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bonefish fly fishing

Species Spotlight: Bonefish


Also known as: Silver Ghost

Scientific Name: Albula vulpes

BONEFISH Description

So far 11 species/subspecies of Bonefish have been discovered around the world. Many fish look the same to the untrained eye. Some of the species of Bonefish include:

  • Albula vulpes (which are found in North American areas)
  • Albula Esuncula (the eastern Pacific Bonefish)
  • Albula Gglossodonta (the round jaw Bonefish)
  • Albula Oligolepsis (the small-scale Bonefish)

The colour of Bonefish can range from very silversides and slight darker backs to olive greenbacks that blend to the silver side. Being a master of disguise, hence their nickname being silver ghosts of the flats, they can come on and off the flats and swim right past you without the untrained eye being aware of their presence.

Bonefish are bottom-dwellers, which means they predominantly only feed on creatures that live on the bottom of the flats. It is because of this that their mouth is situated underneath as opposed to in front of their heads, like most other fish.

Their pointed head or nose is shaped to dig into and dislodge food from sand or coral, although they also pump sand away via their gills to get to their prey. One of the reasons fly fishing for Bonefish is so popular is because you will be casting accurately and delicately to cruising or feeding fish. Once hooked these fish fight extremely hard for their size.

It is not uncommon for a good size Bonefish to strip 100 yards of line off your reel just in the first run. They can then turn instantly and swim just as quickly back towards you making you reel as fast as you can. All in all, they put up an amazing fight which is also very visual. People quite often describe the fight as playing a Trout on steroids.

Where to catch Bonefish

Bonefish are found in lots of fisheries around the world and can be found in huge shoals containing well over 100 fish. These large shoals tend to be of juvenile fish because as they grow in size they then tend to split up into smaller groups and quite often once they have reached 10lb or more they are found as single roaming fish.

A look at a week hunting Bonefish in the Bahamas

Bonefish can be spotted and found on most tilde flats, mangroves and creeks which often means wading as apposed to boat rides into the deeper waters. They are a species of fish that can tolerate water with poor oxygen levels which tend to follow a daily pattern coming on and off the flats with the rise and fall of the daily tides. The main rule is to try and find the shallow waters when they’re feeding. Bonefish, Tarpon and Permit often prowl the same areas and waters so you can always keep your eyes out for the other species too.

Bonefish have a wide range around the world. Destinations that constantly produce good catch results are our lodges in Belize, Jardines de la Reina in Cuba, Bahamas, Mauritius, Ascension Bay in Mexico, Christmas Island and all of our Seychelles operations. At all locations, you will find Bonefish ranging from 2lb to 8lb. If you are looking for the larger specimens of 10lb plus then the best fishing destinations to visit are Christmas Island and the Seychelles.

Bonefish Fly Fishing

Bonefish Fly fishing is mainly done by wading saltwater flats and sight fishing. Walking these sandy bottom flats can make spotting Bonefish half the battle, for once spotted you need to produce an accurate cast. It is far more productive to lead the fish by three to four feet, rather than trying to get too close. With the Bonefish being in the magical grand slam, they can often pose a challenge and can often be the last fish anglers are hunting.

When you’re out Bonefish Fly fishing, a small, short strip is needed to get the fish reacting to your fly. Once this has happened, stripping the fly slowly should entice an eat. Like all flats fishing, it is very visual. Seeing the fish, making the cast and seeing the fish react and eat the fly makes it very exciting. Setting the hook with a strip-strike and keeping the rod tip down, will almost ensure a good hook-set. Once you are comfortable with the hook-set, you need to anticipate that the fish will dart off with incredible power and speed. Holding onto the line will definitely result in the leader popping. You can see some great example on how to entice and land Bonefish on our fantastic Christmas Island fishing video which shows Peter Collingsworth wading the Christmas island flats with some amazing results and just shows what kind of fishing experience these fish bring to anglers.

Fly rods are normally 9ft single handed rods in 7/8#. Reels need to hold large amounts of braid backing along with matching warm water floating fly lines. This set up is then completed with a leader that rangers from 8lb to 15lb depending on where you are fishing.

In relation to Bonefish flies, its all about matching the fly to what the Bonefish in the area you are fishing are feeding on. Also, the size of the fly depends on the size of the fish you are targeting. Out of all the many flies, we would consider these to be the top flies for Bonefish from around the world:

  • Veverka Mantis Shrimp
  • McVay Gotcha
  • EP Ghost Shrimp
  • Christmas Island Special
  • Gotcha, Meko Special
  • Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp
  • EP Crab Three-Tone
  • EP Micro Crab
  • Velcro Crab

Contact us

If you have any questions regarding our Bonefish holidays or if you’re looking for a fishing trip in any of our Saltwater destinations, please feel free to contact our fly fishing expert, Peter Collingsworth, on 01603 407596 or by email at and he will be happy to help.

Do you have any top tips on catching Bonefish or favourite Bonefish destinations? If so, leave them in the comments below.

Tight lines,

Peter Collingsworth


  1. Tom

    Aitutaki is definitely the place for huge bonefish well into double figures. 20lb Fluoro carbon trace I consider minimum. On Thursday we spotted a monster that would have needed at least a 40 lb trace and then the fly line would have been at risk. I have fished extensively and own around 70 fishing rods and reels. I have my doubts that a conventional fly fishing rig could do battle with a fish the size seen. If hooked it would have been what would break first, the rod, the reel or the line! Gunfight at OK Coral with a water pistol! Intimidating! I have caught a13lb bonefish in Aitutaki,a minnow in comparison!

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