Catching Bonefish In The Southeast Region With Capt. Jimbo Thomas


Capt. Jimbo ThomasSeptember can be a tough time to catch bonefish in the Southeast Region because it’s such a hot month, and bonefish aren’t like permit, they don’t like it super hot, so they’ll move into deeper water. The classic sight casting to tailing fish does happen on a daily basis, but it’s usually in the first couple of hours of the day before the sun has gotten on the water and really heated it up. By midday, the fish tend to be in three to five feet of water. 

The best days are rainy or overcast days when it’s a little cooler and the fish come out of the deeper water and up onto the flats to feed. You’ll also see them do that right after a rainstorm, when the rain has cooled the surface temperatures. 

The best fishing is from Key Biscayne all the way south to Angelfish Creek, either on the inside or outside flats. There’s also some good fish on the western shoreline of Biscayne Bay from Dinner Key to Turkey Point or even the Arsnicker Keys. 

The best spots are the Feather Beds, all the finger channels, flats and outside flats of the Ragged Keys south to Anglerfish Creek. The had bottom flats hold more fish than the soft bottom flats. 

Bonefish feed into the tide. They have a great sense of smell and see super well, and will move up onto the flats with the incoming tide and off the flats with the outgoing tide, so you’ll find them on the edges of the flats on a falling tide and in the middle on the flood. 

There’s two ways to target bonefish on the flats in my region: pole along and sight fish them; or stake out in one location usually around a sandy section of bar surrounded by grass. Both techniques are very effective, but I really like to find a good spot, stake out and chum with shrimp and wait for the fish to come to me. 

You’ll need a lot of shrimp if you’re going to chum, usually five or six dozen minimum. Position your boat up-current of the sand hole and a fair cast away. Then cut up six or seven shrimp into 1 inch chunks, or roughly four pieces for each shrimp. Toss those chunks into the sand hole. 

I like to fish bonefish on 10 pound monofilament. I like the stretch of the line when the fish makes a hard run or if it lunges when you get it alongside the boat. I’ll tie on a 12 pound fluorocarbon leader about 24 inches long and to that put a #4 circle hook. If the shrimp are running small (less than 4 inches), I’ll also put a ¼ ounce bullet weight like they use for worm fishing for bass on the leader just above the hook to give it a little better casting distance. 

Take the live shrimp, break off the paddles on the end of its tail, and then thread the hook down through the end of the tail, come out about a half inch under the tail, and turn the hook around the put the point back into the shrimp. That will make the entire rig weedless. 

If I’m fishing with a weight on the bait, I’ll cast it into the chum and let it sit, but if the shrimp are normal size, then I like to stand on the bow of the boat and watch for fish to come into the chum line and then cast at them. Bonefish are super spooky in shallow water, so if you cast close to the fish with the weighted rig, the sound of the weight hitting the water close by will usually make the fish bolt. Just make sure you cast up-current and in the general path of the fish. 

The spot where you broke the paddles off the shrimp’s tail will ooze out scent and the current will take it down towards the fish. The fish will be zipping along in the pothole eating all the chum and will eventually get to your bait. Once the line moves, the fish has the bait, reel to the line comes tight, lift the rod to put a bend in it and hang on as you learn why bonefish are one of the fastest fish on the flats.

Captain’s Tip of the Week #23 Bonefish - 2015
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