14
Nov 17

How to Handle Bonefish

You want your bonefish to live long and prosper after you release it? Well, here are some thoughts. You’ll notice I’m not immune from making bad decisions. I do, from time to time, but I want to be better. That’s the goal.

The risk to the fish by our poor actions is not insignificant. Here’s a post from years ago about that very thing.

For best results, the angler should minimize two things.

  • Air Exposure – How long the fish is out of the water.
  • Handling – How much you touch the bonefish.

This is important because when you release a bonefish back into the salt, there are other things waiting to eat them. They don’t get a chance to catch their breath or recover. A bonefish survives because it can swim faster, react quicker than the sharks and cuda’s trying to eat them and if they are impaired when you let them go they stand a decent chance of becoming food for one of those predators.

Here are the grades of handling for bonefish.

A+ Handling

You have hooked the fish and fought it to the boat. You admire the fish while it is in the water, still swimming, on the end of your line. You reach down with your pliers and simply pop the fly out of the fish’s mouth (since you are fishing barbless).

  • Air Exposure = 0.
  • Handling = 0.

(This is WAY easier to do after you’ve caught about 8 fish.)

B+ Handling

You have hooked and fought a bonefish. Getting the fish to the boat you reach into the water and cradle the fish in your hands. Maybe you take a picture of the fish in the water, maybe even underwater. You unhook the fish and let it swim away.

  • Air Exposure = 0.
  • Handling = A little.

B Handling

You hook the fish, fight it in and you quickly bring the fish out of the water for a picture. The fish is out of the water for just a few seconds.

  • Air Exposure = A little.
  • Handling = Not that much.

South Andros Bonefish. Photo by Andrew Bennett

D- Handling

You hook that fish and get it in. You bring the fish out of the water and hold it, mid-air, out of the water, maybe sitting in the middle of the boat, while your friend or your guide snap a bunch of pictures.

  • Air Exposure = Too Much.
  • Handling = Too Much.

That’s an o’io.

F Handling

You hold that fish up with a boga, in the middle of the boat for a bunch of pictures.

  • Air Exposure = Too Much.
  • Handling = Way, Way, Way too much.

That green hat, my first decent bonefish and some horrible fish handling.

Here is what the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has to say on the matter.

We all can do better. As I looked through my own pictures I was bummed to see my picture from Hawaii, just recently, that was poor handling. I think it was faster than it looked like, but I could have done better. It is harder to always be in the A camp. I think as long has you have an A- average, you are doing pretty damn well.

Other considerations you should keep in mind are to limit the duration of the fight (get that fish in as soon as you can) and never touch a bonefish with a dry hand (or dry anything).

It really is about education and the more we spread the word and encourage other anglers to learn about how to do things right, most will opt to do things right.


07
Aug 17

Bonefish and Tides with Dr. Aaron Adams

It is hard to keep up with BTT these days. They are just DOING so much. Good problem to have. I’m a member and I hope you are a member too.

Dr. Adams recently penned an article about bonefish tides. He’s someone you should really listen to.

Tides are one of those things most trout anglers aren’t going to be familiar with. What tides do you want to fish and how do you find those tides? This article is for you.

come out bonefish… where are you?


06
Jul 17

Bonefish Revolution (Cuba vid)

This looks pretty nice. Well done. Cuba remains one of my favorite trips ever.

 


24
Mar 17

Flashback to a perfect moment in Grand Bahama from a few years back

It was a slow day. The guide my dad and I went out with had an old boat, a bit worse for wear, and his eyes appeared to be going. He was having a heck of a time finding fish. I got out of the boat to wade across a point, I think because the boat was scrapping bottom and it was easier to pole if I got out.

Then… as I was wading, I saw a couple fish moving along the shore-line.


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.


05
Jan 16

Gink & Gasoline and some Bonefish Knowledge

This post from G&G went up yesterday. Of course, it is a pretty good read and makes the old brain juices start to flow a bit.

Long Island bonefish2

I have to say, several of these situations for me have been big zeros in terms of success.

