Still Time for Bonefish by Kayak in the Keys
As I write this at the beginning of October, I have to say that I am extremely excited about what I’ve been seeing on the flats this summer. Bonefish. Albula vulpes. Lots of them. All sizes. It really has been amazing!
The winter of early 2010 brought unusually cool temperatures to the Florida Keys and south Florida in general. Water temperatures plummeted, and stayed low for quite a long time, causing a massive fish kill affecting many of our inshore species, including bonefish. The generally good bonefishing in the Lower Keys was over. Guides talked in hushed tones about how bad it was on the flats. And it was. It got to the point that I just stopped looking for them. We did get an impressive push of redfish for a few years, and that helped mitigate the shock of not seeing bones on the flats. But still, it was depressing. Bonefish had been a staple of Keys sight-fishing for decades, and they just weren’t around. Spring, summer, and fall are the best times for seeing bones on the flats, but the dearth of bonefish continued through the warm months in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
However, give Mother Nature a little time, and she will usually balance things out. The redfish population in the Lower Keys started to thin out and a few bonefish started to show up in the warmer months of 2014. Even more appeared in 2015. And this past spring and summer, the bonefishing has exploded! Even some of the old-timers, who love to talk about “the good old days” when fishing was better, have been impressed with the numbers of bones on the flats.
Another interesting thing about how these fish are reappearing is the fact that they are willing to come onto the flat early in the incoming tide, which is a real plus for kayakers. It’s much easier to see the “gray ghost of the flats” when the water is a foot deep versus 3 feet or more near the time of high tide. And maybe best of all, I’ve been seeing more and more tailing fish as of late. There are few things more exciting in kayak fishing than trying to sneak up on tailing bonefish and make a good presentation of your bait, lure, or fly!
One recent calm morning, two fishing buddies from Miami and I headed out early with our fly rods. Two of us were on kayaks, and the other was on a paddleboard. Within a half hour, we came across the stuff of legend. Dozens upon dozens of bonefish in water that barely floated our paddlecraft, and the fish were tailing like crazy! It was just after sunrise, at the end of a falling Gulf tide. We split apart and got to work. As the tide switched and started to fill the flat, the fish stayed around, and continued to feed. Well before noon, the three of us reconvened and compared notes. EACH of us had landed 4 bonefish on fly, and lost a few more to pulled hooks. Now THAT’s a nice morning of bonefishing!
As I said earlier, spring, summer, and fall are the best times to find these silver bullets on the flats. I’ve had good luck the last few years with bonefish in November. Water temps will dictate when the season for bones has ended; usually sometime in December. So get out there now and try your luck with this most exciting fish - a Florida Keys bonefish.
Randy Morrow, Kayak Fishing Guide
Facebook - “Lower Keys Kayak Fishing”
Member - Jackson Kayak Fishing Team
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