02
Jul 17

Hawaiian Bonefish Exception

Hawaiian bonefish are super, super spooky. But… sometimes, they aren’t.

One fish that fell well outside the norm (the norm here defined by guide Kenny and from my own observations on the day) was a fish that I basically dabbed. (dab. verb. While fly fishing, to present the fly without casting by simply placing the fly in front of a fish)

I had just broken off a fish (something I did twice on strip-strikes) and Kenny was tying on another one of his flies I never would have selected (just totally different from what I cast at bones, not because they weren’t good looking). We were on a narrow little flat, maybe 30 feet wide and a few hundred feet long, connected to a larger flat. The fish were coming up on the flat from the deeper water on both sides and moving down the little flat towards us.

As Kenny was mid-tie, a bonefish of 3-4 pounds came towards us and about 15 feet away, it just stopped and milled around a bit. The wind was blowing pretty hard, so it wasn’t clear if it actually saw us or if it felt us more. Either way, it didn’t spook.

Fly attached, I simply put the fly in front of the fish and the darn thing promptly ate, right there in front of us.

Both Kenny and I laughed pretty hard at that as the fish sped away. What the fish lacked in predator detection it made up for in defensive maneuvering. Off the flat the fish fled and right around some coral, deeper than we could get to. The fish got off, but, it was hard to be upset about that one.

So, you need to lead Hawaiian bones by a country mile, until you find a fish that doesn’t mind at all (there aren’t many of those).


29
Jun 17

My Hawaiian Bonefish Skunk is Dead

It is a family vacation we are on, but, of course, there is a little fishing in the mix.

We are on Oahu and I managed to convince my wife to part with me one day so I could try and break my Hawaiian bonefish hex. I’ve been to Hawaii a few times and I’ve seen bonefish, but caught none, until yesterday.

I saw my first bonefish ever in Hawaii about 9 years ago. I didn’t catch any.

I spent four days on that same beach a few years later and I got 4 casts in the whole time. I didn’t catch those bonefish.

I went with a guide in Maui last year. There are bones there, but I didn’t catch any.

I had always heard the fish are big, but there are few of them and it isn’t unusual to get blanked. All that was in line with my past experiences.

This year on our family vacation I went out with Kenny from Hawaii on the Fly. He has a modern flats skiff, is from Florida originally and has been guiding out here for several years. He found, almost immediately, one of these elusive Hawaiian bones, known as o’io locally. He then found another, and another and another and… hey, wait a second… these things are all over the place!

He warned me these fish are particular. You have to lead them by 9 feet. Not 6 feet. Not 3 feet. And dear god not on their heads. I can tell you this is almost entirely true. They knew the difference between 9 and 6 feet and were out of there if a cast was anywhere near them. I made a LOT of casts too near the fish. Kenny can tell you.

I caught my first o’io and my second. I ended up hooking 7 and had maybe 40 legit shots out of the 200+ bonefish I saw on the day.

I had no idea you could see so many bones in Hawaii in a day.

While you can find them, you are not likely to catch them. Fly selection was very different from what I’d normally cast. In fact, I doubt a single fly out of my 200+ would have been appropriate. They just act differently. Presentations that would have gotten eats in Abaco or Andros freaked these fish out.

They make me think of the bonefish I saw at Crab’n Bay in Grand Bahama. An easily driven to and waded flat, the flat is full of bones, but they are epic in their toughness and that has everything to do with the same bonefish usually returning to feed on the same flats. These fish are trained. They are weary. They are wise to us all… unless you break out some top level angling.

It was windy, really windy (Hawaii is kind of known for that), but the shots were fairly close (some at redfish distances). The wind ended up being way less of an issue than I thought it would be.

Bonus was seeing about a 40 pound GT and a not-small milkfish, two fish I had not seen before (no casts made at either).

It was a great day on the water. Kenny was easy to spend time with. He’s not a yeller. He’s easy with conversation. He worked hard and he put me on fish after fish after fish (and didn’t complain when I broke off four of his flies on fish).

I have a whole new appreciation for Hawaiian bonefish. Thanks Kenny.

To book go to Hawaii on the Fly. (No promotional exchange for this post, I paid full fair, and would again.)


