How To Catch Bonefish: Fishing tips for the Grey ghost

Kristian Ole

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Bonefish are a popular game fish known for their speed and fighting ability. They are found in warm, shallow waters and are highly sought after by anglers for their challenging nature. This article will provide an overview of bonefish and discuss the equipment, bait, and techniques necessary for successfully catching these elusive fish.

We will also provide tips for finding bonefish in their natural habitat and using the right approach to land them. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to try your hand at catching bonefish, this article will provide valuable information to help you have a successful and rewarding fishing experience.

Species Overview 

NameBonefish, Grey Ghost, Gray Ghost
Latin nameAlbula vulpes
SizeFrom 20 inches to 30 inches
WeightFrom 2 lb to 8 lb
Where to findAtlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans
Bahamas, Belize, the Florida Keys, and the Yucatan Peninsula
Preferred seasonAtlantic Ocean: Late spring to Early fall
Pacific Ocean: Late summer to Early fall
Indian Oceans: Late fall to Early spring
Best weatherSunny days with clear skies
TemperatureBetween 75-85° F

Gear & Setup for Bonefish

Best Place to FishShore, Boat
TechniqueSight fishing, Fly fishing, Trolling
Best baitCrabs, Shrimps, pilchards
Best luresFlies, Jigs, Crankbait, Spoons
Fishing rod length7 to 9 feet
Fishing rod actionMedium to heavy / Fast Action 
KnotsPalomar Knot, Improved clinch knot
Fishing line8-12 lb Braided line, 6-14lb Monofilament line
ReelMedium-Sized Spinning Reel or Baitcasting reel

On Record: Largest Bonefish Ever Caught

The largest bonefish on record was caught in Boca Grande, Florida in 1986 and measured 44 inches in length and weighed just over 17 pounds.

What Kind of Fight Should You Expect from bonefish?

You can expect a strong and spirited fight when you catch a bonefish. Bonefish are known for their speed and power and will often try to make powerful runs and jumps when hooked. They are also known for their ability to make sudden, unpredictable direction changes, making them difficult to handle. 

The fight of a bonefish can last for several minutes, and it can be an exciting and challenging experience for anglers of all skill levels. To successfully land a bonefish, you must have a sturdy rod and reel, a strong line, and a good fighting technique. With the right equipment and approach, you can enjoy a thrilling fight with a bonefish and potentially land a trophy-sized fish.

Where to catch bonefish

good location to sight fish for bonefish
Perfect spot at the Bahamas to sight fish for bonefish

Bonefish are found in warm, shallow waters near the shore. They are often found in clear, shallow water with a sandy bottom, as this is where they feed and hide from predators. 

They are commonly found in coastal areas, such as bays, lagoons, and estuaries, as well as in shallow flats near coral reefs. 

To find bonefish, you should focus your efforts on these types of areas and look for clear, shallow water with a sandy bottom. You can also look for signs of bonefish activity, such as tailing or feeding fish, as this can indicate bonefish in the area. 

When fishing for bonefish, it is also important to consider the time of day, as they are most active during the early morning and late afternoon.

Fishing techniques for Bonefish

PRO TIP

One pro tip for catching bonefish is to use a stealthy approach and try to cast your bait near the fish without spooking them. Bonefish are sensitive to movement and vibration, so it is important to present your bait gently and carefully.

This may require a longer rod, a softer presentation, or a lighter leader. It is also helpful to stay low and keep a low profile to avoid casting a shadow on the water. By using a stealthy approach, you can increase your chances of attracting bonefish and successfully landing them.

Sight fishing

FishingKris sightfishing for bonefish in the bahamas
Image: Fishingkris Sight fishing for Bonefish in the Bahamas

To successfully catch bonefish, you will need to use the right techniques. The most effective technique for catching bonefish is “sight fishing,” which involves spotting the fish in the water and carefully casting your bait or lure near it. 

This technique requires a good understanding of bonefish behavior and habitat, as well as patience and stealth. When sight fishing for bonefish, you should approach the fish slowly and quietly, and cast your bait or lure near them without making any sudden movements. You will also need to let your bait or lure sink to the bottom and then slowly retrieve it, as this will mimic the natural movement of a live baitfish and attract the attention of the bonefish. 

When the bonefish takes the bait, you will need to quickly set the hook and start reeling it in. In addition to sight fishing, you can also use other techniques, such as drifting or trolling, depending on the fish’s conditions and preferences.

