Its been so hardwired into our heads that bonefish must be caught on a fly rod, and while of course bonefish are truly a spectacular battle on the long rod, many overlook the fact that you can always catch them on regular ol' shrimp baits.
On a recent trip down to Islamorada, I hopped on Bud 'N Mary's marina owner Richard Stanczyk's skiff and we sped out into Florida Bay to try and find some bones.
Stancyzk was set up with some medium action 7-foot Star spinning rods matched with Shimano Stradic 4000 reels, spooled with 30-pound Power Pro. A 3/8 ounce egg sinker, 50-pound Spro Barrel swivel, then 3 foot section of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader to a 3/0 Gamakatsu freshwater wacky worm hook comprised the rig. Stanczyk fixes each hook with one live shrimp threaded through the tail, then a fresh dead shrimp on top for added scent. A five rod spread is sent out to cover all angles off the boat. Drags are set light so when the bone picks up the bait, he makes the run without much resistance, whereas the angler then picks up the rod and simply reels against him, not rearing back to set the hook, but simply reeling down fast and tight as the burning drag sets the hook.
During our 2 hour evening session, we went 6 for 8 on bonefish to 7 pounds on the Islamorada flats, plus got to battle a bunch of bonnethead sharks. Using live shrimp is a must to attract bones as Stancyzk believes its not necessarily the scent that brings in the bones, but the clicking of the shrimp retracting its tail that bonefish can feel and follow to find their kill. The fresh dead shrimp on top is the added attractant to make them commit even more to the scent.
Shrimping bonefish can be done anywhere on tropical flats from the Bahamas to the Keys and all islands in between. Don't worry if you can't cast a fly rod, the shrimp rod will get the job done for bonefish just as well!