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

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.

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!



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.

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.


Aug 13

Ten things I love about you, Bonefish Edition

  1. I love that bonefish live in the places bonefish live. They are beautiful places.

    Purdy. FL.

    Purdy. FL.

  2. I love that feeling you get when you are scanning a flat and you see the fish for the first time. It is such a definable victory.
  3. I love wearing my quick dry pants. A place I need to wear those pants is almost certainly a place I want to be.
  4. Kalik and Belekin.

    And all is well with the world.

    And all is well with the world.

  5. When the wind is up and you make a cast into it and succeed you feel like a rock star.
  6. The first run of a bonefish is pure power and almost always astounding. If your first bonefish was over 3 pounds and you weren’t impressed with the power of the fish, you are likely a bad person and should re-evaluate your life.
  7. Flats skiffs are just sexy. They are sex in boat form.

    I want this... although I have no idea what I'd actually do with it.

    I want this… although I have no idea what I’d actually do with it.

  8. I love my fly boxes, full of my flies. An arsenal of awesomeness waiting to be applied to fulfill their sole purpose on Earth.

    The boxes.

    The boxes.

  9. Turtles. Sharks. Barracuda. Frigate Birds. Blue Crabs. Hermit Crabs. All of it.



  10. Memories. Those memories of standing in the sun on the beautiful flat will both give you a little warmth on cold nights and a little light when you find yourself in the darkness.

Mar 13

Directional Puffing

I never thought about this… about looking at the direction of the puff to determine the tide when the fish was there.

Kind of brilliant.

Just say’n.

I didn’t come up with this. Heck, Scott probably didn’t come up with it, but he did write about it.

Oh, there were fish here... certainly.

Oh, there were fish here… certainly.

Feb 13

Addictive Fishing… bad

Worst bonefish handling ever. This is Addictive Fishing fishing off Key Largo (the bone badness starts at about 8:30).

Worst. Handling. Ever.

A reminder… here is how to handle bonefish.

If you’d like to email Capt. Blair, his email is blair@addictivefishing.com.

This is what I wrote him this morning…

Hi Capt. Blair,
I just watched a video of you, I think, fishing in Key Largo. You caught a bonefish, a really nice one. What happened next really shouldn’t have happened. You put that bone on a Boga grip and had it out of the water for a long, long time.

Odds are fair to good that the fish didn’t survive it’s encounter with you. When handling bonefish you need to do two things… minimize handling and minimize air exposure. You should never, ever put a bonefish on a Boga.

From the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust:


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.


As a public figure you need to set a better example. I, myself, will be making an example of this video to show people how not to do it.

I hope the next bonefish you catch has a better shot at survival.


Feb 13

Interview with Captain Paul Fisicaro

I recently asked for some advice on who I should interview for the blog. The interviews have brought some really great stories and insights to the blog and I run out of ideas every once in a while. I’m not tied into any one scene, so I often don’t know the local players or personalities. Paul Fisicaro’s name came up and it turns out he’s a friend of my friend Derek. I got the low-down and the introduction and it made me excited to hear Paul was up for the interview. So, here it is.

Captain Paul Fisicaro:
Fly Fishing Guide, Fly Tier
16 years experience
Thomas and Thomas Fly Rods – Pro Staff.

Paul F tarpon

My friend Derek says you are one hell of a tarpon guide. For me, I feel like my IQ drops by about half when I’m casting to a tarpon. As a guide, seeing people come unglued, what are some of the funny things you’ve seen?

Why thank you, Derek.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff over the past 16 years but nothing too much over the top. I have seen A LOT of rod tossing. I’ve seen anglers throw fly rods distances Joe Montana would be jealous of.  I hear cursing. Lots of cursing. I can tell you, with certainty, I have the most linguistically creative clients ever to step on a flats skiff.

Tarpon fishing can do strange things to people. This past year, one of my clients John Lance, was having trouble casting to Tarpon. For the next four days, after each blown shot (and there were a lot), he decided to yell at each Tarpon in Japanese. A little background on John.  He is from the Midwest. He doesn’t know Japanese, which made this extremely funny. After a while, I started calling out fish in a Japanese accent. It got out of hand very, very quickly. I still chuckle just thinking about it.

But anyway, I personally think that Tarpon are one of the easier species to catch but certainly bring on buck fever the most. I have anglers that cast 80 feet with no fish around and the minute I call out directions to a fish,  they  turn into a poster child for a horse whipping clinic.  

I do see a lot of disappointment but I do my best to rally the troops and keep them in the game. I try to instill confidence when morale is low and try to correct some of the issues they are having. No yelling, no screaming.

Most of them are very good anglers and casters but cannot keep their feelings in check and that is half the battle.

I do, although, have a few clients than I’ve been fishing for a long time and I find it hysterical watching them come unglued. I razz them a bit, well, a tad more than a bit. Let’s just say I’ve had sleepless nights thinking of things to say but, of course, it’s all in fun.

I can understand the pull of tarpon, but tell me what is it about bonefish that you enjoy.

With Bonefish, I think just stalking those fish in shallow water is what makes them fun and they are always willing to eat a well placed fly. And of course, nothing beats the first few runs of a decent sized Bonefish.

