Inshore Fish!ing Report
Beginning Bonefishing 101
Capt. Chris Asaro
Biscayne Bay, FL
Mar. 14, 1998
by: Jim Sawyer
I first met Capt. Asaro through the internet back in September '98. Chris is a Florida native and a full time Dept. of Interior approved Everglades National Park guide. He spends most of his time in the 10,000 Islands area and his 16' Roughneck skiff has been modified for backcountry and flats fishing with light tackle and fly fishing. Capt. Chris also guides on Florida's east coast and he decided that he was going to introduce me to bonefishing in Biscayne Bay.
I like to fish and I will go fishing almost any chance I get, but that doesn't mean I'm particularly skilled. I have always thought of Bonefish as being a little out of my league; kind of a fishing elite. Well bonefish are indeed something special, but this report is to let you know that the reward is well worth the effort and it really dosn't have to be all that difficult.
The preferred method for fishing on the flats is called sight fishing. The angler stands on the bow with rod in hand as the guide poles the skiff from his raised platform on the stern. When the guide spots the target species, the angler deftly casts the fly/lure/bait in the path of the ravenous fish who picks it up and the excitement begins.
Remember, I do most of my fishing from beachs and canal banks. An accurate cast is one that lands in the water and not on the shore. The real trick in my normal fishing is to cover lots of water and that means lots of casting, but you don't have to be real precise. Do you see a difference here? Capt. Chris had more of a challenge ahead than he was expecting.
Our first trip to Elliot Key was in October. Winter is not the best time for bonefish, but there are some fish available all year. Capt. Chris had picked a day with an early incoming tide and we were there right at daybreak. We tried the inshore grass flats first and then moved out along the beach. The fish we finally found were cruising North along the beach rather than actively feeding. This meant that you only had quick shots at each fish before they were gone. With my rusty casting skills and sudden massive doses of adrenalin every time a fish appeared, the bonefish were safe that day.
Fortunately Capt. Chris is a very patient and understanding guide. I not only didn't have to walk home from Elliot Key, but I was invited back to try again in December. The weather wasn't quite as good, a cold front had just gone through, but Chris found a few bonefish along the beach again. This time he had "Plan B" ready.
I know that everybody in the world knows about chumming with shrimp except me. Well remember, I fish artificials most of the time so this was new to me. Chris chopped a few shrimp into small pieces and tossed them down current from the boat. We then cast our lines, baited with whole live shrimp, just a little farther down current from the chum. The bonefish smell the chum and, as they swim up current to investigate, they find our shrimp first. It worked like a charm.
In case you don't already know, when hooked, a bonefish takes off in hyper drive and tries to wrap your line around anything and everything on the flats. You have to keep your rod tip high and as much line out of the water as possible. On light line, just the friction of the water during the run can be enough to break off your fish; not to mention mangrove shoots and sea fans. I was lucky and we finally landed my first bonefish. He may be small, but he was a lot of fun.
Now that the "skunk" was out of the boat we tried another trip in March. We started off chumming, but after a few small cudas we switched to sight fishing again. This time it all came together. Capt. Chris spotted the fish from the polling platform and pointed it out to me. The adrenalin rush was a little less intense and I managed to cast a shrimp far enough ahead not to spook him, but close enough for him to find.
When this fish took off with my bait I understood why Chris said I should have at least 200 yards of fresh line on the reel. He made two long runs and dogged it all the way back to the boat both times. I was fishing with a brand new Penn Power Graph reel and I was glad to see that the drag was up to the challenge. Chris weighed the fish at a little under 9 pounds and he tells me that he regularly sees them at 10 to 12 pounds. I was ready to go looking, but it turned windy and rainy right after this picture was taken and we had to call it a day.
I'm hooked! Bonefish are great fun no matter how you catch them. On slow days or when the kids are along chumming with shrimp will keep everybody happy and when I get the chance, sight fishing adds a whole new dimension to the sport. Either way you get those drag screaming runs. (Capt. Chris says it will be even better when I learn to flyfish...)
I really want to thank Capt. Asaro. He was determined to see me catch a big Florida bonefish and he put out a 110% effort to make it happen. I don't think he expected that it would take three trips to do it, but he made every trip an education. I now know a lot more about the Florida flats and fishing Biscayne Bay thanks to his help and patience.
If you would like to know more you can visit his internet site at <http://www.sightfish.net/> or contact him directly at:
Captain Chris Asaro
Chokoloskee, Florida 34138
941-695-2277 on Island
Email - CaptAsaro@aol.com
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