Targeting Bonefish In The Southeast Region With Capt. Jimbo Thomas

The flats of South Biscayne Bay from Key Biscayne to Angelfish Creek are the primary places to target bonefish in my region. In September, I like the incoming tide, either ocean-side or bay-side, depending on weather conditions.

There’s basically two ways to bonefish: stake out the boat in a stationary position and chum with live shrimp hoping to draw the fish into casting range; or pole over the flats and hunt them down. Live shrimp or small live blue crabs are the best baits, and the blue crab doesn’t even have to be live, you can put a half a crab on the hook, just something to get the scent into the water.

Bonefish feed using their senses of sight and smell, and will pick up the scent of shrimp or crabs for a long distance. They feed facing into the current, so expect to see them coming from down-current, although while poling you can see them in any direction.

In my area we get flats with hard bottom and with soft bottom. On the hard bottom flats you don’t see the fish mudding, instead looking for the tails or just cruising fish. In September we get a lot of high water on the new and full moons, so a lot of the fish you find are just cruising over the grass and you pick up a wake, flash or simple movement.

For fly fishing, I like anywhere from a seven to nine weight rod (we have some really big fish, so don’t go under-gunned) and anything from a Crazy Charlie, Pinky or Gotcha to a small crab pattern. Most of the time I fish a 12-pound fluorocarbon leader.

With spinning gear, you want 6 to 10 pound test, and I like to go a little heavier on the leader and use 15 to 20 pound along with a 1/0 bait saver hook. Shrimp or crabs are the best bait, whole, live, dead or in pieces, and if the current is flowing you’ll want to add a split shot weight to keep the bait on the bottom.

Just put the bait into the path of the fish and well ahead of it and let the bait sit. The fish will smell the bait and come to it. Our average fish are six to eight pounds with an occasional fish over 10 pounds.

In September you’re still into the hot time of the year so the best action is during the early morning and late afternoon. The fish tend to go deep during the heat of the day. 

 

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