Holding Your Bone

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Kent Handles His Bone Photo by Louis Cahill

Kent Handles His Bone Photo by Louis Cahill

I watched my share of guys fight to get hold of their first bonefish and I remember being there myself. It’s pretty painful for everybody concerned including the fish.

They aren’t trout and nothing will bring that hone for you like trying to tail one. Landing them and handling them is really pretty simple once you know how. Here are a few tips for getting a grip on these slippery little guys without anybody getting hurt, even your pride.

I will not go into the best way to land a bonefish because I’ve done a post and video on the topic with the help of my buddy Bruce Chard. It’ll save you a broken rod so if you haven’t seen it click HERE.

Once you have the bonefish to the boat and the leader in your hand, assuming that you want to hold the fish and are not content to pop the hook out without touching him (the best practice for the fish), you need to get a good grip on the fish that will let you control him without injuring him. The best place to do this is just behind the pectoral fins and gill plates. The bonefish is pretty firm here and not so tapered so you can get a grip without him immediately squirting out of your hand like a bar of soap. Kent is doing a good job in this photo. You don’t need a death grip. Like any fish, the harder you squeeze him the more he will struggle.

If the fish is too green to hold for a quick photo without him leaping out of your hands and flopping around on the deck there are a couple of things you can do to settle him down. Start by rolling him over so he’s belly up. This disorients the fish and calms him down. I don’t know why, it would freak me out but it works. The other trick is to hold him gently under the water and stroke the flat spot on top of his head. This almost puts them to sleep. If you must, you can make the obvious joke about stroking your bone to go to sleep but your guide has heard it, I promise.

Here’s another thing Kent is doing right in this photo that may not be obvious. You never want to keep fish out of the water unnecessarily, but in this case lifting the fish out of the water is smart. If there are sharks or barracuda around, and there often are, it’s a bad idea to hold a fish thrashing at the surface. I’ve had sharks come out from under the boat after fish and it’s no fun. Keep your eyes pealed and know when it’s smart to lift the fish out of the water.

It always kills me to see an angler new to bonefishing, grinning ear to ear, with a huge slime print on his shirt. Nobody will say anything because they don’t want to spoil your moment but that slime belongs on the fish not your flats shirt. It’s their protection from harmful bacteria. Hugging them does not show that you love them.

I may catch flack from some folks for telling you it’s OK to take your fish out of the water for a photo but let’s be realistic, we all do it. Since its going to happen, let’s be smart about it. Get control of your fish before you take it out of the water so you don’t waste time getting him under control, or worse, drop him on his head. Make sure your buddy with the camera is ready and not trying to figure out his exposure while the fish is gasping for air and count in your head. Give yourself ten seconds for the photo then get the fish back in the water. If you missed it, you can try again after he’s had a breath. If you’ve got a shark all hot and bothered near by, don’t screw around. Get that fish back in the water quickly and quietly on the far side of the boat so he can get to safety.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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15 thoughts on “Holding Your Bone

  1. Pingback: Some practical advice from G&G — Bonefish on the Brain

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  4. Pingback: Tips For Holding Your Bone / Quelques conseils pour bien tenir son Bone – On The Fly

  5. When you bring the Bone to you, flip it upside down until you’re ready to lift it up for a quick pic. Holding it upside down will have a calming affect on the Bonefish.

    I just did this last Saturday in the Riviera Maya and it works very well.

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