Pursuing Wintertime Bonefishing
by Capt. Barry Hoffman
(page 2)

The winter time weather has another effect on bonefish. It is during this time of the year bonefish can be found in schools of fifty to over two hundred as they migrate along the shorelines of the upper Keys. The larger numbers of fish may be due to the cold water driving bonefish out of Florida Bay northward as well as the bonefish of Biscayne Bay southward. There are generally two schools of thought as to why they do this. One, it is simply a migratory pattern the fish get into to find a more tolerable water temperature. The second is that it is part of a spawning ritual.  Although very little is known about the spawning habits of Albula vulpes, it is believed these large schools may spawn offshore as well as inshore while on the flats. While on the move in these rolling masses, the release of the roe from a female, encourages the males to fertilize them while swimming alongside. This is known as broadcast fertilization.  Occasionally while releasing a bonefish, these large, pre-spawning fish will release their milt.

The initial stages of the life of a bonefish begin as the eggs are fertilized.  The fertilized eggs hatch into an eel-like and transparent larva.  These larva spend several months drifting in the offshore ocean currents where they reach a length of about two inches. At that time a unique process occurs. The bonefish larva shrinks to about three-quarters of an inch, then begin to form tiny fins. The bonefish will also change from its previous transparent color to silver.  The bonefish will then begin to grow again.  At this point the larva looks much like a miniature bonefish. Once they reach about an inch in length, they seek the safety of the mangrove roots where they’ll begin their life upon the 
shallow flats.

Back to the fishing. One important aspect to consider while fishing these huge moving schools is to find a point that the bonefish will have to navigate around while traversing the shoreline.  As the fish make their way up and down the edges of the oceanside flats, there are shallower points they will invariably have to swim around. Find one of these points, and stay on it.  The bonefish will usually reveal themselves by a surface wake as they move in mass.  They can be tough for a novice to detect. They are simply a pattern of waves that doesn’t match the conditions of the wind. Usually the larger schools will ‘push’ a large section of water as they move erratically across a flat.  These ‘pushes’ of water can be seen from three hundred feet or more on a calm day.  While fishing in these huge schools you may be able to cast over and over again right into the moving fish.  However, some days the fish are moving quickly and without want of anything placed in their path. Other days the fish are less hurried and more apt to take a fly or bait.

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You can contact Capt. Barry Hoffman at:

Phone: (305) 852-6918
Email: [email protected]
Or, visit his Web site
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