Pursuing Wintertime Bonefishing
by Capt. Barry Hoffman
(page 3)

One of the best ways to catch bonefish is on light tackle with live shrimp.  Iíll use a seven foot fast action rod. Attached to it, a spinning reel with a line capacity of about 200 yards of ten pound test.  The last twenty inches of line is doubled with a Bimini Twist.  To this end a 2/0 hook is tied. I suggest using a Mustad freshwater hook #33637B. Itís a thin wire hook that will rust out quickly in the salt should you loose a bonefish to the bottom. The drag should be a very smooth one. These fish are capable of a long sustained run. The drag must be up to the task. When using live shrimp as a bait for bonefish, it is important to remove the tail before placement of the hook. In hooking the shrimp Iíll enter the open area where the tail was removed. Then Iíll thread the shrimp on the hook about the length of the shank. This is the point where Iíll come out of the bottom of the shrimp, pull the hook out until the hook eye is just inside the shrimp. Then Iíll turn the hook over and replace it up into the shrimp so that the point just sticks out of the top of the body of the shrimp.  At this point Iíll crush the head.

There are two reasons for rigging the shrimp this way.  The first reason is to prevent the shrimp from spinning in the water upon retrieving it. Most times it will be important to manipulate the shrimp in order to get it in front of the moving school of bonefish. Having the tail attached would cause the shrimp to spin while retrieving line. This would put unnecessary twist in your line making it tougher to cast. Youíve already got enough to worry about with these fish!  In addition sometimes it is necessary to hop the shrimp a bit to get their attention should the fish change its direction. With the tail removed the shrimp could move naturally (backwards) as though itís trying to escape. Another plus to removing the tail of the shrimp and squeezing the head, it provides the addition of scent through the open wound. Many times it is the smell that will turn the head of a bonefish to track its prey upcurrent.

If youíre more of a flyfishing masochist, like myself (the wind is a constant companion this time of year), here are a few suggestions for flies to throw.  Capt. Bob Rodgers -- a Tavernier based guide --  uses a Chernobyl shrimp pattern for the majority of his wintertime bonefishing. The larger profile of this Tim Borski fly sinks slower and may more closely imitate a shrimp.  Iíll use a bonefish slider pattern with an epoxied head.  The profiles of these flies are at about two to two and a half inches in length. Give Ďem something to find and to feed on.  When the fish are moving at a more brisk pace, itís time to get your stripping hand in high gear and keep up with them. Often, theyíll over-run the fly. Keep ahead of the fish or at least even with them. A fly sitting on the bottom will be quickly overlooked.

Donít let the winter time weather stop you from pursuing these tremendous gamefish. Bundle up and get out on the water. The bones have migrated north for the Winter, but theyíve had a layover in the Upper Keys.

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You can contact Capt. Barry Hoffman at:

Phone: (305) 852-6918
Email: guide@flatsguide.com
Or, visit his Web site
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