Tropical North and South American waters, warm and temperate, are where to seek the streamlined Bonefish; extremely popular game for savvy anglers. They prefer coastal shallows, infrequently ranging as far north as New York and New Brunswick, and continuing more prominently all the way south from the Yucatan Peninsula to Brazil. Populations in the eastern Pacific extend from San Francisco Bay all the way to Peru, with good numbers throughout Hawaii. Some larger specimens of Bonefish appear even as far as the African coast, all the way south. Fortunately the best places to find Bonefish are throughout the Bahamas, Bermuda, South Florida – especially the Florida Keys and Islamorada – and other idyllic destinations around the Caribbean Sea. One need not suffer to find Bonefish. Catching them is challenge, and fun, enough At sexual maturity Bonefish average two feet or less in length, and grow to a maximum length of almost three feet. In the Bahamas and around the Floridian east coast the average is between four and six pounds, sometimes reaching eight pounds. In order to escape their major threats – sharks and barracuda – speed is essential, and they spook easily. For such slender, round bodies any Bonefish over 10 pounds is considered big. Exceptional sizes in Caribbean waters regularly reach 13 or 14 pounds. Occasional monsters may more often be landed, further from their primary habitat, in Hawaii and along the African coast. The world record for Bonefish is 19 pounds, caught in the waters of Zululand, South Africa.
Ever wary of predators Bonefish are usually seen travelling in loose schools as they bottom-feed along shallow, tidal flats for crabs, shellfish, shrimp, and smaller fish like the Gulf Toadfish. With a long, conical snout the Bonefish roots through sand and grasses to dig and flush out prey. Powerful teeth help crush and grind for consumption. Factors like tidal flow, water depth and temperature, and especially food availability determine whether you will find schools in certain flats, which may look otherwise promising. Bonefish have a habit of constantly changing their surroundings, depending upon season as well as predation. Mid-summer tends to force them into slightly deeper water, but it is not uncommon during Spring to find Bonefish in water that seems too shallow to accommodate fish at all.
Bonefish are lightning-fast and able to suddenly jump and run over 100 yards, ripping line through water at a speed high enough to jump-start your heart. Silver, with blueish or greenish back and dark streaks along the upper body, these “silver ghosts” blend into their background, and may barely be noticed by tail and back fins sticking out of the water as they feed. Few other fish seem so suddenly vigorous, especially when only seconds before the strike you may not have known anything was stalking near your line. With patience, stealth, and precise casting any Bonefish hunt can turn into the best day upon the water.