From most angles, bonefish are virtually invisible as they move beneath the surface of the water.
With bright, mirror-like sides that perfectly reflect their surroundings, they can evade the untrained eye with ease. The most basic truth of bonefishing is that you can’t catch a bonefish until you learn how to spot one. Fortunately, this is a skill that you’re certain to master after you’ve spent enough time out on the flats. Following are seven more tips to help you hone this talent.
1. Learn Where To Look For Bonefish
When fishing with a guide, your best bet is to follow the directions of this far more seasoned bonefisher to the letter. He’ll be able to point you to fish feeding in shallow waters and bonefish swimming at greater depths until you become adept at finding them yourself. In addition to this, however, start scouting the areas that you can see. You want the ability to identify underwater features like sticks, coral and rocks with ease. If you can do this up to a distance of 50 feet, don’t waste your time scanning 100 feet out. The edge of this realm of visibility is known as your spotting distance. For most people, this winds up being between 30 and 50 feet. Spend the majority of your time scanning directly out in front of you in your spotting distance. You can spend the remainder looking to the sides and behind you, and scanning the surface of the water for signs of movement like tails, disturbances or nervous water.
2. Check For Tailing Fish
Tailing bonefish are ideal. They’re incredibly easy to spot and very easy to cast to. As bonefish search for food and eat, they usually have their tails tilted towards the sky and just up and out of the surface of the water. This makes them especially easy to spot in shallow areas. Dusk is usually the perfect time for hunting tails. As the sun dips lower, silver flashes of tail will be incredibly easy to spot.
3. Check For Shadows
Bonefish have reflective bodies and thus, their bellies can mirror the color of the flat bottom perfectly. One thing that bonefish cannot avoid, however, is their own shadows. While your eyes may not be able to spot a bonefish directly in certain areas, they should be able to pick out bonefish shadows. When you identify these dark spots, always be sure to account for the angle of the sun before casting. A bonefish is never going to be in the exact same spot that his shadow is in.
4. Look In The Glare
The water’s surface mirrors the sky and this means that there’s always going to be a part of the water that’s largely glare. While it’s good to spend the better portion of your time searching areas that are easy to see down into, you also want to spend a small amount searching the glare as well. To avoid missing fish that are active in the glare, take a minute to quickly scan the surface of the water in this area and when you’re able to, check down in the glare.
5. Use Your Peripheral Vision
When you’re in a moving boat surrounded by moving water, there’s always the likelihood of having fixed objects look as though they’re moving – especially when you stare at them head-on. One way to determine whether you’re looking at something that’s perfectly still is by using your peripheral vision to look at an object you know is fixed and that’s in the same basic direction. You can then gauge the movement of the targeted object by measuring it against the object that’s fixed.
6. Scan Right Where You Are
A lot of new bonefishers are under the mistaken assumption that being able to scan and cast far out is essential for success. In reality, however, there are usually a number of tremendous opportunities right in the near vicinity, and you certainly don’t want to miss any of these. Some of the easiest bonefish to spot are the ones that are either swimming right at you, or busy swimming away.
7. Bring A Good Pair Of Polarized Sunglasses
Polarized sunglasses work with the constantly changing angle of light to minimize glare and make it easy to see down into the water. With these, you won’t have to spend the majority of your time hoping to spot tailing fish, right near the surface. Taking a good pair along with you will also make it infinitely easier to spot fish in areas where the glare is especially bright. The right designs will additionally help you in scanning your peripheral for fish.