More About Big Bonefish…

  • By: Chico Fernandez
Chico bonefish.jpg

By Chico Fernandez

Big bonefish? Think of these fish as a different animals than any small bonefish you’ve taken? There is a sharper sense of awareness in these fish and for you to have a good chance it’s going to require casting skills in the wind, good accuracy and yet, a delicacy of presentation. “And there are no margin for error, no freebies, you earn every fish,” says Sandy Moret of Florida Keys Outfitters, the top fly-shop in the Florida Keys.
The fact is that you often get one shot, maybe two, and after that, you are false-casting and the fish is leaving. Think of it as a larger version of technical trout fishing. It’s great fun. And when you hook up, the emotions can be overwhelming.

Most flies for these big fish are a size or two larger than the rest of the bonefish world, with most flies falling between a size 2 and 1 and even size 1/0s. As a matter of fact, most of these flies double for a good redfish fly. In the Islamorada, Florida, area, most flies are extra large. Capt. Dave Denkert uses mostly flies imitating toads in size 2s and 1s. And Capt. Tim Klein, who has won more bonefishing tournaments than any other guide (and that’s saying a lot), mostly uses big shrimp and toad patterns  in 2s, 1s and even 1/0! “These fish want a big mouthful” Tim often tells me, and who is going to argue with his record? As a matter of fact, the largest bonefish I’ve ever taken, caught in Islamorada, was an estimated 14 pounds tailing in a foot of water and was taken with one of Tim’s big size 1 shrimp patterns. It was a windy overcast day 6 years ago, and I still get chills when I think of it.

But Sandy Moret, who has also won many tournaments as an angler, and Capt. Steve Hoff, are bigger fans of a crab patterns, weighed depending on water depth. Personally, I’ve taken some very large bones on crab patterns like Merkins and Tim Borski’s Crab Critter, mostly in size 2s. And it’s my favorite bonefish fly in the Ocean Reef area, located between Islamorada and Miami in upper Key Largo.

In Miami, Capt. Bob Branham is also famous for only using one fly pattern for bonefish, a brown epoxy shrimp pattern, in different weights; he’ll use no other fly. I’m just giving you the facts.

The standard bonefish outfit for the Keys and Miami has always been an 8- and often a 9-weigh, because the flies are big and often weighted. And that is still true. But in the last few years, some of us prefer to go to a 7-weight and smaller flies on flat calm days.

Any good reel with 200 yards of 20-pound backing will do the job. And a leader from 9- to 12-feet depending on wind conditions is ideal. In tippet, most anglers use 12-pound test. But when I use the 7-weight, I may go to 10-pounds, and Sandy Moret will even fish 8-pound tippet with the lighter rods.

Raingear should always be in your tackle bag. It can rain at any time, you never know. Besides, often it can get cold in the winter months, or in summer during a thunderstorm. A hat or cap with a dark under brim to cut glare and good polarized glasses in a warm color, even a spare in yellow for low visibility day and early and late in the day is also great. A large Cuban sandwich for lunch is not strictly necessary, but it’s encouraged.

Ultimately, fishing for big bonefish is not a numbers game. But instead, it’s about going out and trying to catch one big fish, that’s all. You may be lucky and take a few bones in one day, it’s done daily in the golden of Biscayne Bay and the Florida Keys area, but mentally, is about looking for one fish, and I like it like that.

Capt. Andy Thompson 305.246.4669 – Keys and Miami.
Capt. Tim Klein – 305.304.3024 -- Biscayne Bay and Islamorada.
Capt. Dave Denkert: cell 305.393.5134. Biscayne Bay and Keys.
Bob Branham: 954-370-1999 – Biscayne Bay, Miami.
Capt. Steve Huff – 239.695.2397 – Florida Keys and Everglades.
Capt. Andy Thompson 305.246.4669 – Keys and Miami
Capt. Tim Klein – 305.304.3024  -- Biscayne Bay and Islamorada.
Sandy Moret / Florida Keys Outfitters. 305- 664- 5423