You spotted your bonefish, made a beautiful cast despite the wind, retrieved your fly at just the right pace to get the follow, and the fish took the fly. You even fought the urge to trout set, and instead strip set the fly making a solid connection. Fish on! Although you did everything right, your trophy bonefish had other plans and just headed into the mangroves – what now?
Often times bonefish will try their best when spooked or hooked to run straight for the mangroves, as this is an easy safe haven from predators at higher water levels. We hear many stories here at Andros South about the fish of the day being lost because he headed into the mangroves.
If you see your fish headed towards the mangroves, by all means put as much pressure as you can on them in order to encourage them to change direction. However some fish, especially big fish, are not able to be turned on the first or second run. If this is the case, and a bonefish takes you into the mangroves, try this.
Loosen the drag on your reel down as much as possible without causing it to backlash. Allow the fish to take as much line as it wants to. Since there is hardly any tension on your line, the fish is much less likely to break you off. This may also cause the fish to slow down as it gives the impression that it is no longer being pulled against. As the fish begins to tire, work with your guide or fishing buddy to slowly pick up your line that is tangled up in the mangroves as you approach the fish.
It’s always best to keep bonefish out of the mangroves whenever possible. However, should you find yourself with a big boy who takes you in deep, try loosening up – it might save the day!
Good advice. I’ve seen it put to use once and the fish was saved. I’d like to ask a related question. Last time out in the Bahamas, at high tide we were poling the edge of the mangroves and casting at small schools or pods that were poking out into open water from time to time. The guide suggested putting side pressure after striking to try to steer the bone to open water. I did and the bone turned away from the pressure into a mangrove and broke off. I asked the guide for an explanation but couldn’t understand him! Most experts write that you can’t turn or slow a fresh bonefish. Therefore, I should have followed the advice in your blog. The bone is probably going to head for deep water rather than turn back into the mangroves. TIA.
Kyle Shea says
That is a good point to be brought up Kingfisher.
We would certainly agree with you that you can’t turn a hot bonefish on the run. However, sometimes upon setting the hook on bonefish there is a brief moment before the panic sets in (i.e. before the fish realizes what’s going on). In that instant, it could be worth putting some pressure away from the mangroves in attempts to coax it towards open water. That way, once he does make that first run, MAYBE he’ll head towards open water.
For the most part, like your guide suggested, we like to put as much pressure on the fish as we can in attempts to deter it from going into the mangroves until the moment of no return, then once there is no chance of turning him around, we back off our drag and play the mangrove game.
You’re absolutely right in that trying to turn a hot bonefish is a bit of a ‘hail mary,’ but in our opinion its worth a try until you’re forced to back off your drag and fight him in the mangroves. After all, side pressure in the opposite direction that the fish is running is typically best for keeping the hook pinned and tiring out the fish anyhow. Hope that helps!
Thanks for the tips. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to try it out next April on Aklins.
wayne walts says
If he made it into the mangroves and you have backed off the drag look for
a mangrove bobbing up and down .The mangroves can act as a shock absorber . Do not try to retrieve your line by sticking your rod under roots; it is an easy way to break your rod. If you have too much drag the barnacles will cut the coating on your line. Once the fish has stopped, put your rod down, release the fish, and cut your fly off. It is a lot faster to get your line back on the reel.
Dave Merritt says
My lifetime biggest bonefish was landed this way. It works on snook too….some of the time.