Bonefish Fish Identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Renowned by anglers for their wariness and fighting spirit, bonefish are stealthy and speedy residents of the shallow bays, inshore marine waters. As adults, they frequent shallow flats, occupying seagrass beds, sandy bottoms, and, occasionally, hard bottoms. They are often found in quiet backwaters along mangrove-fringed areas. They eat a variety of food, including small crabs, snails, worms, shrimp, and other crustaceans, as well as toadfish. They frequently feed along the bottom and, in the process of grubbing in silt and sand, may incidentally ingest plant matter. They spawn offshore, eggs hatching into ribbon-like larvae that metamorphose into fish-like form at about 2 inches and move inshore. Bonefish are a major target of sport anglers.
More knowledge about the fish can surely help you to increase your catch. Better knowing and understanding the feeding and spawning habits will make you a more successful angler and will help to catch fish considerably.
Bonefish – (Albula vulpes), also known as: Banana Fish, Grubber, Ladyfish, Phantom, and Silver Ghost. Bonefish is a common name for a fish belonging to either of two species of the family Albulidae. “Albula vulpes” is widespread in warm, shallow marine waters, and “Dixonina nemoptera” is found only in the West Indies. Worldwide, bonefish occur in coastal and inland waters of tropical seas.
The bonefish is silvery in color with bluish or greenish back; slender, round body, with a long, deeply forked tail and a single dorsal fin; it has a pointed head covered by a thick, transparent cartilage and a receding mouth filled with numerous small rounded teeth. Dark streaks run in between the rows of scales, predominantly on the dorsal side of the body. The dorsal and caudal fins have dusky margins. Bonefish have no spines. Juvenile bonefish exhibit a series of nine dark crossbands on their backs. These bands extend nearly to the lateral line, with the third band crossing at the origin of the dorsal fin. Bands four and five are found under the posterior base of the dorsal fin.
Dixonina nemoptera is distinguished by two long trailing filaments, one extending from its dorsal fin and one from its anal fin. The dorsal fin consists of 17-19 soft rays. The anal fin has 8-9 soft rays, the ventral fins have 9, and the pectoral fins have 15-17. There are 65-73 scales along the lateral line-none on the head. The sides and belly of the fish are bright silver. Parts of the fins and the snout may show a yellowish or dusky color. Also known as ladyfish and banana fish, the bonefish may reach 3.5 ft (107 cm) in length, and 18 lb (8 kg) in weight.
Habitat and Habits
The bonefish is primarily inshore fish inhabiting shallows of the Florida Keys, also found in shallows often less than 1 foot deep, usually over lush grass flats, occasionally over white sand.
Occurs worldwide in shallow coastal tropical and subtropical island waters around flats and intertidal areas, travels in loose schools; roots out shrimp, shellfish, crabs, and fish from the bottom. Bonefish are basically schooling fish. The smaller ones can be seen in large schools on the flats. The larger ones tend to form smaller schools or groups. It is a bottom dweller of shallow, sandy areas where it feeds on crabs, shrimps, clams, sea worms, sea urchins, and small fish that inhabit the sandy flats and intertidal areas. They are often seen rooting in the sand, their tails breaking the surface of the shallow water; an action commonly known as trailing. At other times they will plough the bottom stirring up silt and marl, known as mudding.
Bonefish forage primarily on the flats, entering shallow water on rising tides. While in motion, schooling bonefish travel at the same speed and at a constant distance from each other. When feeding, the bonefish disperse slightly from the school but will reunite if frightened, again traveling in a patterned formation. Bonefish do not always travel in schools, but may also be found singly or in pairs. Schools of similar sized fish may consist of 4-6 individuals, or may number in the tens or hundreds.
The bonefish uses its conical snout to dig through the benthos to root up its prey, which it crushes and grinds with its powerful pharyngeal teeth. Bonefish feed on benthic and epibenthic prey, often in water less than 30 cm (12 inches) in depth.
Bonefish spawning occurs year round. Sexual maturity is reached at two years and near ripe females may be as small as 9 inches (25 cm). In the Florida Keys, bonefish spawn in deep water where currents can easily disperse the developing eggs and larvae to other locations. Bonefish are less reproductively active during the hotter summer months, while spawning peaks from November through May or June. Female producing from 400,000 to 1.7 million eggs. The heavier and older the fish, the more eggs she will produce.
The eggs hatch into larvae called leptocephali, strange-looking, transparent creatures with large eyes and a ribbonlike body. Bonefish leptocephali look like tiny eels with forked tails. Although similar in appearance to tarpon larvae, bonefish leptocephali reach a larger maximum size of about 2.5 inches—although tarpon will far surpass bonefish in size as adults. The larval phase lasts from 41 to 71 days. When the larvae transform to juveniles, each individual looks like a tiny bona fide bonefish and will take up residence in the shallows, where it will spend most of its life.
Bonefish grow rapidly for 5 to 6 years of their life, after which their growth rate slows considerably. Males reach sexual maturity at a younger age and smaller size than females. Males mature at an average of 3.6 years of age and 17.4 inches. Females reach maturity at about 4.2 years and 18.8 inches.
Fishing Methods include drift, still fishing, plug, fly fishing or spin casting from a skiff or white wading on tidal flats, using shrimp, crabs, bait cats, plugs, spoons or similar baits. Most bonefish are caught in depths from 6 inches to 10 ft. (15 cm to 3 m). They are powerful and run very fast and hard when hooked. Tarpon and ladyfish undergo similar stages of development. As one might expect from the name, the bonefish has an abundance of bones (some of which are quite tiny), for which reason this fish is less popular as table fare.
Bonefish can be caught any time of day, tailing fish are most likely to be spotted in the early morning or evening. In the winter, bonefish
are not as numerous in the shallows, and deeper waters are a better choice for the angler. Live shrimp and crabs make good bonefish bait, but bonefish also respond to flies and artificial lures. They also can be enticed to bite by anglers chumming with chopped shrimp. Casting is another test of the angler’s skill; casting too close to a fish will send it scurrying, whereas a line dropped too far away will never get its attention.
Once hooked, a bonefish makes a mad dash for deeper water, often breaking the line on rocks or corals as it streaks across the bottom. Most anglers use 10-pound test line on bonefish.