I know, theoretically, that traveling fish or fish who are running can be caught. I have yet to count myself among the people who have caught fish with that mindset.

I used to bomb out hero casts trying to entice those fish, but I don’t do that anymore. For me, I’d prefer to stir things up less. Maybe that long bomb spooks some other fish I haven’t seen yet. Maybe that fish making a B-Line will settle down if I don’t mess with it. Maybe these are theories I hold because I haven’t gotten those fish to eat yet?

I just need to see it happen with my own eyes before I really can take it to heart.

How about you? You find success in those situations?


30
Jul 15

Christmas Looks Nice

I want to go to Xmas Island. Christmas is one of those places that has been on my list for a while. I am on the Pacific side of things and I’m supposed to be oriented out that way for my fun in the sun, right? I’ve thought about my 2016 trip being to Christmas. I may just begin the negotiation process here at home to make that happen.

If I go, I’d likely do it through a booking agent and stay at a lodge and go with guides. It is a long way to go to not be on the right flats. However, if you want to do it solo, it would appear that is an option as well.

It sounds to me like things aren’t that expensive once you get there, it is just that the getting there is kind of a hassle with an overnight in Honolulu. Could be worse!

Also… there are GTs. I’d very much like to break some gear on a GT.

 


25
May 15

A young man’s game

I’ve been thinking about the trout fishing I’m not doing right now on my home waters of the Upper Sacramento and McCloud Rivers. I see the pictures come through on Facebook of friends up there, getting after it, fishing those waters that once so captivated me and still hold a very special place in my heart.

I was remembering a trip over a decade ago I took on the McCloud at the close of the season. I was hiking up the river, fishing solo, and I came to a section where the banks meet high rock walls as the river flowed out of a gorge section. As I hiked up the trail along this section of river I looked into one run far below and saw a massive trout. The thing had to be 10 pounds, almost certainly a brown trout, and it marauded around the pool like it owned the place. I wanted that fish.

To get to the fish I had to scale down a rock cliff, which I did, rod in my mouth to keep two hands free to grab the rocky cliff face. When I got down to the water I got one cast into the pool and one of my flies (an egg pattern) was immediately hit by a good trout. It was a good fish, not 10 pounds good, but a good fish nonetheless. After a couple minutes I landed a beautiful 19″ rainbow. The big brown didn’t like the commotion and had vanished.

The way I fish for trout on my home waters and how my home waters fish best is by aggressively covering the water. You get in and walk up the river, climbing over rocks and logs and whatever else is in the way. It is a tight-line, short-line nymphing technique using two flies and one more split shot than you might otherwise consider wise. You pound the pockets and the runs and you strike on everything. Sometimes there is a fish when you strike. That’s why you do it.

I was thinking about that episode on the McCloud recently from my perspective today. I realized I wouldn’t have climbed down there now. I’m more cautious. I have two kids and a wife who depend on me and I can’t do foolish things. My body also doesn’t respond as well to challenges as it once did.

While I wouldn’t have made it down to the bottom of the gorge, I know if I did the cast I would have made would have been better than the one I made all those years ago. I’ve lost some of my aggressiveness, but I’ve gained some skill.

When out on the flats there isn’t much of a place for aggressiveness, but skill gets you everywhere.

I wonder if that’s one of the things I like about bonefishing, that shift in focus, that shift in what ends up being important.

I can still wade semi-irresponsibly and cover the water, but I find myself on my rivers much, much less often and the call I hear is usually from the flats in places too far away and too expensive to visit frequently.

Fly fishing is still a huge part of my life and I imagine it will be until I can’t fish anymore. Maybe the trout will come back around for me in terms of importance and maybe one day again I’ll get to know a river’s pulse and hatches and moods like I used to. Maybe I’ll come to appreciate different aspects of the trout game in the future that don’t rely on the aggressiveness so much.

Maybe I’ll seek out spring creeks or take up lake fishing. Maybe I won’t and I’ll still pine for bonefish and skinny water flats and the need for long and pretty casts. We’ll find out.


