Trash On The Flats

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A Perfect Lady  Photo by Louis Cahill

A Perfect Lady Photo by Kathy Cahill

If we can fly fish for carp, why not lady fish?

I was in the Bahamas last month for a little DIY bonefishing. I love DIY trips. They have a whole different vibe from a guided lodge experience. I’m sure I miss some opportunities fishing without a guide. I may not catch as many fish, or as big a fish but I fish at my own pace and am a whole lot more relaxed. I appreciate a guide who works their ass off for me but it’s nice to just walk the flats, sometimes with my wife who doesn’t fish, and just explore.

This last trip was one of those and it allowed me to do something I really enjoy. Catching a few saltwater trash fish. On a guided trip there is always this pressure to stay on task and boat as many, or as big a specimen of what ever the target species may be. I’m generally curious about all kinds of fish and when I see something different, well, I just want to put a hook in it.

photoSome guys get really serious about it. They wouldn’t consider casting to a barracuda, for example. I think anyone who doesn’t enjoy catching a cuda on the fly is seriously missing something awesome. I get the whole idea of sticking to the program, and nobody loves catching bonefish more than me, but at some point you really don’t have anything else to prove. One more bonefish isn’t going to make or break you as an angler.

I caught a bunch of bonefish on my last trip but when I think back on it, those are not the fish I remember. I remember the cool trigger fish with their bright blue spots. I wish I’d had the camera when I caught them but there comes a time when that thing needs to stay at home.

I think about catching my first cow fish. I saw it on the flat and had no idea what it was. So, of course, I had to catch it and see. It was surprisingly picky and hard to feed. Once I hooked it it put up a great fight. A really cool little fish. It’s body is almost square and surprisingly hard. The Bahamians call them box fish and it’s easy to see why. My friend Ronaldo was very unhappy that I released it. Apparently they’re tasty.

The Fish Says Moo

The Fish Says Moo

Maybe the coolest fish I caught on the trip was a lady fish. I know! A total trash fish. The only other time I’ve intentionally fished for lady fish we were using them for shark bait. But this guy was awesome. The biggest lady fish I’ve ever seen. It put me on my backing and made several nice jumps. It left me wondering why we don’t target them.

I guess this fish was an outlier. If they were all like that there’d be professional lady fish guides. I checked the record books when I got home. It would have been a record in Florida. Not that I want to hold any record, let alone the lady fish record. That would be a pretty quick way to ruin any street cred I might accidentally have. Still, it was a cool fish.

I have a lot of buddies who are totally rabid about chasing carp. I think the first fish I ever caught might have been a carp. My grandfather told me they were a useless fish that was good for nothing but fertilizer. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching about a dozen of them on dough balls and whacking them on the heads with a croquet mallet. I dumped them in my grandfathers garden, thinking I was following instructions. For a great many years after that I think he considered me less than bright.

I guess my point is this. There’s a fine line between trash fish and sport fish, idiot and angler, and that line is always moving. If lady fish are the next big thing, remember it was my idea. If not, they do make excellent shark bait.

Read more on trash fish (HERE)

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Trash On The Flats

  1. I too love ladyfish and all fish that are not as glamorous. One of my favorite flats targets are barracuda – teeth impress me more than speed. A fish that can leave you with a scar before it goes back in the water (or cooler) demands respect. I was chasing big bones in HI and though unsuccessful, I was thrilled to catch some ‘cuda and very impressive ladyfish that showed me my backing more than once. Let others think they are trash, I treasure them and don’t need the competition.

    • Im with you. love Cuda. if you like streamer fishing, Cudas are basically the perfect fish. you can watch their entire demeanor change from passive to KILL and then they hit the fly so hard it stops your heart.

  2. My friend Norm Bartlett and his wife Sandy have held several world records on Ladyfish, from 2 pound class tippet up, caught in the Homestead Fl. area. For them that trash was worth IGFA world records. They are loads of fun on fly rod, but can make a mess of your boat, esp. the larger ones. You may find tarpon nearby around them, but also Flipper which is a tasty meal for our dolphin friends.

  3. I love catching ladyfish on the beach but the best is seeing my grandsons catch them. Their eyes get so big when those ladyfish run and do their acrobatics! Great fish to get little guys interested in this sport!

  4. The other afternoon, I went looking for reds, found none. What I did find was a procession of lady fish, hundreds of them leaving a feeder creek of the tidal marsh. It was heart pumping fast 6 weight action.
    When darkness fell I had stuck 6 caught 3 and saw backing on all of them, twenty to 40 yard runs with lots of acrobatics.
    Usually, when I go, I don’t go boning, or redding or carping, I go fishing and most of the best days of fishing and catching are conducted without specificity.

  5. We have the WR here on O’ahu…22lbs! Caught in Pearl Harbor, yes that Pearl Harbor! BUT, it was caught on conventional gear.

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