24
Jan 17

Tutorial on how to ruin a good thing – Belize edition

Honeymooners, Belize, 2012.

Belize is not a big country. It’s 330,000 people, plus or minus, makes it smaller in population than the city I work in, Oakland, which has some 400,000 residents. In terms of economics, the city of Oakland has an income per capita of about $32K, give or take, while the income per capita for the whole nation of Belize is just over $7,000.

So, it is easy to guess some of the things Belize does not have. There are some things Belize has in spades, however. Belize has in Mayan ruins what it lacks in Walmarts. The one big, big thing Belize has is a barrier reef. In fact, the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It is massive. It is a treasure. It is probably the lifeblood of the Belizian economy, accounting for about 12% of GDP.

If you were to make of list of activities which could really mess up a barrier reef system, you might put offshore oil drilling high on that list. Cynics would be unsurprised to hear the government of Belize has moved in that direction,  giving the green light to start oil exploration off the coast of Belize.

I mean… why would you do that? That’s not a real question. We all know why. It is money and greed and the power someone(s) might be able to accumulate in a country with a population smaller than the city of Oakland.

Belize… I hope you don’t do it. I hope you build on your assets and don’t lose them under a slick of oily greed and shortsightedness.

Belize… I need you to be Belize.

 


02
Nov 16

Master Guide of Biscayne Bay passes at 91

Bill Curtis was a guide and pivotal figure in bonefishing and the development of salt water fly fishing. He passed at 91. Here’s a story about his passing from the Miami paper.

“Man was born to hunt, fight and make love. Anything else is just a complication,” he once said.
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/obituaries/article112149762.html#storylink=cpy


15
Sep 16

Interview with Captain Perry, Grand Bahama

(Posted in 2010. Recently it was announced that Captain Perry had passed away. I always wanted to get back to fish with him. He was a great guide and a very decent person. It was an honor to fish with him, even if I only did it once.)

This last January I had a few days of fishing in Grand Bahama, one of those days I got a guide and the others I went on my own.  I mostly had my arse handed to me on the  self-guided days, but had a great day with the guide I booked, Captain Perry, out  of McLeans Town on the East End of Grand Bahama.

I recently called up Captain Perry and asked him to do an interview and he agreed.  Because of this know I need to get some sort of recording device, as I missed a couple comments (at least) and didn’t catch some of the local flavor of his remarks.

If I make it back to Grand Bahama, I hope to see Captain Perry again from the bow of his flats boat… wouldn’t mind being there for a day to equal his most memorable from below.

Captain Perry, Grand Bahama Guide and Good Guy.

Do you have a favorite place to eat on Grand Bahama?

I go to a place in Port Lucaya, Le Med.

Being out on the water a lot you see odd, interesting or strange things.  What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen?

The shark eating the bonefish is pretty interesting, the speed of the bonefish is amazing, but the sharks hunt them down.

Do you have a guided trip that stands out in your memory?

Back in 2002, caught 127 bonefish in a day, wading. I’ll never forget that one.  It was all to do with the weather.  We’d had had some messed up weather before that, but that morning, the weather was nice.  We fished for 8 hours and fish were everywhere.

The following year I went out with the same guy about the same time of year and we saw one fish all day.

What do you think makes GBI a destination that bonefish anglers should check out?  Give me the top one or two reasons.

You can take almost a direct flight from the East Coast.  That’s it right there.  There is no need for a charter flight, no need so spend the night anywhere.

What’s your favorite tide to fish, or does it matter?

Around here, the incoming tide is good, but we have two tides, so we can get to find an incoming tide on one side or the other of the island.  A low incoming tide is really good.

What’s your favorite month to fish?

You can fish year round as long as there isn’t a cold front.

Do you have any lodging ideas for anglers looking to stay and fish the East End?  Freeport is pretty far away.

There’s a place called Ocean Pearl in High Rock, it is half way. That’s a good place.

On my trip with you in January, I landed 12 bonefish… I’m guessing that a more accomplished bonefisher might have had 20.  Sound about right?

Yeah, I think that’s about right.

I was impressed with how careful you were in handling the fish, never even taking them out of the water. You certainly are up to speed on the best practices for handing and releasing bonefish.  Are you seeing more anglers and guides being conscious of bonefish handling or is there still a lot of ignorance out there?

