Miami has monster bonefish, there’s no doubt about it. Here bonefish average 6 lbs and monsters over 14 lbs are reported caught every year.
But at the same time they are huge, these fish are very elusive, here you really understand why they are called the Ghosts of the Flats.
To catch a Bonefish in Miami you have to be very patient and either have a lot of skill if you are wading by yourself (yes, you can fly fish for Bonefish in Miami by yourself) or have a good guide.
If you have a guide, you have 50 % of the battle won. Your Captain will take you from flat to flat until you find the Bonefish, he will skillfully position the boat so you can comfortably cast and hopefully you can present your fly in a way that not only you will not spook him to another time zone but also convincing enough that he will inhale it and well, you know the rest…
If you are fishing by yourself you will be very, very limited on your possibilities but it is very possible to hook one indeed. Around Miami there are several flats you can drive and wade. Most of these flats are located either on the ocean side of Key Biscayne or South Miami. I started fishing for Bonefish 12 years ago and didn’t have a boat until 6 years ago and caught a bunch, but my fish catch increased dramatically when I purchased one after getting my Captains License.
In order to maximize the chances of catching one you should time your wading with (preferably) the last 3 hrs of the outgoing or the first 3 hrs of the incoming tide and (preferably) at dusk or dawn. During these stages of the tide and time of day is when Bonefish seem to be more active AND you can see them tailing, which is a BIG plus.
I have caught Bonefish at 12 pm on the last ½ hr of an incoming tide but this is very rare unless you have a boat and have the sight fishing advantages of the casting platform.
You will simply not spot the bonefish with the water over your knees unless you are very used to doing so and you have the sun way up above your head and no clouds.
Since you’ll be fishing early or late seeing fish in the water will be difficult if not impossible, what you have to look for is tailing fish or nervous water. You will be confused at first, the nervous water might be a ray, a school of baitfish, a great Barracuda or simply some current passing over structure. After a few times out you will clearly notice the difference.
Once you have spotted the bonefish you will have to cast to them. Here, the higher your skill the better chances of catching one trophy fish. If you want to catch one Bonefish you will have to practice quick accurate casting. Precision is a must and you have to practice.
Since you’ll be wade fishing, and you will go early morning or late afternoon on the tide level we previously mentioned, water will not be very high and you will be not be seen easily so you can get closer to them than, say at 3 pm with the sun in your head. A 50 ft cast is pretty average. Make sure you practice accuracy with a 12’ leader tapered to 12 lb and a heavy # 2 or # 4 fly.
I took friends new to fly fishing for Bones for their first time and they hooked one and other times I spent hours hunting and casting to tailing fish and all I got was the fin…
If you happen to have a friend with a boat or hire a guide, you will have much, much better chances to catch one as spotting them is easier and if the flat you intend to fish shows no sign of Bonefish, you can always move to another one. But remember, you will need to practice accuracy with a maximum of 2 false casts and presenting the fly 50 ft away with a heavy fly and oh yes, if its windy way better.
In order to be successful try NOT to cast as soon as you see a tail, wait, patience is a must. Read their behavior, try to see what he/they are doing and to which direction they are moving and once you have mentally figured it out, try to lead them by a couple of feet, DO NOT cast on their heads as they will spook, DO NOT CAST past them as the fly line will spook them. If they are tailing, they are feeding; so cast 2 – 3 ft in front of their projected path and let the fly sit in the sand, turtle grass or mud and then strip very slowly, as slow as you can strip until you feel a snag, or a bite.
Don’t worry you will know immediately if you have a Bonefish as your fly line will start peeling from your reel at previously unheard-of speed. The other thing that will move real fast is your initial smile into a scared grin when you see the last few yards of backing coming out and you are trying to decide what to do.
Do not panic, you have made sure before coming to Miami that your reel on your 8 or 9 weight rod has at least 200 yards of 20 lb backing and this fish will probably stop soon. And stop he will and turn 360 degrees around and charge you while you are reeling like a madman and your fingers hurt and you are sweating in 90 degrees and you know, you are scared you are going to loose him, loose the Kodak moment of your life, and your bragging rights, and your manhood in front of your friends, and so on…
But miracles happen and you just reeled the last 10 ft of fly line and the leader is into your tip top and this Bonefish of a lifetime is 3 ft away looking at you with anger is his eyes until finally you grab him, kiss him and feel sublime as you carefully let him go….
Tight lines, Martin