The Bonefish, Albula vulpes
Thick-bodied but streamlined. Dark back, usually greenish, and silver sides; pointed snout with underslung mouth; forked tail. A smaller and much lesser-known variety, the Longfin Bonefish, Albula nemoptera, looks almost identical, except for streamer-like extensions of its dorsal and anal fins.
SIZE: Common from 2 to 10 pounds; sometimes to 15 pounds, and possibly to 18 or 20. World record 19 pounds; Florida record 15 pounds, 12 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Although popular in the Bahamas and tropics, Bonefish are seldom eaten in Florida.They are indeed very bony; and too highly prized as gamefish to kill for, at best, a mediocre dinner.
GAME QUALITIES: Legendary for long-distance runs in shallow water. Strong, jack-like fighter in deep water.
TACKLE AND BAITS: For sight-fishing in the classic style, the most productive tackle is a spinning outfit with a light rod of 7 feet or longer and 8-pound-test line. Bonefish are also among the top favorites of fly fishermen, whose standard gear is an 8-weight outfit. Lighter fly rods get some spot use, if wind conditions allow, and 9-weight outfits are not too heavy for good sport. Live shrimp is the bait of choice among spin fishermen, but cut shrimp, conch (in the Bahamas and Caribbean) and crab all work well. Best lures are “skimmer” jigs, 1/8 or 1/4 ounce, with horizontally flattened heads that help keep the hook upright. Most fly rodders lean toward very small flies with monofil- ament weedguards on No. 2 or even No. 4 hooks, but standard streamers on No. 1 or 1/0 hooks work. In a less-than-classic approach, Bonefish can be caught by bottom fishing on deep flats and in channels near the flats.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing.
RANGE: The bonefish is a tropi- cal species and is seriously fished only in the south end of Biscayne Bay, Greater Miami and the Florida Keys—and also, of course, throughout the Bahamas and Caribbean. Stragglers are sometimes caught north of the preferred habitat, usually from the surf, although a few are taken from the Indian River. The Longfin variety is rare in Florida.
HABITAT: Bonefish do much of their foraging on shallow mud or grass flats, where they can be sighted and cast to.They also frequently gather in large schools over fairly deep, soft bot- tom, where their feeding stirs up patches of silt or “mud.”