Bonefishing Facts

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Bonefishing Facts

Why is it called the Bonefish?

They are named Bonefish because of the number of tiny little bones in their body. There are so many of them that eating them is difficult, and this is why Bonefish hunting is a catch-and-release exercise rather than catching them for food. However, in Hawaii, Bonefish are eaten.

What is the average lifespan of a Bonefish

Bonefish live longer than 19 years and may live to be over 23 years. They reach maturity at the age of around 3-4 years.

When do they spawn?

Not much is known about Bonefish spawning, but the spawning period is from November to May. The nurseries are speculated to be in the mangroves, where the eel-shaped larvae live and where they eventually mature into the fish form.

How big do they grow?

Bonefish have been known to grow up to three feet! When they reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-4 years, they are usually around 17-18 inches in length, and they keep growing throughout their lives.

In the Caribbean and Western Atlantic ocean, the fish may grow up to 31 inches, and can weigh around 13-14 pounds. Hawaiin and African Bonefish can be up to 20 pounds in weight! However, the fish in the Bahamas or Florida are considered large if they weigh over 8 pounds, with the average ranging from 4 to 6 pounds.

What are its eating habits?

A Bonefish eats small crustaceans like crabs and shrimp, small molluscs, worms, and some fish, which it digs out with its elongated snout. It has ‘pharyngeal teeth’ located at the back of its throat so the prey is held down with the nose while the fish aligns its mouth with the prey. The prey is then taken into the mouth, felt for edibility, and crushed in the throat.

What is the typical Bonefish school size?

Depending on the age and size of the fish, Bonefish schools can consist of 40 to 400! These fish rely on numbers when they are younger and smaller, but as they grow, the dependence on a group becomes lesser, and the school becomes smaller and smaller.

Are Bonefish an endangered species?

While currently Bonefish are not considered endangered, it is difficult to predict the long-term status of these mysterious animals. Because of their long lifespan, it is not known whether the numbers are being replaced with younger fish or not. This is why, while Bonefishing is not restricted, it is advisable to practice proper catch-and-release procedures in order to maximise the chances of the fish surviving after the tiring and stressful fight.

What is the habitat of the Bonefish?

Bonefish are primarily shallow water fish that are found near coasts, inter-coastal flats, in the mangroves, around mouths of rivers and the deeper waters that are found around such places. They prefer warmth and generally move closer to the shore, where the water is warmer, in the winters. Bonefish have a lung-like bladder in which they suck in air, and that helps them breathe in the shallow, low-oxygen waters of the coasts and mangroves. They move with the tides, swimming into deeper waters when the tide is low, and returning back when it is high. Older Bones, however, tend to stay in the deeper waters, coming coast-wards only in autumn, when the temperatures start dropping.

What is Bonefish Tailing?

Bonefish eat by holding the prey down with their mouths and grabbing on to them. The prey is crushed with pharyngeal teeth located at the base of the throat. In order to hold prey down, they use the weight of their body. This means they are effectively standing on their nose, and in shallow water, this means that the tail comes above the surface. This is an indicator that the fish is feeding, or trying to.

Why do we use longer, slower strips instead of the trout strike when Bonefishing?

Bonefish do not bite their prey with their mouths like trouts. They hold the prey down with their nose and grab them. The prey is then taken into their throat where they crush it with their pharyngeal ‘teeth’. If you use a trout strike on a Bonefish, the prey will simply fly out of the fish’s mouth, and up towards the boat, and will spook the fish as it is not normal prey behaviour. A long strip, on the other hand, will be a gradual movement and will get the fish on the side of the mouth. Additionally, if the fish has grabbed and missed the fly, a long, slow strip will make it look like more natural prey behaviour (scuttling in the sand with a pause to burrow in) and might just keep the fly ‘in the game’.

What is a Guide’s job in Bonefishing?

The guide’s job essentially starts with taking the fisherman to the spot where he is most likely to find Bonefish feeding. Since Bonefish are very well camouflaged and cannot be seen in the water very easily, a guide’s job is also to spot them and let the fisherman know the direction and the distance at which the cast should be made. If the fish is difficult to spot, sometimes the guide will also keep an eye out to see if the fish has taken the bait, and will instruct the fisherman on how to reel it in. Besides this, some guides will also teach novice fishermen in the intricacies of Bonefishing.

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