the strip. I personally like to do long slow strips, they tend to pick it up the moment I stop the strip. Then, I learned quickly not to strip set; instead, I just kind of slowly come tight. And just like that, that very moment is like you tied a bullet on the end of your fly line and shot it out of a pistol. Reportedly, bonefish swim up to forty miles per hour. They make a long, fast run, and then they stop for a second. Good, you somehow managed to clear your fly line and got it halfway into your backing now. You start to reel in a bit and then it decides it wants to take another super long, fast run in the opposite direction. Now, you find yourself in a great position. You’ve made it this far, you’re finally reeling that fish in and it’s almost at the skiff. But you have to be very careful at this moment, for as the fish first sees the skiff, it will make an even stronger, quicker run to get away. Once you’ve got that fish in your hand, a feeling of success sinks in. It’s a rush of glory, you want to high five everyone on the skiff, but make sure you keep the fish safely in the water. Take a couple quick photos and release it safely.
A few years ago, it almost seemed as if bonefish disappeared completely over night. I went from catching and releasing a couple dozen bonefish in a day, to catching two bonefish in a year. All the same areas that held large numbers of fish were now without a sight of a bonefish. The weather, tide, everything seemed right, except the fish never showed up. The Bonefish Tarpon Trust focused their efforts in finding out why there was such a decline in the Bonefish population. They determined that our bonefish population actually comes from Cuba and Mexico. Commercial fishing overseas was potentially impacting our fisheries largely. And just like that, Cuba decided to ban commercial fishing for bonefish in their waters, and our population of bonefish immediately showed it. It’s not anywhere near where it should be, but the fishery is rebounding. Coincidence or not, the decline of our bonefish population and rebound coincide exactly with the commercial fishing of bonefish in Cuban waters. The BTT has found spawning patterns that indicate that the bonefish that spawn in our region, get washed away in the currents and head north. Whereas our bonefish are spawned in the Caribbean and via currents make it to our estuaries where they will live and grow into a hopefully healthy South Florida population.
[The Pinnacle Series: Silver Bullet]
I choose to support the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust as their mission is to save and protect our fisheries, as well as enhance them for the future. The science has led them to look globally to figure out the issues we are dealing with. Working with foreign governments to help them understand not only the ecological impact, but the economical impact these fish can have on a region. So here we are, the 2017 Bonefish & Tarpon Trust membership shirt, manufactured by Estrada Art, LLC. It is a super light weight, high performance microfiber short sleeve tshirt. The artwork on the back is of the first piece of The Pinnacle Series: Silver Bullet. To get the shirt, you must become a member of a great organization. So make sure you head over to BonefishTarponTrust.org and join today, if you aren’t already a member!
Until next time!