When releasing a bonefish, most anglers are aware that its really important to revive an exhausted fish before sending it on its way – especially if the fish loses equilibrium (cannot remain upright on its own).
Unlike a trout stream, there are a lot of predators on the flats, and the erratic behavior of a fish that has lost equilibrium is a dinner bell to bigger critters like sharks and barracuda. In fact, its believed that a fish that loses equilibrium post release are up to six times more likely to be attacked by predators – not good.
Therefore, allowing a fish to catch its breath before being released is crucial in giving the fish the best chance of survival.
However, sometimes even revived fish are released without enough strength to evade nearby predators. Therefore, we encourage anglers to take one more precautionary measure for safely releasing bonefish – Whenever possible, land (and release) your bonefish in the shallows!
Predators are less likely to frequent really shallow water. They’re also less likely to bother you when trying to handle a fish in skinny water as well (we’re talking inches here). Thus, when fighting a bonefish on foot, we think its a good idea to take a peek around for some nearby shallow water, and slowly make your way toward it during the fight. That way, when it comes time to land your fish, should it continue to sulk after being revived and released, at least it can do so in the shallows where there’s less likely to be predators.
Keep in mind we’re not advocating that on each hookup you run a hundreds of feet away to a nearby key to land your fish. Nor are we saying you should ever ‘relocate’ a fish are being landed. Minimizing fight and handling time is of the utmost important. But, if you’re able to walk comfortably to some nearby shallows or mangroves during the fight, without spooking the rest of the flat, to allow your fish to catch its breath amongst some cover, we think its a good idea to do so.