BONEFISHING


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BONEFISH INTRODUCTION

This excellent Loxahatchee River District poster is one of a number of essential and very clear posters in a series that includes tarpon, Nassau grouper, coral reefs, seagrasses, and several more. Concise and informative, with wonderful illustrative artwork by Dawn Witherington, you can catch them conveniently collected together HERE, with a link to their website.

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EARLY CATCH AND RELEASE: THE 5 ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES

(based on experience, and not necessarily to be taken too seriously…)

Abaco Bonefish a

I am very keen on the principles of ‘Catch and Release’. So keen that I have developed my own specialist methods (designed for bonefishing with barbless hooks) using what might be termed ‘Early C&R’. These may include some or all of the following on any given day: 

  1.  ‘THE PHANTOM CATCH’ As the fish follows the fly, and the instant before it commits to a lunge for it, abruptly whisk the fly away from under its nose with a sharp reflex ‘trout-strike’. This will ensure that both the fish and your fly remain untroubled by actual contact. This is the most advanced form of Early C&R.
  2. ‘THE BIG MISSED TAKE’ As the fish takes your fly firmly in its mouth, become preoccupied by the fact that your left foot is planted firmly on a horrid tangle of line around your feet. You will feel the solid take, but instantly realise that your retrieve is hopelessly compromised. With some relief, you feel the line go slack as the fish shakes itself free…
  3. ‘THE REEL THING’ Hook the fish. Feel the weight on the end of the line. It’s heavy. Nice one! Turn in muted triumph to your boat partner to shout excitedly “Got One”. As you do so, allow the line somehow to snag round the rod handle and the reel simultaneously. Before you have even begun to figure how to sort this out, the fish will have released itself and be heading for the horizon.
  4. ‘THE STICKY SITUATION’ Hook the fish. Reel in confidently, keeping the line taut and the fish under your masterful control. Allow it to run if it wishes. Proceed with the same efficiency until you notice a single mangrove stem sticking out of the water 30 feet away. Using your skill, ensure that the fish suddenly has the chance to move to the other side of the stick, winding the leader or line (either will do) round it. Prepare for the ‘twang’ when the inevitable break occurs.  Your fish is away.
  5. ‘THE MANGROVE SWAMP’ Hook a fish. Play it competently until the moment your boat partner or guide gives you some word of encouragement or (worse) praise. Immediately, permit the fish to make a fast break for the nearest clump of mangroves even if it is over 100 feet away. The consequent entanglement round the myriad stems will be sure to lose you the fish and your fly. NOTE: all third party encouragement will diminish after this form of EC&R. Praise will not be repeated. 

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For bonefishing-related articles, click the link  BONEFISHING  INDEX

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ABACO BONEFISHING CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

To see the selection of beautifully tied flies I have agreed to try out on Abaco, click HERE

You can see the results of the challenge (hint: not good!) HERE

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A demonstration of catch and release without touching the fish at all

 

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OUTSTANDING VIDEO FOOTAGE FROM THE BONEFISH AND TARPON TRUST ON RECENT RESEARCH INTO BONEFISH SPAWNING AGGREGATIONS

Best Practices For Catch & Release Fishing For Bonefish

Although catch & release fishing is a valuable conservation tool that can lead to more and bigger fish in the fishery, just because a fish swims away doesn’t mean that it lives to be caught another day. The tips below for increasing the chances that a released fish survives are based on scientific research focused on experimental angling for bonefish. Be a responsible angler – use Best Practices for Bonefish Catch & Release

Hooks

Hooking location and time to remove hooks affects survival rates.

  • Always use barbless hooks.
  • When fishing with bait, use circle hooks.

Handling

Minimize handling all fish; slime and scales can be easily damaged and removed with excessive handling, thereby greatly increasing risks of infection. In addition, Recent research has shown that mechanical lip gripping devices can cause damage to mouth tissue if the bonefish struggles, so their use is best avoided.

  • If you have to handle a bonefish, use clean, wet hands and gently support the bonefish from beneath the head and belly; nets, mechanical lip gripping devices, and wet cloths can cause injury to the fish, use only with great care
  • Use hemostats or pliers to quickly remove hooks while keeping the fish in the water, and have your pliers ready and available to facilitate a quick release.
  • Avoid exposing bonefish to air, even when taking a photo; if they must be held out of the water, limit it to a maximum of 15 seconds.
  • Touching the gills can cause damage and impair the ability of a bonefish to breathe
  • If lip gripping devices are used, it’s best to use them only to restrain a calm fish in the water while removing the hook; if a fish’s weight is desired, cradle the bonefish in a sling and suspend the sling from the device.

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