The South African Bonefish Mystery

Two world records come not from the Keys or Andros, but South Africa.  I’ve read plenty of reports of 20 pound bonefish taken one place or another, usually written about on message boards without useful things like first-hand accounts or pictures (and none of them widely accepted as truth).  However, the IGFA recognizes the largest all-tackle bonefish as coming from South Africa and weighing in around 19 pounds (1962).  Yes… 19 pounds… that kind of bends the mind a bit.  My largest is 7.5 pounds and I was pretty frigging impressed with power plant that thing had under the hood.  I can’t really comprehend a 19 pound fish… the run… the weight.  Another fish of 17 pounds was taken from roughly the same area in 1976.  Still a monster.

The biggest fly caught bone seems to still be a 15 pound 8 ounce bone caught in Key Biscayne (FL) in 1997.  If this has changed, I don’t know about it, but, the amount of things I don’t know could fill countless volumes.

In a few dedicated hours of searching the web for fly fishing (or any fishing) operations around where those fish were taken and I simply couldn’t find one (not one that has a web address anyway).  In an email with Aaron Adams from the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, he said that not much is really known about the S. African bones.  They don’t really know exactly which species of bone is down there, the studies have not been conducted and the money to conduct those studies has not landed on their doorstep.

The area (Zululand) may be difficult for fly anglers due to very high tides.  The other issue is security, as in there isn’t much of it and wealthy western types make nice targets.

There do appear to be other nice species there… like GT’s… Kosi Bay seems like the place to head for those and I’m guessing this would be where you’d look for those toddler sized bonefish.  Before you rush out there, however, check out these fishing reports.  The word that comes to mind isn’t “excellent,” but more like “sucky.”

There do seem to some bonefishing opportunities in Mozambique.  Looks like a nice place, really.

Mozambique… I’d bet there are some bones here.

Mozambique seems to offer more for the fly angler and doesn’t seem to have the… um… security issues that others have mentioned about S. Africa.

Now, I’d add that I don’t really know what the situation is like in S. Africa.  I went to Sarajevo in 1997 and people were suggesting I needed  to pack heat… I didn’t (didn’t try to smuggle a gun in and didn’t need it).

So… for me, it all seems like a bit of a mystery.  The world’s TWO largest bonefish coming from a place that isn’t targeted for bonefish in any meaningful way.  Doesn’t it make you wonder a bit?

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  1. Carl Huchzermeyer

    Hi there,

    somehow stumbled across this looking for info on bonefish in SA and Mozambique. I’m a South African ichthyology student, and am a keen on all things fish.
    Bonefish begin to become abundant on our warmer north eatern coast (Zululand) and into Mozambique. However, the zululand coast and most of mozambique has very few flats. Still, the bonefish seem to like the rougher sandy beaches. They are occasionally hooked by surf anglers and are usually misidentified. Locals there like to use them as livebait for sharks as they apparently head straight for deep water.

    I have only been to Mozambique once as a teen. I caught my first (and only so far) bonefish while surfcasting with bait. It wasn’t very big, but I immediately recognized it from the flyfishing magazines I have lying around. I was very impressed with its strength though!
    Someone fishing further down the beach (also a South African tourist) hooked into something very large. The very heavy tackle he used quickly subdued a very large fish. On closer inspection I saw it was a HUGE bone. I told the angler what its called and that they aren’t good eating but the angler had pretty much the same mindset as the one in the photo you posted. So the fish was killed. By my (conservative) estimation the fish was over 100cm long and very heavy, probably at least 8kgs.
    I didn’t know at the time that it was a potential record fish. I did have an idea though that it would have made anybody in the flyfishing magazines green with jealousy!
    I took a photo of the fish, but alas it was a cheap film camera and the photos were overexposed. I’ve got half a photo of my first bone though!
    At low tide, an extensive sand flat was exposed. I saw a pod of 4-5 bones just hovering as I was wading. My first thought was ‘are these fish sick?’ as I was only about 10 feet from them. I went much closer and then they only spooked. My second though was ‘why did I leave my flyrod at home!’.

    As for safety, Mozambique is extremely safe and has a growing flyfishing industry with some exquisite destinations. Bonefish potential is still unexplored. Flyfishermen target GTs (called Giant Kingfish here) and our own permit (Largespot Pompano) that are common in the waves. These fishermen fish in ROUGH surf- and manage. Now it would only be a matter of getting a fly to the bottom on rough sandy beaches that would deliver a monster bonefish!

    If I didn’t live so far from Zululand (its a huge country!) I’d definitely try this. South Africa has a huge range of flyfishing opportunities and species. Check out our local fly fishing magazines for a taste, and hopefully you can come explore for that world record bone! Believe me, that 18lber wasn’t a once-off catch. Our fish get that big.

    Feel free to get in touch if you’d like any more info!
    Tight lines!
    Carl Huchzermeyer

  2. Very cool Carl. African bonefish are pretty much an unknown quantity here. It is fascinating! Appreciate the comment very much. I’d love to check out the fishing available, but don’t see that happening any time soon. Too bad I couldn’t come up with a World Cup/Bonefishing trip!

  3. I know of three incidents on which bonefish far exceeding the fly rod record have been caught, but not documented because the anglers didnt want to attract tourists to the area! Well, thats fishermen for you i guess…

  4. bonefishbjorn

    I’m all ears? Can you tell us where, at least? Kahana… makes me think Hawaii.

  5. Hi there.

    I am going out to Mozambique in September 2013 and plan to do some fishing around the Bazaruto Archipelago which promises to offer some flats. Although I must admit that most of the fishing done there is in fairly rough seas. I know a lot of fly is done off boats, but I am taking a 7wt travel rod with me to have a go if i can find some shallow water. I know im a little outgunned especially if I run into 8kg bones, but I’m targeting smaller fish on the fly.
    I’ll be sure to post some pics of what I find.
    tight lines!

  6. Sorry one more article:
    This does not bode well for me and my little rod…

  7. i have caught a 13 pound bonefish in south Africa of the umkomaas coast.From my kayak.It ate a big live mackerel and got hooked badly and i kept it and took it to a taxidermist for mounting.

    i have caught a few of these fish using drop shot tackle while targeting king fish on the shallow reefs,but i doubt the are in big enough numbers to target on fly.

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