The bonefish, a species not often seen in our waters, has received special protection to conserve its numbers. The bonefish is now a catch and release species only. You may (hopefully with wet hands) temporarily possess a chrome rocket (bonefish) for a picture before sending him on his way. With a special tournament license you may temporarily possess a bonefish and transport it to a weigh-in site for recording and safe release.
South Florida and the Keys host the largest population of big bonefish on the planet. You can travel to all the famous and exotic tropical bonefish destinations in the world and catch large numbers of bonefish but typically these fish will average in size from 3-6 pounds.
Travel four hours from Cape Coral and you are in world class, big bonefish territory. Bud and Mary's in Islamorada looks over some beautiful flats where giant bones roam. These fish are smart and incredibly strong.
As a guide, I know to hire a guide when fishing new waters to save time and money. On my first guided trip to Islamorada I saw a lot of bonefish and caught a 12-pound trophy. The reel I was using held 275 yards of six-pound test line. On the fish's first run within what seemed like seconds, I had less than 10 wraps of line left on the spool. I was lucky the fish finally turned, and after several more long runs the fish was gently scooped up, pictured and carefully released. A-mazing speed and power, what a fish!
Head to the Keys this winter for world class bonefish action if you get a case of the "one more little trout" blues, this January.
Permit and both African and Florida pompano are also receiving a helping fin with increased protection.
From the FWC: In the past, there were no regulations for these fish in federal waters adjacent to Florida. The combined bag limit for Florida pompano and permit was split into separate bag limits, and the size limits for each species were changed.
The Special Permit Zone (SPZ) lies in south Florida, encompassing waters south of Cape Florida on the Atlantic coast and south of Cape Sable on the gulf coast.
The regulations for permit in the SPZ are more restrictive to protect spawning groups of permit as well as large permit that support the trophy fishery in the Keys.
The remainder of Florida (north of Cape Florida to Cape Sable) makes up the other area.
If you are an avid angler, add the permit and the bonefish to your "bucket list" for one of shallow saltwater fishing greatest thrills.
Closer to home the redfish bite continues to be strong and this past week the topwater plug is still my go-to flats bait for redfish. Pick a moving tide and wind drift the flats randomly casting in all directions. Some really big fish are prowling the shallows now and don't be surprised if a 10-pound bulldozer inhales your plug.
Don't get caught up in total shoreline structure casting. This isn't bass fishing, sometimes the reds relate to the shore and often times they are fanned out over the adjacent flats. This past week all of my topwater redfish hit 20-50 yards from the edge of cover in foot-deep water.
If going in shallow to hunt for reds look at a tide table first. If your promising spot is a foot deep at high tide is your boat capable of getting out when the tide drops? Probably not, whoops! Welcome to hours of insect torture, of the highest order, as you sit high and dry waiting for the tide to return.
Please don't tear up the bottom, it takes years to regrow. Pole, drift, troll motor.
Give other shallow anglers room, there are hundreds of miles of shorelines, please be courteous.
Manatees are moving to winter locations. Please keep an eye out while boating.
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.