Bonefish Release Technique
It’s common knowledge that bonefish are no good to eat; as their name suggests, they are full of bones. All Cayman bonefishing is catch-and-release. We all want these fish to be here the next time we hit the water; we want them here for our kids to enjoy just as much as we have. It’s up to us—the anglers—to keep our fish healthy with proper care.
Good release practices actually begin before you actually hook a bonefish, starting with the fly itself. Barbless flies will actually hook more fish and makes releasing them soooo much easier. Worried about losing bonefish due to “thrown hooks”? Don’t: due to their rubbery mouths, bonefish almost never throw barbless flies.
Bonefish are not leader shy.
It was windy, too windy to be wading thigh-deep in cold water. I could clearly see the tails of bonefish on the shallow flat rising in front of me, but with the wind in my face I had better odds of being beaned by a coconut than actually getting one of them to see my fly. Still, I’d come here to try. My first few casts were tentative, feeling out the situation. Not good: the line piled up about halfway to the fish, which fed on oblivious of my presence. I tried harder, keeping my cast low and really muscling it into the rising morning breeze. Suddenly a small gust caught my cast and in an instant I was draped in flyline.
I raged at the wind, pulling lengths of line off my clothing, and false-cast hard again into the breeze. Bad to worse. The bonefish continued to feed on into the tide, easing farther away with each futile cast I made. My leader looked liked I’d practiced tying knots and my fly was fouled in a loop of monofilament which had wrapped around one eye, dragging the fly sideways through the water. Humiliated, I retreated to shore and left the flat in peace.
Bonefish: the Silver Bullet
Bonefish are strong, and fast. Pictured here are two hooks that were reduced to “not hooks” after an encounter with bonefish. The smaller hook is a #6 and the larger a #4, both stainless Mustad® 34007 models.
The larger hook was straightened after a 2-2½ pound bone wrapped the 14-pound leader around a sponge and left town. The smaller hook was left in it’s present condition after a long run by a 5+ pound bonefish. Even though the drag was loose, the sheer pressure created by the drag of 100 feet of fly line through the water was enough to do that damage—opening the hook and ripping most of the material off the fly.
So, if a standard saltwater hook—the type used in most high-end, commercial flies of that time—if that hook was weak, then what hook should I be using. I got myself a collection of hooks, a scale and a pliers and began testing. Here is what I discovered.