We love bonefish. In our opinion, they are the perfect saltwater fish. They are found in warm, beautiful places, they are active feeders throughout the day, and they are pound for pound one of the strongest and fastest fish we have encountered. Most importantly, they like to eat flies! A world without bonefish is not one we would like to be a part of. Every once in a while, we like to remind people of the best practices to ensure the safe catch and release of our favorite flat’s fish.
The first step here happens before you even lay hands on the fish. And that is to match the gear you are using to the fish you are targeting. Using a light rod or tippet can appear sporty but at the same time can hurt the fish. If you take too long to land the bonefish, you could risk exhausting it to the point where it may not recover. For the large bonefish of Andros South, we try and never use less than a 7wt rod and 16-pound test. This helps reduce the overall fight time. When reviving a fish, make sure it takes off quickly and upright. If you see the fish losing its equilibrium and having a hard time swimming off, make sure you hold onto it in the water until it can kick off strongly. If this is happening to you regularly, it is a sign you need to shorten the fight time on future fish.
When handling the fish, you always want to use wet hands and minimize the time handing it. Excess handling or grabbing the fish with dry hands can lead to scales being damaged, making the fish more prone to infections. You want to make sure you have a pair of pliers nearby and do your best to remove the hook when the fish is still in the water. If you want a photo, be sure to support the bonefish properly and not hold it out of the water for more than 15 seconds. You don’t need a grip n grin of every nice bonefish either. Consider taking close-up shots of the fish in the water. If you want the weight of the bonefish, avoid using lip gripping devices. The safest way to get the weight is to put the fish in a sling or net of sort and then suspend that cradle from the lip gripping device. This way, you can still get an accurate weight without hanging the fish from its lip.
Remember, just because you watch a bonefish swim away does not mean that it survived. Predators exist on all saltwater flats, and they are very aware of the easy meal an exhausted bonefish makes. When predators (sharks and barracuda) are around, be sure not to release the bonefish too quickly. You want to make sure you hang onto the bonefish until it has regained its equilibrium and it can take off quickly. If the fish is struggling and there are predators nearby, consider moving further down the flat before releasing it. If you are catching a lot of bonefish on one flat and the predators become abundant, odds are they are attracted to your fishing. At this point, you should move to a different flat entirely.
In fishing, the catch really can be in the release. Please take good care of our business associates (the fish), and they will take care of us in return. If you have any interest in booking the bonefish trip of a lifetime, reach out here!
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