6 Reasons You Might Catch More Bonefish By Wading

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A beautiful flat on South Andros. Photo by Louis Cahill

A beautiful flat on South Andros. Photo by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Wading a beautiful sand flat on some tropical island, looking for bonefish is an experience every angler should enjoy.

There’s nothing like wading for bonefish, especially in a remote location where the angler can enjoy breathtaking beauty, solitude and the thrill of casting to un-pressured fish. Wading is not just a cool experience, it’s also productive.

I was talking about bonefishing with Tom Rosenbauer the other day and he made the comment,

“I catch most of my bonefish wading. I just see the fish better.”

That might seem counterintuitive, but I totally agree. While the height the angler gains standing on the boat helps reduce the glare on the water, it also puts the angler in a very different space. I’ve always thought the wade angler was more in touch with the environment and conditions than the boat angler, and therefore more attuned to where the fish are moving. Tom agreed.

This idea stuck in the back of my mind and as the day went on I continued to think of reasons that wading for bonefish is so productive. It’s not the first time I’ve hung up the phone with Tom and sat down to write about the conversation. That should tell you a bit about the man. Anyway, here’s my list of reasons wading for bonefish is so productive.

6 Reasons You Might Catch More Bonefish By Wading

1. Awareness of your surroundings.

As I mentioned, when you wade you are more aware of things like water movement, contours in the bottom, the consistency of the bottom and the amount of forage. Being in the water puts you in the same space as the fish and you begin to see the cuts and channels they use to travel and the places they might regularly hunt for food. You begin to anticipate their behavior and you find fish because you are looking in the right places.

2. You take your time.

A wading angler covers water more carefully. It’s pretty common, when fishing from a boat, to roll up on a fish and spook it before you even know it’s there. By moving slowly and searching the water methodically the wade angler misses fewer opportunities and those opportunities add up.

3. You are more focused.

While I enjoy the social aspect of boat fishing and the conversations I have with guides and other anglers, it is a distraction. When you are wading on your own you are totally focused on fishing.

4. You are stealthy.

Well, you should be at least. A careful wade angler can get very close to feeding fish. I am convinced that when we fish from the boat we spook fish we never see. Those fish might be caught on foot.

5. You use ambush points.

The wade angler must fish more strategically. When I wade I often find a point or channel where I know fish will move and wait there for a bit. If your timing is good and the tide is moving just right, you may stand in one spot and catch several fish.

6. You fish shallower water.

Bonefish love to feed in shallow water. Fishing shallow water works in the angler’s favor in a couple of ways. Bones are only in shallow water for one reason. To eat. Shallow water fish are in feeding mode. They are easier to see in shallow water, but that’s only half the story. A fish in shallow water can’t see the angler as well as one in deeper water. You can see how the odds go way up as the water gets shallower.

Is wade fishing for bones right for you?

Personally, I enjoy fishing from the boat just as much as I enjoy wading. They are different experiences but both awesome. No bonefish trip is complete without doing both. Some anglers like to wade because they get more fishing time, since they are not taking turns on the bow. That’s true, but I have always enjoyed my time in the seat. I see it as a learning opportunity. I also enjoy the teamwork that goes on between guide and angler. That’s pretty unique in fly fishing.

While there are a lot of reasons to get out of the boat and wade, it’s worth mentioning that there are challenges. Anglers who are new to bonefishing my not find wade fishing to be productive. Especially if they read wade fishing as, DIY. There is no replacement for time with a guide when it comes to learning the skills needed to catch bonefish. Wading with a guide is one of the best ways to learn and guides will often take struggling anglers out of the boat for a little instruction.

A final word of caution. While the feel of warm Bahamian sand between your toes is pretty wonderful, there is unfortunately a lot of trash in the ocean and there can be sharp objects hidden in that sand. I always recommend wading boots. Simms Zipits are my favorite.

Happy wading!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “6 Reasons You Might Catch More Bonefish By Wading

  1. I have only ever waded for Bonefish and I have always been one up with a guide. On my first trip to Kiritimati I was on a steep learning curve and I learnt a lot from the guide. I didn’t realise how much I had passed on to him about fishing until I was back for my second trip and he mentioned a couple of things he was doing which I had told him on the first trip.

    It’s not just the Bonefish when you are wading it is the whole ecosystem. I’ve had three trips to Kiritimati and have caught ten other species and 345 Bonefish so there is still a lot to learn. Looking forward to the next trip.

  2. And don’t forget if there’s two people to a guide; out of a boat you have one rod going at a time. Where as, wading both are cocked, locked, and ready to rock. As much as I like relaxing, watching, and taking pictures, I like sticking fish more… just sayin

  3. Not to mention that wading is just more fun! Especially when you’re out there with flamingos or roseate spoonbills, pelicans, turtles and rays and barracudas and sharks. The whole experience triggers the native predator species instinct. And then you’re so much more in tune with the hunt.

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