Philly Brothers Score Big on Bonefish

By: Randy Morrow

Like many of our winter visitors in the Florida Keys, Ben and his brother Dan had driven south to escape the harsh winter weather. When booking the charter, they had asked about our famous flats fish – tarpon, bonefish and permit – the “big 3”. Unfortunately, recent cool weather had lowered the water temps below 70 degrees, which usually makes it difficult to find those 3 species. I explained this but told them I thought I could probably find a few tarpon. Otherwise, we would likely be targeting barracuda and sharks that are more tolerant of cool water. Honestly, I thought our chances of seeing bonefish were almost nil. After brief orientation on my kayaks, we shoved off at 7:30am into a light breeze and pretty skies, with tarpon being the first target.
First tarpon spot, nada. Second tarpon spot, zip. The third tarpon spot had one small school of fish who wouldn’t play. The fourth tarpon spot had about 4 schools of happy fish, but they weren’t rolling much in the cool water, so it was quite a waiting game to get shots. We did get a few blowups followed by three solid jumps from a hooked fish before he came unbuttoned. As we went from spot to spot, I had each angler rigged with a shark bait, but I didn’t see any lemons in the usual areas. With half of the 5 hour trip behind us and little to show for it, we went to a nearby lee shore to blind cast spoons and they each landed a barracuda.
The tide had flipped at this point, and we had a bright blue sky, so I suggested we anchor up and try to chum in some sharks. Conditions were nice, with my clients able to look down current and down light in about 24-30” of nicely moving water.
I tossed out some chopped frozen silversides and gave my guys a primer on presentation for lemon sharks. As I surveyed the flat, I saw a shape about 40’ away that I thought was a small cuda over the marl bottom. I told one of the brothers to chuck a spoon out there. He hooked the fish, and the run was far more than expected. He reeled the fish halfway to the kayak, then another long run. Still more reeling, and ANOTHER long run. As the fish finally came into view, Ben yelled “bonefish”! And as he brought the fish to hand, I saw 20-25 blue shapes zig-zagging all over the flat. Whoa! Bones!
I scrambled to re-rig both brothers with a 1/4oz white bucktail jig, gave them each a small bag of shrimp, and then diced up more shrimp for chum. We spent over an hour with dozens of shots and singing drags. When the dust settled, we had boated 6 nice bones, including one that I estimated at 7-8lbs, and pulled the hook on a few more!
If I can help with your piscatorial pursuits, ring, text, or email and let’s get out there!

— Randy Morrow, Kayak Fishing Guide | | 305-923-4643