By Rusty Chinnis
sun staff writer
Bonefish are one of my favorite game fish. What could be better than wading a hard sand flat under six inches to a foot of crystal clear water and throwing flies to large schools of aggressive, reel clearing fish? Ask any savvy fly angler and the chances are that bonefish are one of their favorite fish too. You’ll find tarpon, permit, steelhead and rainbow trout on that short list. Why are these two-to-12-pound fish so sought after? After all they don’t jump, aren’t noted as great table fare and can be so hard to spot that they’ve been given the name "grey ghosts" of the flats.
Bonefish are highly sought after because they pose a great challenge to both spin and fly anglers and because they run and fight with an intensity far greater than their size. They inhabit some of the most beautiful places in the world and they "tail." Tailing is a result of their feeding activity. When bonefish are pursuing small crabs, shrimp, worms, juvenile lobster and other crustaceans on shallow flats they actually tip up as they feed, exposing their tails. There’s nothing more exciting than wading a flat and suddenly seeing a group of tails piercing the water’s surface, flashing silver in the tropical sun.
Florida is home to bonefish and close to some of the best bonefishing in the world. The waters from Biscayne Bay through the Florida Keys hold some of the world’s biggest and spookiest fish. Venezuela, Mexico and Belize are also great destinations, as are far flung ports of call like the Seychelles, Christmas Islands and the South Pacific.
Luckily for anglers in the United States and particularly Florida, one of the best destinations in the world is only a one hour flight from Ft Lauderdale. The islands of Andros and south Andros, in particular, are the largest and least populated in the Bahamas chain. These islands are known as one of, if not the best, location for large schools of big, un-pressured bonefish.
I traveled to South Andros and the Andros South Lodge in early May with my friend Captain Rick Grassett and a group of anglers from Sarasota (Kyle Ruffing and Jon Yenari) and Tampa. This was my third visit to the lodge and a departure from my habit of varying my fishing destinations. It spoke volumes on the quality and quantity of the local opportunities for bonefish.
During the week of fishing, I was able to fish with five different accomplished anglers including Grassett, Walt Durkin, Tom Cawthon, Robert Fisher and Ted Hagaman. We fished many of the creeks and seemingly endless flats south of the lodge, including the very southern tip of South Andros. We also explored the totally unpopulated western side of the island, marveling at the remoteness, where you can fish all day and never see another boat. It’s hard to communicate the experience of a 1,000-acre, pure white, sand flat punched through with a blue hole of immensurable depth. We crossed one of these scattered natural wonders, home to thousands of snapper, jacks, barracuda, sharks and sea turtles. It’s one of the many natural wonders that will keep me coming back to this part of the world.
Every angler scored multiple fish every day, even on the two days that posed challenging weather conditions. Although the fish weren’t as big as those I encountered in a trip I made here last November, a 9-pound fish topped the size chart and multiple fish were landed from 3 to 6 pounds. In addition to bonefish, fly anglers also landed barracuda, while Kyle Ruffing even fooled and landed a mutton snapper, one of fly fishing’s rarest and most sought after game fish.
While I haven’t fished for bonefish in destinations like the Seychelles or Christmas Islands, I have explored Venezuela, Mexico and Belize. From my experience and conversations with anglers who have traveled extensively, I think it’s safe to say that the islands of the Bahamas, in general, and South Andros, in particular, top most lists when bonefish are mentioned. For information of the Andros South Lodge, go to www.androssouth.com.