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Florida Fishing - Species

BONEFISH

Regulations

Minimum size 18"; no closed season; 1 per person per day limit; most anglers practice catch and release

General Information

Little is know about the bonefish's life history. Stomach analyses reveal that bonefish eat large amounts of crabs, clams, and shrimp. The largest fish tend to be predominately females.

Bonefish prefer to feed on the flats. They move onto the flats and feed when the water temperature is between 74 and 86 degrees. The fish move to the deeper waters of nearby channels when water temperature is above or below this range.

Distribution

Bonefish are found only in extreme south Florida. Biscayne Bay near Miami and the Florida Keys have the most famous bonefish flats. Excellent opportunities to catch this hard fighting fish also exist in the Bahamas and other tropical waters in the Caribbean.

Tackle and Techniques

A 6-7 foot spinning rod and reel is the standard for conventional tackle. At least 150 yards of 6-12 pound test line on the reel is the norm. Because bonefish have good eyesight and inhabit very clear waters, they can see a line attached to a bait more readily than other saltwater fish. Thus, this is one of the rare instances in saltwater angling where you might consider fishing without a leader. It will work if the bottom doesn't have any rough areas. You could also use a fluorocarbon leader. This material is as close to invisible as you can get.

Fly fishing for bonefish is also very popular. This strong fish requires an 8 or 9 weight rig that has at least 200 yards of backing on the reel. Long runs are a trademark of the bonefish.

Bait

A free lined live shrimp is the number one natural bait. Jigs tipped with fresh shrimp also work. Fly fishers will want to use one of the specially designed bonefish flies that are locally available or try tying your own.

Secrets to Success

* Anglers who really want to catch a bonefish but don't have any previous experience, should hire a guide. Local knowledge of the fish's habitat are essential for hookups. The fish is not difficult to catch once your guide finds them and gets the fish interested in eating (often by chumming) and gets you close enough to make an accurate cast and get the bait in front of the fish's nose.

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