Welcome to The Bonefish Flat

There's a stiff wind in your face as you squint in the sun trying to see what the guide sees. "Bonefish at 12 o'clock about 90 feet, do you see it, mon?" You don't and keep squinting, your hat pulled low to keep the sun out of your eyes. "Bonefish at 11 o'clock 70 feet out. Come on man, do you see it?" As the guide is calmly shifting the skiff into position, this time you spot the fish, "I got, it," you reply.

"OK, Mon, Bonefish 50 feet at 10 o'clock. Cast when you're ready."

Cast when you're ready. And with that you drop your fly, roll out a cast, false cast once, and then...

Welcome to the bonefish flat.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bonefish Catch and Release

I've been reading on different message boards the best way to handle bonefish when practicing catch and release, which everyone should do.

I like to take a photo of fish, but also want to make sure that I'm being responsible. I thought the best way to look at this issue is to go to the Bonefish and Tarpon trust and get their recommendations.

I think this is an issue where common sense rules the day. If it is a small fish, let it go in the water. If it's photo worthy, keep it in the water, have your buddy get the camera ready, take the fish out and take a pic, and put it back in the water. Boom, this can be done in 5 seconds.

If you have been watching Pirates of the Flats, this is how Val Atkinson and Bill Klyn of BTT said to do it.

Another thing to do is use an underwater camera and work on getting the fish that way.

Here is the official page from BTT on how to practice good catch and release...of which I plan to do a lot of this year!

Bonefish Catch and Release

Although catch and release fishing is a valuable conservation tool that can lead to more and bigger fish in the fishery, just because a fish swims away doesn't mean that it lives to be caught another day. The tips below for increasing the chances that a released bonefish survives are based on scientific research focused on bonefish. Be a responsible angler - use Best Practices for Bonefish Catch and Release.


Hooking location and time needed to remove a hook affects survival rates

  • Always use barbless hooks
  • When fishing with bait, use circle hooks

Fight Time:

Shorter fight times increase survival because a fish fought to exhaustion is more vulnerable to predators. Conversely, a bonefish reeled in too quickly may thrash about, increasing its chances of injury.

  • Tackle should match conditions and the size of the fish so that the fish can be landed quickly, but not until their head can be lifted slightly above the water surface and their movements controlled.
  • Always land a bonefish before it is exhausted and loses equilibrium when released (cannot swim, nose dives, or rolls over).
  • If a bonefish loses equilibrium after you land it, revive it until it can swim upright, then shorten the fight time on future fish.
  • High water temperatures may negatively impact bonefish survival after relesae; in warmer water, reduce fight time and handling time.


Minimize handling of all fish; slime and scales can be removed or damaged with excessive handling, thereby greatly increasing the risks of infection. In addition, recent research has shown that mechanical lip-gripping devices can cause damage to mouth tissue if the bonefish struggles against the device, so their use is best avoided.

  • If you have to handle a bonefish, use clean, wet hands and gently support the bonefish from beneath the head and belly. Nets, mechanical lip-gripping devices, and wet cloths can cause injury to the bonefish.
  • Use hemostats, pliers, or a hook-removal tool to quickly remove the hook while keeping the fish in the water, and have your pliers ready and available to facilitate a quick release.
  • Avoid exposing bonefish to air, even when taking a photo. If you must remove the bonefish from the water, limit it to a maximum of 15 seconds.
  • Touching the gills can cause damage and impair the ability of a bonefish to breathe.
  • If a lip-gripping device is used, it's best to use them only to restrain a calm fish in the water while removing the hook. If a fish's weight is desired, attach a sling to the device, and cradle the bonefish in the sling rather than hanging the fish vertically by the jaw.


The survival of released bonefish decreases severely when predators such as sharks and barracudas are abundant because these predators often attack a bonefish soon after it is released. In fact, fish that lose equilibrium are six times more likely to be attacked by predators.

  • When predators become abundant and appear to be attracted to your fishing activity, consider moving to another fishing location.
  • If you have caught a bonefish and potential predators are near, if you have a livewell consider using it to hold the fish for a short time and release it some distance away.

Download your own copy of the Best Practices for Bonefish Catch and Release brochure.

No comments:

Post a Comment