Fly fishing

To fly fish for bonefish, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Choose the right equipment. To fly fish for bonefish, you will need a fly rod, reel, and line that are specifically designed for saltwater fly fishing. A rod with a fast action and a line weight of 8 to 12 pounds is a good all-purpose setup for catching bonefish.
  2. Select the right flies. Bonefish are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of natural prey items, such as crabs, shrimp, and baitfish. Choose a selection of flies that imitate these prey items and can be fished on the surface or near the bottom.
  3. Approach the fish carefully. Bonefish are easily spooked and will flee at the slightest disturbance. When fly fishing for bonefish, approach them carefully and quietly, using the natural contours of the shoreline or the boat to conceal your presence.
  4. Cast ahead of the fish. Once you have located a bonefish, cast your fly ahead of the fish and retrieve it slowly and steadily. Allow the fly to imitate the movement of a natural prey item and try to maintain contact with the fly at all times.
  5. Set the hook and fight the fish. Be prepared for a strong and sudden strike, and be ready to set the hook and fight the fish to bring it to the boat or shore. Use a steady and firm pressure to tire the fish and bring it to the boat or shore, being careful not to break the line or damage the fish.

By following these steps, you can fly fish for bonefish successfully and have a rewarding and exciting experience on the water.

Trolling for bonefish

Trolling is a technique for catching fish that involves pulling a bait or lure behind a boat. It can be effective for catching bonefish, but it requires some specialized equipment and knowledge. Here are the basic steps for trolling for bonefish:

  1. Use the right equipment: To troll for bonefish, you will need a boat with a trolling motor, a sturdy rod and reel with a fast action and a braided line, and a variety of lures or bait.
  2. Find the right location: Bonefish are commonly found in shallow, flat, sandy areas near grass beds and coral reefs. Look for areas where the water is clear, and you can see the bottom.
  3. Choose the right speed: The speed at which you troll can be important for attracting bonefish. A slow trolling speed of around 1-2 knots is a good starting point.
  4. Choose the right lure or bait: Bonefish are opportunistic feeders, so they will eat a variety of bait, including live shrimp, crab, and small fish. You can use these live baits or try a variety of lures, such as jigs, soft plastics, or crankbaits.
  5. Troll in a zig-zag pattern: To cover more water and increase your chances of attracting bonefish, troll in a zig-zag pattern, making sharp turns and changes in speed. Pay attention to your electronics, such as a fish finder, to help you locate schools of bonefish.
  6. Be patient and persistent: Bonefish can be difficult to catch, so it may take some time and practice to be successful. Keep trying and pay attention to the conditions and the behavior of the fish to increase your chances of success.

Fly fishing tackle for bonefish

Kristian Ole, FishingKris, holding a bonefish in the bahammas
Image: FishingKris holding a bonefish in the Bahamas

Fly Rod

The best type of fly rod for catching bonefish is a fast-action rod that is specifically designed for saltwater fly fishing. A fast-action rod is stiffer and more powerful than a slower-action rod, which allows for longer and more accurate casts, and better control and power when fighting the fish.

When choosing a fly rod for bonefish, look for a rod with a line weight of 8 to 12 pounds and a length of 7 to 9 feet. This line weight and length are a good all-purpose setup for catching bonefish in a variety of conditions. In windy conditions or when using heavier flies, a line weight of 12 to 15 pounds and a rod length of 9 to 11 feet may be more suitable.

In calm conditions or when using lighter flies, a line weight of 6 to 8 pounds and a rod length of 7 to 8 feet may be more appropriate.

Flies

When fly fishing for bonefish, it is important to choose the right flies to attract the fish and imitate their natural prey. Bonefish are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of natural prey items, such as crabs, shrimp, and baitfish.

Choose a selection of flies that imitate these prey items and can be fished on the surface or near the bottom. Some popular flies for catching bonefish include crab patterns, shrimp patterns, and baitfish patterns, such as Clouser minnows, Lefty’s deceivers, and Crazy Charlies. These flies are designed to imitate the movement and appearance of natural prey items, which can be effective for catching bonefish.

Experiment with different flies and techniques to see what works best for you on the water.

Fly reel

The best type of fly reel for catching bonefish is a high-quality reel that is specifically designed for saltwater fly fishing. When choosing a fly reel for bonefish, look for a reel with a strong and smooth drag system, a large arbor design, and a sealed or waterproof construction. These features will help to ensure that the reel can handle the powerful runs of bonefish and withstand the harsh conditions of the saltwater environment.

In general, a fly reel with a line weight of 8 to 12 pounds and a large arbor design is a good all-purpose setup for catching bonefish. In windy conditions or when using heavier flies, a reel with a line weight of 12 to 15 pounds and a larger arbor may be more suitable.

In calm conditions or when using lighter flies, a reel with a line weight of 6 to 8 pounds and a smaller arbor may be more appropriate.

Fly line

The best fly line for catching bonefish is a high-quality, weight-forward line that is specifically designed for saltwater fly fishing. A weight-forward line is designed to load the rod quickly and efficiently, which is important for making long and accurate casts in the wind and currents of the saltwater environment.

When choosing a fly line for bonefish, look for a line with a small diameter and a high breaking strength, such as a Scientific Anglers or Rio line. These lines are strong enough to handle the powerful runs of bonefish, yet sensitive enough to feel their delicate bites.

In general, a fly line with a weight of 8 to 12 pounds is a good all-purpose weight for catching bonefish.

