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Bonefish: Saltwater Trophy Species

Found off the southern coast of Florida as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies, the bonefish is an angler favorite to target on the fly. Once believed to be just one species, bonefish are now classified into nine different subspecies dispersed in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Bonefish live in subtropical waters, but will follow the incoming tide to feed in shallow flats. For this reason, they are targetable with a fly rod, making them one of the more exhilarating saltwater species to target.Read below to find out more information about bonefish!

Bonefish Information

Bonefish prefer to live in deeper subtropical waters, but are able to be targeted on a fly rod because they often follow the incoming tide to feed in shallow mud and salt flats. For this reason, anglers can wade fish for bonefish, and do not need deep-sinking tackle. Common places to fish for bonefish include Florida, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Bonefish are green and light blue in color and feature shiny scales and yellow-based fins. They can reach 14 pounds and 30 inches in length, and are known to be ferocious fighters. They also live up to 20 years old!

Bonefish are also a highly intelligent species, and can be spooked by movement very easily. Thus, anglers need to approach flats cautiously when fishing for this species, and must pay close attention to presenting flies in a natural way in order to get a strike. Once hooked, bonefish are ferocious fighters, and can peel the line off even the sturdiest of saltwater fly rods. For this reason, anglers seek out bonefish to experience the type of fight that can rarely be found in freshwater species. Unlike trout, bonefish spawn all year long, but spawning peaks between November and June. Bonefish are also aggressive eaters, cruising through flats and grass beds to feast on shrimp, crabs and other small invertebrates. Bonefish do not have “teeth” like humans do, but possess granular teeth that are used to crush small sea life.

To target these fish, anglers use larger flies to imitate these crustaceans, and can expect an explosive fight when they find a hungry bonefish to take their fly. Bonefish also have a unique lung-like air bladder that, unlike many other saltwater-dwelling species, allows them to live and thrive in brackish water. Bonefish take in oxygen from oxygen-rich deeper waters, then retain it in their air bladder, allowing them to spend time in low-oxygen water that is found close to shore. They will move in with the tide and follow it back out once feeding has concluded. This uniquely positions them to be reachable with fly tackle, pointing to why they are so sought after as a trophy saltwater fly fishing species. When you do make a trip down to the beautiful waters off the Gulf of Mexico and manage to hook into a bonefish, hold on; it will be the fight of your life!