Species Spotlight: Bonefish
Also known as: Silver Ghost
Scientific Name: Albula vulpes
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 silver sides and slight darker backs to olive green backs 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. This means they pretty much 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 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.
Bonefish can be spotted and found on most tilde flats, mangroves and creeks. 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.
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, Accession 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.
Fishing for Bonefish is mainly done by wading saltwater flats looking for tell tail sights of Bonefish. 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.
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.
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 line. 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
Do you have any top tips on catching Bonefish or favourite Bonefish destinations? If so, leave them in the comments below.