10
Apr 15

Girl Power in Abaco

On Thursday my daughter (8) and I met up with guide Dana Lowe to go fish for a half-day down in Cherokee Sound.

The girl liked this part.

The girl liked this part.

Dana is the only female guide in all of the Bahamas. She guides for Delphi, Abaco Lodge and independently. Dana is soft spoken and she knows her home waters very well. She picked us up in Marsh Harbour and brought us down to Cherokee where we got on her skiff and were quickly on the water.

Now, this trip was different from any other bonefishing trip I’ve taken in that we used… get ready for it… bait. Yup… in the interests of making this something my daughter could actually do, we used bait, specifically conch. I had never bait fished for bonefish before, so that was a first.

I used to think I’d be a purist. I don’t think that anymore. The right tool for the right job. For the 8 year old in the salt, the right tool was not the 8 weight.

It worked. The girl got to reel in a couple of bonefish, her first and second.

The girl's first bonefish.

The girl’s first bonefish, and my finger.

The half-day was varied and enjoyable. We caught two bones, some mojarra, a nurse shark, a cuda and some snapper. We saw three blue holes, a bunch of eagle rays and my daughter got to hold one of those huge sea stars.

The nurse

The nurse

The zen of it all.

The zen of it all.

A cuda, trolled, the only fly caught fish of the trip.

A cuda, trolled, the only fly caught fish of the trip.

It was a great time. Thanks for a good day Dana!


08
Apr 15

Fishing out of Abaco Lodge

I got to fish a day out of Abaco Lodge (located, you guessed it, in Abaco) with my dad and guide Tom Albury.

Abaco Lodge. Photo Credit Anna Stromsness

Abaco Lodge. Photo Credit Anna Stromsness

See, that has all the ingredients for a pretty good day to begin with. Great operation, good guide and my dad.

I’m 40, my dad is right at 73, we don’t even get to fish for trout that often, so getting my dad out bonefishing in the Bahamas is a real treat. Bonus – he gets tired after standing up for too long so I get more bow time! Yay!

My dad’s first two bones were over in Grand Bahama, same day I got my first, and BOTH of his fish were quasi unintentional. Happy to say our day of fishing got my dad two legit bonefish. He made the casts, set the hook and didn’t lose either. So, job well done on all front for Pops.

My dad and me in Abaco

My dad and me in Abaco

Abaco Lodge has been around for a few years (2009?) and is owned by Oliver White, a good guy who I did not name my son after. The lodge is just well done with a great stable of guides, good boats (all Hell’s Bay Waterman) and a great location, right on the edge of the Marls. I’ll write more about their operation and the dinner we had there in another post.

Our guide on the day was Tom Albury, who, it turns out, I had previously interviewed. Tom was good fun, never got worked up about anything and kept finding us fish. He put my dad in great positions and got him fish. It was a good day on the water.

For me, the day started out a little slow. We found fish (and by “we” I mean Tom). However, my awesome fly was pissing off the locals and after about 7 legit shots (I flubbed two of those casts, but made the other 5) set the bonefish fleeing in panic, we decided to change flies and that made the difference.

(I’ll just add that this goes against my “the right presentation trumps the right fly” line of thinking rather directly, but I still believe that, even if it goes against the evidence.)

We were waiting for the sun to poke back out and just as it did I spotted a dark shape and quickly realized it was moving. I love that moment. In that moment the world is full of potential and magic. I called out the fish and made the cast and was rewarded with that kind of aggressive charging-of-the-fly you get when you’ve done the thing well and have a happy fish in front of you. One long run and he came in, was admired and (poorly) photographed and sent on his way.

My first Abaco Bone

My first Abaco Bone

That one episode was the reason I wanted to come to the Bahamas. I can’t say it enough… I love bonefishing.

I caught a few more, got a small cuda on the spinning rig, cast at some sharks, saw a blue hole and pretty much enjoyed the day with Tom, my dad and the Marls.

Looking Good Mr. Bone

Looking Good Mr. BoneAbaco

I highly recommend both Abaco Lodge and guide Tom Albury. I want to come back.