There is some way to go, for a lot of the guides, a long way to go…   a long way to go.  I think it will take some real knowledge about what’s going on with the fish.  They need to experience it themselves. If you tell them, they don’t get it. They need to get the knowledge themselves.  I see two or three guides that really get it, but there are still a lot that have a long way to go.

Drop the Grip and Grin and the fish will live to fight another day.

Thanks Captain Perry.


07
Aug 16

Importance of genetic testing for bonefish explained

A recent blog post from BTT explained why they do genetic testing on bonefish. I know that many of you have collected fin clips and this will tell you why.

I got a few fin clips back in Andros in 2011 as part of FIBFEST II.

A few Androsian fin clips from 2011

A few Androsian fin clips from 2011


12
Jul 15

The long running argument

Thanks for the pull. Sorry it didn't work out.

Thanks for the pull. Sorry it didn’t work out.

I have friends who love to give me crap about fish feeling pain. They send me stories and pictures about poor fish in pain. I have long countered with my standard line “I can’t tell you fish don’t experience something, but they don’t experience pain like you and I do.”

They have not believed me. Actually, maybe they did, but they just like giving me crap (that sound more probable).

I was glad to see that the argument has been settled WITH SCIENCE! I like science.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

You can find the story about the science here.


30
Mar 15

Bonefish by Eric

Got a care package in the mail (more people could do this, if you want).

The package was a couple of pieces of bonefish art by Eric English.

Awesome. Thanks Eric!

Awesome.

Awesome.


14
Jan 14

Dark and Light Bonefish

I recently shared a picture from a Redington trip to Mexico that showed a nice Mexican bonefish. Someone remarked that they were amazed how dark the fish was. It was dark (below), but that same fish, feeding in a different part of its habitat almost certainly would have been lighter in color.

A dark backed bone.

A dark backed bone.

You see, bonefish can, and do, change color depending on their surroundings. They can’t pull a flounder on you and change their coloration to mimic precise shades of the bottom, but they can alter their color to better blend.

Bonefish have chromatophores which they use to control the pigment. That pigment can be concentrated to bring out those dark vertical bands on their backs and make the whole fish look green when feeding over grass. The bonefish can disperse pigment when feeding over white sand, making the silver fox look, well, silver, almost totally colorless.

The fish below was caught over white sand in Andros and, as you can see, it doesn’t have much color. It was blending in nicely.

Nice bone, tagged and ready to go. Photo by Cameron Miller.

Nice bone, tagged and ready to go. Photo by Cameron Miller.

They can’t do this instantly, however, which is why my favorite kind of bonefish is the bonefish moving in between dark and light bottoms. That dark backed bonefish stands out pretty nicely over a white bottom.

So, it isn’t that there are light populations and dark populations so much as there are bonefish, capable of adapting to whatever environment they happen to find their food in.

To understand more about the physiology of bonefish, I strongly recommend Fly-Fishing for Bonefish by Chico Fernandez. Dr. Aaron Adams handles the biology and does a pretty fine job of it.


23
Aug 13

Five things I hate about you, Bonefish Edition

Yeah… it isn’t all love and hugs and kittens. Still, I couldn’t think of 10 things to hate about bonefish.

  1. You are SO FAR AWAY. I’d like for bonefish to live in the SF Bay… and also for the SF Bay to be just like Andros.
  2. The rash. If you’ve walked the flats in some wet pants… you may be familiar with that rash.

    Trip Saver.

    Trip Saver.

  3. Sunburn. There are a lot of ways to protect yourself from the sun, but if you are as fair skinned as I am it is hard to come out 100% unburned.
  4. The mythology of the 80′ cast. Your shots are about 500% more likely to come at 40′ than 80′ and this sort of “you have to be perfect” myth keeps people from experiencing the beauty of the flats.
  5. Too awesome. Bonefish and bonefishing are too awesome and will ruin you for many types of fishing in many places, places you may have loved, but are much lessened after you visit the flats.

    Nice bone, tagged and ready to go. Photo by Cameron Miller.

    Nice bone, tagged and ready to go. Photo by Cameron Miller.