SEEING BONEFISH---"THE GHOSTS OF THE FLATS" Bonefish are very well camouflaged. Their scales are bright and silvery and serve as mirrors to reflect their surroundings. They can also change their coloration. All this makes bonefish very difficult to see for someone who doesn't have a trained, experienced eye. This is just another reason to make sure you have a guide who can spot these elusive fish. With time and experience, a person develops the ability to pick them out from their surroundings. The best conditions are bright sun with the sun high. The shadows of the bonefish can be spotted and glare is not as big a problem. Conversely, when it is cloudy, it is much harder to see them.
WHAT BONEFISH EAT The mouths of bonefish are on their undersides and they are predominantly bottom feeders, eating shrimp, crabs, and clams, often digging them out of the sand. They also feed on smaller fish. The shrimp and crab they feed on often live in burrows in the sand.
On Andros Island, the most effective flies imitate shrimp. Crab patterns are not as effective on Andros as they are in other places, like Belize.
Common Shrimp or Prawn
INFLUENCE OF TIDE, WIND, AND WATER TEMPERATURE The rhythm of the fishing day is usually dictated by the tide. Back bays and deeper water are fished during the incoming and high tides. The flats are ideally fished by wading as the tide is going out.
Wind is common on Andros and is not usually heavy, although it certainly can be. Actually, the most ideal conditions are bright sunlight and light wind. The sound of the wind and the slight disruption of the water surface makes the bonefish less spooky and it is easier to get close to them.
Extremes of water temperature affect bonefish markedly. If the water on the shallower flats becomes too cold (below 70 degrees) or too hot (above 85 degrees), bonefish flee to deeper water, where the water temperature is not as affected.
TACKLE AND GEAR Rods are usually 9 feet, 8 or 9 weight. Reels should be able to hold 150-200 yards of backing. Large-Arbor reels are preferable. Line should be weight forward. Line one weight heavier than the rod weight will help casting in the wind. Leaders and tippet are from 10 to 15 pound weight.
CHOICE OF FLIES Please see our "Bonefish Flies for Andros" page. The most effective flies on Andros are those that imitate shrimp. The flies shown below are among our favorites.
Chard's Bahama Mega Mantis--Riverborn Flies
Delektable Boneyard Tan--Riverborn Flies
FLY PRESENTATION, SETTING THE HOOK, AND LANDING THE FISH Most bonefish can be reached with casts between 30 and 70 feet. But sometimes, longer casts are needed or high line speed is necessary to overcome the effect of wind. So it is a good idea to practice your Double Haul and have it in good shape when you come to Andros.
Most of the time, the place to position your cast is directly in front of a bonefish, whether it is cruising, or it is "tailing", with its tail sticking out of the water as it feeds on the bottom. When bonefish are cruising, the distance in front is usually between 3 and 9 feet. When bonefish are tailing, it is best to put the fly about one foot in front of them. When there is a "mud"-the water is clouded from the fish feeding on the bottom, but they can't be seen, it is best to cast to the edge of the mud.
The most effective strip on Andros is usually long and slow. Often the fly is left to sink to the bottom and then stripped off the bottom.
The hook is always set with a strip set. When fishing in the flats, and elsewhere, it is often necessay to see the bonefish pick up the fly, since they can take it so softly you won't feel it. Conversely, when casting into a school, they often take the fly very aggressively.
Playing bonefish requires dealing with long runs and then hard reeling if they come back toward you. Most bonefish have 2 or more good runs before they tire and can be landed.