Bonefish Catch and Release Best Practices – Part One

Take good care of me, please.
Photo: Bruce Chard

We’re big supporters of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (formerly Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited).  They’re doing some great work related to their goal of ensuring healthy populations of bonefish and tarpon for the future.  At Andros South, we’re supporting BTT’s work by tagging bonefish on South Andros, and by hosting Aaron Adams, BTT’s Chief Scientist, on research trips to our island.

Today we’re starting a series of posts based on the work of BTT.  We’ll cover topics ranging from the taxonomy of bonefish to the diets of bonefish, and we’re starting off with a couple of posts on best practices for catch and release bonefishing.  Have a read and listen to what BTT has to say – it matters!  Thanks to BTT for some great information.

Although catch & release fishing is a valuable conservation tool that can lead to more and bigger fish in the fishery, just because a fish swims away doesn’t mean that it lives to be caught another day.  The tips below for increasing the chances that a released fish survives are based on scientific research focused on experimental angling for bonefish.  Be a responsible angler – use Best Practices for Bonefish Catch & Release.


Hooking location and time to remove hooks affect survival rates.

  • Always use barbless hooks.
  • When fishing with bait, use circle hooks.

Fight Time

Shorter fight times increase survival because a fish fought to exhaustion is more vulnerable to predators.  Conversely, a bonefish reeled in too quickly may thrash about, increasing its chances of injury.

  • Tackle should match conditions and the size of fish so that fish can be landed quickly, but not until their head can be lifted slightly above the water surface and their movements controlled.
  • Always land a bonefish before it is exhausted and loses equilibrium when released (cannot swim and nose dives or rolls over).
  • If a bonefish loses equilibrium after you land it, revive it until it can swim upright, then shorten the fight time on future fish.
  • High water temperatures may negatively impact bonefish survival after release; in warmer water, reduce fight time and handling time.

Have a look at the second post in the series to learn more about how to treat bonefish well.


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