In windy conditions or when using heavier flies, a line with a weight of 12 to 15 pounds may be more suitable.

In calm conditions or when using lighter flies, a line with a weight of 6 to 8 pounds may be more appropriate.

Ultimately, the best fly line for bonefish will depend on your personal preferences and the conditions you are fishing in.

Spinning & Baitcasting tackle for bonefish

When fishing for bonefish, you will need to use the right tackle to land them successfully. The most important piece of equipment is a rod and reel that is specifically designed for saltwater fishing. 

Bonefish are known for their speed and power, so you will need a sturdy rod and reel that can handle the fight. A medium-heavy to heavy rod with a fast action and a strong, smooth reel is a good choice. 

You should also use a braided line, as it is strong and durable enough to stand up to the fight of a bonefish. In terms of hooks and lures, you can use live bait, artificial lures, or flies, depending on the conditions and the preferences of the fish. 

Using a leader is also a good idea, as this will help prevent the line from breaking when the bonefish makes its powerful runs. 

Overall, the right tackle will vary depending on the angler’s specific conditions and preferences. Still, a sturdy rod and reel, strong line, and appropriate hooks and lures are essential for catching bonefish.

Reel

When fishing for bonefish, you will need to use a reel that is specifically designed for saltwater fishing. This is because bonefish are found in warm, shallow waters and are known for their speed and power. 

A good reel for bonefish will be sturdy, smooth, and able to handle the fight of a bonefish. A reel with a high gear ratio is also helpful, as it will allow you to quickly reel in the fish and keep up with its powerful runs. 

In terms of specific reel types, a baitcasting or spinning reel is a good choice for bonefish. A baitcasting reel will give you more control and precision when casting, while a spinning reel is easier to use and more versatile. 

It is a good idea to try out different reel types and see which one works best for you.

Rod

A good rod for bonefish will be sturdy, flexible, and able to handle the fight of a bonefish. A medium-heavy to heavy rod with a fast action is a good choice, as it will provide the necessary strength and sensitivity to handle the fish.

When choosing a rod for bonefish, a casting or spinning rod is a good option. A casting rod will provide greater control and precision when casting, while a spinning rod is generally easier to use and more versatile. Both types of rods can be effective for catching bonefish.

Fishing line

A braided line is a good choice, as it is strong and has minimal stretch, which will help you maintain control of the fish. Fluorocarbon lines are also popular among bonefish anglers, as they are strong, invisible in the water, and have a low stretch. 

Braided line

The best type of braided line for catching bonefish is a high-quality, low-stretch line that is specifically designed for saltwater fishing. Braided line is known for its sensitivity, strength, and durability, which makes it a popular choice for many anglers.

When choosing a braided line for bonefish, look for a line with a small diameter and a high breaking strength, such as a PowerPro or SpiderWire line. These lines are strong enough to handle the powerful runs of bonefish, yet sensitive enough to feel their delicate bites. In general, a braided line with a pound test of 8 to 12 pounds is a good all-purpose weight for catching bonefish.

Fluorocarbon

The fluorocarbon line is popular because of it invisibility in the water, strength, and sensitivity, which makes it a great choice.

When choosing a fluorocarbon line for bonefish, look for a line with a small diameter and a high breaking strength, such as a Seaguar or Sunline line.

Go for a fluorocarbon line with a pound test of 8-12.

Bait

Bonefish are opportunistic feeders, so they will eat a variety of bait, including live shrimp, crab, and small fish. The best bait for bonefish will depend on the conditions and the behavior of the fish, as well as the preferences of the angler. Here are some popular bait options for bonefish:

  • Live shrimp: Shrimp are a common and effective bait for bonefish, as they are readily available and closely resemble the natural prey of bonefish. Shrimp can be fished on the bottom, on a jig, or under a float.
  • Live crab: Crab is another common bait for bonefish, as it is readily available and closely resembles the natural prey of bonefish. Crab can be fished on the bottom, on a jig, or under a float.
  • Live pilchards: Pilchards are small, oily fish that are a favorite food of bonefish. They can be fished on the bottom, on a jig, or under a float.

Overall, the best bait for bonefish will depend on the conditions and the behavior of the fish. It is important to experiment and try different baits to see what works best in a given situation.

Lures

In addition to live bait, there are a variety of lures that can be effective for catching bonefish. These lures mimic the movement and appearance of live bait, and can be fished in a variety of ways to attract bonefish. Some popular lures for bonefish include:

  • Jigs: They can be effective for catching bonefish, especially when fished near the bottom or in areas with weeds or other structures.
  • Soft plastics: Soft plastics are artificial lures that mimic the appearance and texture of live bait. They can be effective for catching bonefish, especially when fished on a jig head or under a float.
  • Crankbaits: Crankbaits are lures that mimic the movement and appearance of small fish or crustaceans.
  • Spoons: They are commonly used for catching a variety of fish species, including bonefish.
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About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

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