Bone Fishing in the Bahamas

Photograph of Bonefishing in the BahamasInside the reef, before you reach the deep waters of the ocean where glamorous, deep-water sportfish hog the limelight, there’s a second, very exciting sporting opportunity – bonefishing. The elusive bonefish, often called the ghost fish, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular sportfish on the islands. Until quite recently, bonefishing was almost unheard of among mainland anglers. Today, people from around the world flock here in search of this hard-fighting denizen of the flats.

Bonefish, so named for the huge numbers of bones in their bodies, live in deep water and come up onto the flats to feed. That’s where you’ll have to go to find them. Unlike most deep-water sportfish, they offer not only a good fight, but the thrill of a hunt as well.
h Bonefish, like deer, must be stalked, and they are just as skittish. Make a wrong move at the wrong time and your quarry will be gone in a flash, leaving you standing alone in the water, totally frustrated, and wondering what went wrong.

Bonefish are not very big. They weigh in around six to 15 pounds, with some growing as large as 20 pounds.

You’ll need a guide who knows the area and where the best flats are found. Many hotels offer bonefishing packages that include the services of a reliable and experienced guide. If not, don’t be afraid to ask. The hotel desk is the best place to start, but many taxi drivers know just who to put you in touch with. Most boat rental companies and dive companies will also know of someone.

Bonefishing is good almost everywhere in the islands, from Abaco to the Acklins, and from Bimini to Eleuthera. Unlike most other sportfishing, it is good throughout the year. There are a number of ways to go about it. It’s claimed that in some areas bonefish can be caught from the dock, or by casting into the surf, or from a skiff. But the best way is to hunt them down on foot on the lonely flats of the Out Islands. This is where your guide will earn his fee. He will know where to go, what bait to use – fly or jig – and he’ll guide you through the basics of how to fish for the ghost.

Bonefish come up onto the flats in schools and can be seen first in the near distance as a dark stain in the crystal-clear water above the white sandy bottom, then as a vast, surging ripple on the surface of the water as maybe a hundred fish move like a flock of birds, this way and that, across the flats, tails cleaving the water. Then you see them, shadowy gray streaks flashing over the white sand, ghostly, moving fast.

To hunt bonefish, move slowly, disturbing the water as little as possible. Keep your eyes on the school, not on the sandy bottom beneath your feet. Take one step at a time, until you’re close enough to try a cast. Aim tour fly or jig close to the center of the school. If you’re lucky, there’s a slight tug, then a stronger one, and the surface of the water explodes in a frenzy of white water and struggling fish; and he’s off like a runaway horse leaving you hanging on to your rod, reel screaming, spinning, as 150 yards of line disappears seaward in what seems less than a second. Then he turns, heads in another direction as you wind in frantically to take up the slack, beginning to reel him in, fighting every inch of the way.
Bonefishing guides cost about $250 for a full day, or $150 for a half-day. Bring food and beverage. If you don’t have your own gear, your guide can supply everything you need.

If you’ve never bonefished before, the best way is to purchase one of the packages offered by many of the islands’ hotels. These require only that you bring yourself and a willingness to do as you’re told. You can expect to spend anywhere from $350 for a three-night stay, to more than $2,000 for seven nights in a luxury accommodation (see individual sections for specific details).

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Getting There:

For visitors arriving by air, the Bahamas are served through Nassau by most US airlines and by international airlines from Canada and Europe, and to a slightly more limited degree through Freeport.

The Out Islands are served mainly by Bahamas Air via connections in Nassau and Freeport.

The Bahamas is also a major destination for the cruise ship industry

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