Bonefishing with Alvin Greene – Andros Island, Bahamas
Andros Island is famous for bonefish and is considered by many to be the best place in the world to catch large numbers of big fish. Bonefish are particularly suited for fly fishing as they frequently feed in shallow water flats. This allows the angler to spot and sight cast to the fish. Watching a large bonefish inhale your fly is a truly breathtaking experience and sure to get your adrenaline pumping. In Andros the average size fish is about 4 pounds and during a weeks fishing here you can expect to catch plenty of fish in the 3-6 pound range. The larger fish tend to be alone or in small groups of two or three and are often in the 8-10 pound range. Any double figure bonefish is considered a real trophy fish. The following table was sourced from Kaufman’s Bonefish book and demonstrates the fish length and associated estimated weight.
18″ = 3.5lb
20″ = 4.1lb
22″ = 5.1lb
24″ = 6.0lb
26″ = 7.2lb
28″ = 8.6lb
30″ = 10.8lb
32″ = 13.0lb
34″ = 15.6lb
36″ = 18.0lb
40″ = Dreaming!
Bonefish (Albula Vulpes) are often referred to as the Ghosts of the Flats or Gray Ghosts as they are difficult to see unless conditions are favourable. In shallow water bonefish tails can sometimes be seen on the surface of the water as the fish poke their noses in the sand digging for food. This is called ‘Tailing’. Nervous water is another sign of fish, best described as an area of water disturbed and rippled by the movement of the fish. It often looks like it’s going against the general flow of currents. It good sunlight and against white sand bonefish can often be seen as dark torpedo shapes moving across the flats either in schools or as single or paired fish.
Bonefish are sight feeders and come up onto flats with a rising tide. They eat small shrimp, fish, crabs and other creatures that inhabit the flats. They have tremendous acceleration and speed to enable them to avoid predators such as sharks or barracudas. On the shallow water flats bonefish can be nervous as they are hunted from above by birds such as ospreys and below by sharks, dolphins and barracudas. The first sign of trouble and they accelerate away towards deeper water and safety.
The art of fly fishing for bonefish involves laying your fly close enough to the fish that they can see it but not so close that it spooks them away. The fly is then ‘stripped’ to capture the fish’s attention and entice it to eat. When the fly is stationary between strips is when it is most often eaten, and a final strip will set the hook. At this point the fish usually realises something is amiss and heads away rapidly. As you raise your rod the free line will run through your fingers until it connects with the reel. Once the line is safely on the reel the angler can relax and enjoy the fight which usually involves several long runs and frantic efforts to reel in line as the bonefish suddenly decides to change direction and head straight back towards you.
All bonefish should be quickly released with the minimum of fuss to ensure they survive the ordeal and can recover quickly.
10 Bonefish Truisms (maybe)
- Bonefish have a built in angler radar system – they always seem to know when you’re about to make a cast then quickly head in the opposite direction.
- Bonefish will humble you – just when you think you’re getting the upper hand they will demonstrate that you were simply just a little lucky and that it is noting at all to do with your skill.
- Bonefish know which way the wind is blowing – and will approach the boat from the direction of the strongest wind to hinder your casting and will then laugh at you as your fly line falls in a heap 10 feet from the boat due to the 25mph wind that you attempted to cast straight into.
- Bonefish are often scared of their own food – what other explanation is there for charging away from your perfectly presented fly?
- Bonefish know how far you can cast – and will tend to swim just outside that range.
- Bonefish like to prove their high IQ – when hooked they will run 200 feet then swim back and dig a hole in which to bury your line, then accelerate away, snapping your leader.
- Bonefish like to make you play in the mangroves – so you have to get out of the boat and untangle an incredible mess of fly line and leader that has been intricately woven through 30 mangrove roots.
- Bonefish have bionic ears – and can hear a fly line casting 15 feet above them before your fly has even hit the water.
- Bonefish get wiser with age – the largest fish have PHDs and know every trick in the angler’s book.
- Sometimes bonefish let you win – Because they don’t like to see you get too upset so they eventually let you catch one of them on the condition you release it safely.