Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Scott's Bonefishing Advice: # 1 in the Series

#1... Use you legs both as a depth gauge and as a thermometer.

There is a certain depth at which bonefish are most often found. It may vary a bit, but at this particular depth, once found, they will continue to be found at this depth. Learn to feel and seek this level. Get a gut level feel for it. If you are not seeing fish because you might be too deep, wade to more shallow water and vice versa. 

Once you find fish, more fish will be found at that level especially on that stage of the tide. Usually it is around knee deep to mid-calf (see photos). It will be towards the more shallow end on a rising tide when they will push their luck (sometimes very aggressively especially on spring tides) and at the deeper end on a falling tide. But be aware of the type of terrain you are on! 

Undulating flats can allow bones to follow the deeper arteries into very shallow water. Bones will often tail in extremely shallow water if deep water is immediately adjacent. Sand bars, undulating flats, shallow crests of deeper flats are all areas that fish rely on to be in the shallowest water possible. 

Notice the depth is mid-calf. This is where this 9-10 lb. bone was found!
Remember bonefish want to be in shallow water. They want it, they seek it... the need it!  At high tide, they are literally in deep trouble. This is why they go to the mangroves or school-up at high tide. They won't spread out again until the tide has fallen to "their" level. Then they rarely follow deep channels or creeks. They filter in on edges. And when the tide rises again they seek the shallowest rivulets or just flooded flats where they can stay shallow.

Why do bonefish seek the shallows so single-mindedly? It is because they are designed to live in skinny water and have the advantage here. This is in part due to the slime that covers their bodies. In the shallows they can accelerate and reach top speed quickly without turbulence or ground effect. If you've ever paddled a canoe and hit shallow water you know what ground effect is. It makes it impossible to paddle any faster. It is the same principle that makes a plane hover over the runway before landing. Pilots call it the ground effect. The slime reduces this turbulence and allows bonefish to go fast in very shallow water. Hence this if their niche and where we find them. It is not an accident. Sharks and 'cudas struggle in very shallow water, but quickly gain an immediate advantage in just a little bit deeper water. So use you legs to gauge the depth and concentrate your efforts at this level. 

Also, use your legs as a thermometer. Get an idea of the temperature of the water you are finding bones in. If it is too hot, oxygen levels are too low and even if the water is appropriately shallow, bones will abandon an area. If the water is too cold, especially if the area is near deeper colder water, bones may move to more inland creeks and flats to maintain their metabolic abilities.

Notice the angler is looking back towards more shallow water and along the edge.
And speaking of your depthometers and thermometers, don't splash them. Learn how to move your legs forward at a steady, measured, quiet velocity. Your legs should be a speedometer too!

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