By Josh Cheong
Often thought of as a fly specific target, living in far flung destinations, catching your first bonefish might be more achievable than you think. After a couple of weeks fishing at the Cocos Keeling Islands off the West Australian coast, I've experienced just how exciting and effective chasing bonefish on spin gear can be.
Gear size will vary greatly depending on fish size and local conditions. Your standard bream setup of a 2500-3000 spin reel and a 2-4kg spin rod in the 7-7'6 range will suite small to medium sized bones.
If large to extra-large bones are present and a real possibility, it's worth stepping up the gear. Don't be afraid to bump up to a reel in the 4000-5000 range with a rod to match something in the 5-8kg range is ideal.
A quality braided line like Saltiga 12EX will allow for maximum casting distance, which is often required, and a long fluorocarbon leader is a must. Size again will vary depending on location, but I've experienced no issue running J-Thread leaders up to 20lb and mainline up to PE2.
Bones will regularly take small soft plastics. 2.5" Bait junkie Grubs and Minnows are ideal and allow lots of movement while fished slow along the bottom. Matched to a jighead in the 1/6-1/4oz range, good casting distance can be achieved without spooking fish with a heavy presentation.
Shrimp flies tied into jigheads (also known as fligs) are also an equally effective presentation.
Where and How to Fish
Bonefish can be found in a huge number of areas, from reef edges to turtle grass flats, even offshore, but one of the biggest appeals to anglers is the ability to catch them on skinny water flats.
There are some parts of the flat that will hold more bones than others and again this will vary depending on what part of the world your fishing in. If you’ve never fished for bonefish before it’s a great idea to get a days guiding or two to really help you hone in on the local area and avoid wasted days on the water.
Bonefish will move up onto a flat as the tide rises, leaving the safety of gutters and channels in search of food. This is a prime time to target them as they are much easier to spot in the shallower water. Bonefish can range from easy to near impossible to see depending on water clarity, depth, cloud cover and of course experience. They can appear as many things so don't just look for individual fish either. If you see movement, shadows or even just a grey/green smudge it's well worth putting in a cast as bones are masters of camouflage.
Moving slowly, quietly and scanning the water with each step will ensure you fish the flat effectively.
Bones have excellent eyesight and awareness, casting too close will often result in spooking fish. It's better to cast well ahead and past the fish, and then bring the lure into view, a series of small hops, or a slow roll is often all that's needed to get the bones attention. Pay close attention to the body language of the fish as some days they will want quite a quick consistent bouncy retrieve then other requiring a much slower pace with lots of pauses.
Once you hook up, enjoy the ride as nothing quite pulls like a bone.