Sharks… you likely see a lot of them out there. How do you feel about them?

On most occasions I love sharks. Just add it to the list of species that you target with a fly. If anyone reading this has ever caught a Blacktip Shark on fly, they know how much fun they can be and you would be hard pressed to find a fish that fights harder. Another great thing about sharks is that when you find lots of them in an area, you tend to find lots of fish. I love pulling up to a flat and seeing sharks everywhere. Most of the time, it means something good has happened or something good is going to happened. Hopefully the latter.

The bad about sharks – The only situation I can say that I despise sharks in when that 400 lb bull shark or that 12 foot Hammerhead looking to score a quick meal during a tarpon fight. But you really can’t blame the shark, can you? They have to eat too.

When the fishing is tough… like, really tough, do you stick with it, or do you turn to other species maybe a little lower on the pecking order?

Generally, I will leave this up to the client. I usually give the options and let them decide. I have a lot of hardcore fly anglers that just want to catch the “Big 3” so the majority of the time, we stick with what we set out to catch. But on the contrary, the greatest thing about the Florida Keys is its versatility and diversity of species. There are so many different types of fish that you can target. You really can’t say that for too many places.

A FL Permit

A FL Permit

What’s your go-to rod/reel for bonefish? How about for tarpon?

My go to Bonefish set up is a Thomas and Thomas TNT 8 weight with a Tibor Everglades. For Tarpon, I use a Thomas and Thomas TNT 11 weight with a Tibor Gulfstream for big tarpon and a Thomas and Thomas Horizon 9 weight with a Tibor Everglades for smaller Tarpon. Yes. I love T & T. Who doesn’t?

People seem to have strong feelings about class tippet vs. straight leaders. Where do you come down on that?

I’ve never used straight leaders. I actually have my own formula for making them, although it has evolved over the years. Until recently, I used the familiar 3-2-1 formula with Bimini twist and the whole ball of wax. For those who don’t know, the 3-2-1 is 3 feet of 50lb, 2 feet of 40lb and 1 foot of 30lb, 2 to 3 feet of class tippet and finish it off with 16inches of 60lb. shock. This would be the formula for targeting large tarpon or a leader for an 11 weight.  I never used IGFA standards unless someone specifically asks for it. Over the last few years, I’ve simplified my leaders. I now tie a 6 foot piece of 50lb for the butt section, 3 foot piece of 20lb Hard Mason mono for class tippet and a 2 foot section of 50 or 60lb shock.

I’m not concerned about breaking world records, I just want my clients to land fish.  With this template, there is less knots to worry about and with only a few blood knot connections I can tie leaders much faster and on the fly, customizing them quickly for changing wind conditions.

What is one thing about the Keys that people might find surprising?

Surprising? I think people envision drunk people walking around the Keys in flip flops and tank tops singing Jimmy Buffett songs, sort of like “The Walking Dead” Not so.

When you look back on your saltwater fly fishing, is there someone that stands out as being particularly helpful, someone who showed you the ropes and made it click for you?

I learned how to fly cast by myself when I was 16 years old. It took me a long time to learn to cast correctly. I did have help from a now very good friend, John Knight when I was first starting out. Lou Tabory was another, although I never met him, helped me through the reading of his books. And of course, Lefty Kreh, who has inspired fly fisherman and woman all over the globe.  Just an amazing caster, angler and human being.

People can have really high expectations when they get a guide. How do you try to set expectations for your clients?

I’ve always handled this aspect by just telling the truth. I always tell my clients what the best options are and most of the time they are all for it. If someone wants to catch a bonefish and bonefishing hasn’t been very good, I’ll tell them. If they still want to try, I’m game. I will do my very best to find fish for them.

 In some cases, we would only spend a few hours looking for bonefish and if it didn’t work out we head for the Permit grounds or hit the mangroves for some baby tarpon action. (Who doesn’t like baby poons?) Every situation is different. Every angler is different. I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing clients. No fuss, “Yes, Cap. Whatever you think is best” kind of guys. These kind of anglers are the norm, at least for me they are.



Thanks Paul. Great read and appreciate you sharing some stories and thoughts.

Jan 13

Smell you later

I almost forgot about Science Wednesday.  By that, I mean to say I totally forgot about Science Wednesday, but I figure slightly delayed is still pretty good.

So… let’s talk about what happens to those C&R bonefish. It turns out they stink. They stink no so you or I would notice, but if you were say, a Negaprion brevirostris, you would likely take notice. That’s a lemon shark and while you might like lemon with your fish, it turns out that the lemon has a bit of a taste for fish as well. In this case, it is stinky bonefish they are partial to.

You catch a fish, the fish gets stressed and it releases some chemicals. I had thought that chemical was cortisol, but it turns out that particular chemical is too weak to detect. The ammonia and urea, on the other hand are put out there in quantities that scream “Here I am, come eat me!”

This is why bonefish handling is so important. You need to minimize the fight time and air exposure so that fish is capable of doing what it needs to do when it gets release, which is going really fast to get away from young lemon sharks who are attracted to the chemical neon sign that fish is putting out reading “Bonefish, all you can eat (supplies limited).”

One of the authors of this study is Andy Danylchuk.

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

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