Having just wrapped up our seasons at Alaska West and BC West, we’re starting to get antsy about our upcoming bonefish season at Andros South. We know a lot of you out there would love to try your hand on the flats, but might be a little overwhelmed at where to start. Not to worry, that’s why today we’re coming at you with the answers to some basic questions about bonefishing as part of our ‘Timeless Tip Tuesday‘ series of posts.
This post is meant for people who are new to bonefishing – if you’re already an expert you’re better off poking around here.
9 Questions About Bonefishing You Were Afraid to Ask
- Why is it called ‘bonefishing’? Are you using some kind of bone? Bonefishing just means that you’re fishing for a fish called a bonefish. Bonefish are medium-sized (usually 1 – 15 pounds) saltwater fish that feed in really shallow water. They’re called bonefish because their flesh is really bony, or because they have a bony covering over their eyes (there are two different versions of that story).
- So if you’re fly fishing for bonefish, does that mean bonefish eat bugs? No, bonefish eat small shrimps, crabs, baitfish, worms and more. The ‘flies’ that we use when we fly fish for bonefish are tied to imitate those little fish and crustaceans, not to imitate bugs.
- I’ve heard bonefishing is really hard. Is it? It’s really different from trout fishing, and on some days it’s hard, but usually no, people with all levels of skill have a lot of fun bonefishing. At Andros South we host guests all the time who have never even been fishing before, and they catch bonefish.
- How far do you have to cast? Not as far as you think – here’s an article on that very topic.
- Everybody talks about catching bonefish in creeks and ponds – do they live in fresh water? Bonefish live in saltwater. In places like Andros Island, there are complicated areas of flats and channels that go underwater when the tide comes in. Areas where the tide flows in and out like a creek are called tidal creeks, even though it’s all salt water. Same thing with tidal ponds – they’re round-ish areas filled with saltwater that came in on the tide.
- Do you catch bonefish wading or do you fish from a boat? Both! Sometimes you can walk on hard-bottom flats and catch bonefish on foot, wading. Sometimes you fish from the boat, and that’s called poling. Speaking of which…
- What’s the long pole for? What’s the platform over the motor for? When you fish for bonefish from a boat you don’t use the motor – the water is too shallow, the motor would scare the fish, and you’d move too fast. Instead, the guide climbs up on the poling platform (the deck above the motor) and uses a push pole to push the boat around. The tall platform makes it much easier for the guide to see into the water and spot fish. The long pole helps control the direction, speed and position of the boat while you’re fishing.
- What does ‘tailing’ mean? Bonefish often feed in water that’s shallower than they are long. Most of what they eat is lives on the bottom of a flat, so when they find something to eat, they tip their bodies down, dig their noses in and suck in the food. When their noses goes down their tail goes up – often so it’s actually sticking out of the water. A ‘tailing bonefish’ is just a bonefish with its tail sticking up up in the air.
- What kind of rod do you use? The standard rod for bonefishing is a 9 foot 8 weight rod, with a floating line and a leader about 9 feet long. Faster-action rods normally work better when you’re bonefishing because they tend to cast better in the wind.