Commonly referred to as – Bones!
Linnaeus first described the Bone fish in 1758, since then it has become one of the most famous sport/game fish species on the planet. Pound for pound they are one of the toughest fish in the ocean and especially challenging on fly gear. The name Bone fish can be translated into “White fox”, a fitting name given how cunning and stealthy the Bone fish actually is. Many similar names and descriptions have blessed this elusive species over the years with “The ghost of the flats!” proving to be a favourite of mine. Finding and catching Bone fish can be seemingly near on impossible at times but with this increasingly popular yet relatively new fishery being developed every day more locations are surely to be found and techniques perfected.
Bone fish can be located from as far south as Carnarvon in W.A. right up to the beautiful Kimberley region and across to the Christmas and Cocos Islands.
Female Bone fish mature at 23cm in length when they are around 2 years of age, they prefer to spawn during cooler months in deeper water where their eggs will be taken away on ocean currents to new destinations. This occurs every year. Bone fish can grow to 107cm in length and weigh as much as 8kg although most bone fish encountered in W.A. average around 1 – 3kg in weight.
Bone fish prefer shallow, warm, coastal waters with reef, weed beds, shallow estuary systems, lagoons and sand/mud flats with water depths of 1 – 10m proving to be ideal Bone fish habitat. Poor water quality is also something that the species can handle better than others with Bone fish being one of the very few that actually store oxygen in a lung like air bladder to compensate for lack of oxygen in the water.
Bone fish are bright silver in colouration with dark streaks prominent on the upper body, they have 15 19 soft first dorsal rays, 7 – 9 soft anal rays and 12 – 14 branchiostegal soft rays. The body is long and torpedo like with a conical shaped snout and a powerful forked tail. The mouth is underslung and similar to that of a whiting apart from the many small, rounded teeth inside.
Bone fish are full of bones as the name suggests and are very poor eating!
If they jumped they would have received a perfect 10 out of 10 rating! A visually stunning and powerful species indeed!
Ultra light to light spin and fly tackle is required for targeting Bone fish. Light graphite rods in the 3 – 5kg class with a length of 6 – 7’ matched with 2500 – 4000 class spin reels loaded with 6 – 10lb braided or gel spun lines are ideal. Around one rod length of nylon or fluoro carbon leader material should also be attached to the main line via a knot rather than a swivel. Fly outfits rated from #6 WT – #9 WT are also ideally suited to targeting Bone fish with clear intermediate lines joined to tapered leaders of around 9 – 12’ in length and around 8 – 12lbs in breaking strain proving to be sufficient.
Bone fish will feed on many small prey items from squid to small worms, crustaceans, molluscs and shrimp most of the time and although procuring this quality bait can often be time consuming and difficult there are more exciting and challenging ways to target Bone fish. Small soft plastic lures that imitate these prey items attached to light jig heads fished in a finesse style are very productive as are small shrimp pattern fly’s such as the crazy Charlie or shrimp fly.
Scan your intended location with polarised sunglasses looking for flashes of silver, this will generally be feeding Bone fish. Cast your light offering ahead of the school and allow it to settle onto the bottom before beginning your retrieve. Make sure your drag is set correctly and hang on Bone fish really are surprisingly fast and strong!
Rising tides are ideal for targeting Bone fish as they move up onto shallow areas such as sand/mud flats and weed beds to feed. Falling tides are best suited for chasing Bones in deeper water with soft plastics and baits.