A conversation at Andros South last week with an experienced anger – but on the flats for the first time – reminded us of the importance of one of the fundamentals of spotting bonefish – you need to look for moving shapes.
“You can’t look for heads or fin tips.”
That was one of his quotes from the conversation. Unlike spotting fish in the freshwater – say, trout in clear water – spotting bonefish is really tough if you’re trying to actually see specific parts of a fish, or the outline of a fish. In all but the most perfect lighting conditions, you can’t see specific parts of a bonefish (unless they’re tailing, but that’s a different story). What you can see is movement.
Almost always, bonefish move – they don’t stop in one place on a flat. It’s very common for a new flats angler to think that a dark spot on the bottom is a bonefish – and the guide’s response is typically “no mon, that ain’t movin’.” The guide didn’t say “no I don’t see his tail” or “no that’s the wrong shape” – the way he knew it wasn’t a bonefish was from the fact that the shape wasn’t moving.
If there’s any wind at all, the surface of the water is moving, and that can make stationary shapes on the bottom look like they’re moving too. When you see a shape that you think might be moving, don’t try to judge its movement compared to you – pick another spot on the bottom, and see if your shape is moving relative to that. If both shapes are moving identically back and forth, what you’re seeing is wave action, not a bonefish.
Look for shapes moving compared to everything else on the bottom – that’s the first step in spotting bonefish.