Targeting Bonefish in the Keys Region with Capt. Randy Towe

Chevy Florida Insider Fishing ReportThere are three critical factors when chasing bonefish in the Florida Keys during the month of September: Tide, water level and wind. All three will determine where the fish are holding and if they’re moving onto the flats or off of them. September is a time of the year when we start to see some really high tides

around the new and full moons, so there can be a lot of extra water on the flats. It’s also a time of the year when we get some strong winds, so it can be difficult to figure out of the fishing is going to be best on the Ocean side or bay side of the Keys.

Over the last six or seven years, we’ve seen a noticeable decrease in the resident bonefish populations in the Florida Keys, and it seems to me like the fish have been more consistent on the Ocean side of the Keys. Our average bonefish is going to be around seven pounds, with fish up to 10 pounds or more.

The ideal bonefish conditions are a light wind with low, incoming water. The bonefish will push up on the flats and along the shorelines to feed on the incoming tide, and if we have an extreme high tide the fish will really get tight to the shorelines or get on top of the flats and root in the sand to create a large “mud.” As the water is falling, the bonefish are moving off of the flats and shorelines and into the nearby channels where they’re safe from the falling water.

If you get the low, incoming water early or late in the day you’re going to have a lot of glare on the water, so you’re more likely to see the fish pushing water or tailing. If you get those conditions in the middle of the day when you can see well into the water, you’ll often see the fish approaching from a distance and can watch their movements.

Some of the most consistent flats and shorelines include the areas from Tavernier Creek to the Channel 5 Bridge, the shorelines between Tavernier Creek and Snake Creek and the Snake Creek Flats (north and south). There’s also a series of flats between Snake Creek and Whale Harbor and then between Whale Harbor and Bud and Mary’s you’ve got more shoreline and a big flat out in front of the Cheeca Lodge-so there’s plenty of good areas to chase bonefish on the Ocean Side.

You hear a lot about anglers targeting bonefish with live shrimp, but in the summer months the crabs are more prevalent. Shrimp are more active and run in late winter and spring, but by mid-summer and early fall, a small blue crab is the main diet for a bonefish in the Florida Keys. You can buy crabs at any of the local tackle shops or catch them along the shorelines, and if you like to fly fish a crab pattern fly is going to be money on the big bonefish.

Hook your crab in the corner of the shell with a 1/0 VMC circle hook on eight to 10 pound spinning gear. Most anglers use monofilament, although some guys use braided line with a 10 pound fluorocarbon leader because it casts better.

As you see a bonefish or a school of bonefish moving across the flat or down a shoreline, try to position your cast so that it lands a good distance ahead of the school, and let the fish swim up to the bait. Don’t ever toss the bait right in front of the fish. The bonefish in the Florida Keys get a lot of fishing pressure, and if you cast near them, they’ll most likely spook off the flat and you’ll have to find some other fish.

The bite is usually soft, although a bonefish can tail-up and pin the crab to the bottom with a “thump.” When you feel the line moving off, reel until you come tight and put a slight bend in the rod and hang on. The first run of a bonefish is one of the most memorable moments in saltwater flats fishing, and it’s sure to make you want to come back for more. – See more at: