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Wading in Caribbean for Bones

wading caribbean bonefish

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#1 wr1nkles

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 02:19 PM

Hi all,

 

My family goes down to the Turks & Caicos every other March for a week. Last trip (2017) I brought my 9wt for the first time to attempt some kind of DIY bonefish wading. I got a few books before the trip and did all the research on spots to hit. It was pretty windy that week we were there but I stilled tried to go out for a few hours here and there. Of course I didn't catch a fish...

 

The main section I was planning on fishing is called Flamingo Lake. It's long and shallow and looked like a wading paradise. The author of one book I got had fished here so I was sure it was going to be nice. When I got there, I was surprised to find it VERY muddy. I didn't even want to start walking in as I was afraid I'd get stuck, die and my wife would curse my name for all eternity.

 

So I drove down along the lake looking for a more solid spot but never really found it. This was just about as the tide was turning to come back in. I ended up finding a canal I could fish from shore, but was really bummed I couldn't wade that flat.

 

 

Anyway, I was hoping someone here with some saltwater flats experience could give me some ideas or tips? Are these flats possibly just muddy around the edges, and as you wade in get a more solid bottom? Are the flats more solid at a certain tide?

 

 

Anything would be great as we have another trip booked to go down there this coming March 2019. And I can't go for a guide because it's $1,000/day

 

 

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My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.


#2 mikechell

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 05:26 PM

In all my travels, one thing I've seen ...  Man screws up everything.  It's very possible that the beautiful flat you see in the picture is from before people populated the island and caused silting and pollution.  In which case, it'll never be beautiful again.

 

On the other hand, we've had several severe hurricanes tear up that area in the past few years.  It's possible this one can't be blamed on people.  Depending on currents, that bay might be cleared out and look like the picture again.

 

If Google Earth's latest pictures of the area are up to date, you might be able to see the conditions before you go.


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#3 Capt Bob LeMay

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 08:11 AM

Here's a pretty good rule to follow from someone that waded up his first bonefish (not on fly) way back in 1972 off of Key Biscayne... As a general proposition oceanside flats will be fairly hard bottomed - bayside flats will be softer... Of course finding flats without wind is something that you rarely find...  Make sure you're wearing some foot protection - put a few extra flies and maybe a spare leader or two in a plastic bag - up under your hat... and you're ready to go.

 

Bones down in the Caribbean are generally on the small side - so you might need that 9wt for the wind - but a lighter rod for the actual fishing - if you can find them... Since bonefish are always on every angler's wish list some places have lots written about fish - that aren't around very much at all - so you have to be a bit leery of what's published.  A definite hint that your island does or doesn't have good bonefishing is whether you find bonefishing lodges or guides in that area... Many, many years ago my wife booked us into Cayman Brac (not Grand Cayman) where the bones were so tiny they looked like finger mullet.. only one guide we could find - and his nickname was "money" which pretty much described his skill level... Cayman Brac was a great place - but not a bonefish place at all.... Who knew?

 

If it were me I'd book a fishing guide the first day (if you can find one that likes to take his anglers wading - all the better....).  It should be money well spent.  If there aren't any guides where you are - that might be a hint...  Lastly in places with no bones.. consider shifting your targets a bit - plenty of small 'cudas will shred a fly - the same goes for jacks, runners, and snappers...

 

One other point - if there are any docks where you're staying, particularly ones with docklights that make a green circle on the water... they're a prime fishing spot once the sun goes down.  Never know what might show up....


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#4 wr1nkles

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 09:02 AM

In all my travels, one thing I've seen ...  Man screws up everything.  It's very possible that the beautiful flat you see in the picture is from before people populated the island and caused silting and pollution.  In which case, it'll never be beautiful again.

 

On the other hand, we've had several severe hurricanes tear up that area in the past few years.  It's possible this one can't be blamed on people.  Depending on currents, that bay might be cleared out and look like the picture again.

 

If Google Earth's latest pictures of the area are up to date, you might be able to see the conditions before you go.

 

mikechell, that picture I attached is actually one I took on the trip. The resorts have hogged the leeward side, but most of the rest of the island is pretty barren. You can see the turtle grass in the foreground, right where it's muddy, but middle LOOKS like it could be more firm. I'm pretty familiar with the island as I've been there 5 times, but I still look forward to learn a little more each time I go. It's like the ultimate challenge. Knowing I'll figure it out someday, but I only have a few days every 2 years to put into solving it.

 

Here's a pretty good rule to follow from someone that waded up his first bonefish (not on fly) way back in 1972 off of Key Biscayne... As a general proposition oceanside flats will be fairly hard bottomed - bayside flats will be softer... Of course finding flats without wind is something that you rarely find...  Make sure you're wearing some foot protection - put a few extra flies and maybe a spare leader or two in a plastic bag - up under your hat... and you're ready to go.

 

Bones down in the Caribbean are generally on the small side - so you might need that 9wt for the wind - but a lighter rod for the actual fishing - if you can find them... Since bonefish are always on every angler's wish list some places have lots written about fish - that aren't around very much at all - so you have to be a bit leery of what's published.  A definite hint that your island does or doesn't have good bonefishing is whether you find bonefishing lodges or guides in that area... Many, many years ago my wife booked us into Cayman Brac (not Grand Cayman) where the bones were so tiny they looked like finger mullet.. only one guide we could find - and his nickname was "money" which pretty much described his skill level... Cayman Brac was a great place - but not a bonefish place at all.... Who knew?

 

If it were me I'd book a fishing guide the first day (if you can find one that likes to take his anglers wading - all the better....).  It should be money well spent.  If there aren't any guides where you are - that might be a hint...  Lastly in places with no bones.. consider shifting your targets a bit - plenty of small 'cudas will shred a fly - the same goes for jacks, runners, and snappers...

 

One other point - if there are any docks where you're staying, particularly ones with docklights that make a green circle on the water... they're a prime fishing spot once the sun goes down.  Never know what might show up....

 

This is great info Capt! There are lodges and guides on the island, but they definitely travel around to the other Turks and Caicos islands to do fishing as well. I have a 9wt for stripers, so that's just what I bring. Jacks are the reason I was fishing the canals after I couldn't' wade that flat. Is this a good place to target them?

 

I should include, the whole North side of the island is protected from fishing which is a bummer because I've snorkeled and seen barracudas. The south side is the windward side. What you said about ocean sides being harder, bayside being softer makes complete sense. This Flamingo Lake is fed from the ocean so it doesn't get a good current or turn over, hence it being soft and muddy. Picture of flat attached below...

 

The guides are expensive, I know they're worth it. Maybe I can split it with another fisherman down there...

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My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.


#5 DavidR

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 09:57 AM

Have you seen any signs of bonefish having fed in the areas you’ve been looking ?

That’s the first thing I look for ...rent a kayak or paddle board and have a look around, you could even convince the wife to join you while covertly searching for areas bonefish visit.

Early mornings or evenings along the beach’s are also good times to go for a walk with wife and drink or alone with rod and fly

#6 wr1nkles

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 10:53 AM

Have you seen any signs of bonefish having fed in the areas you’ve been looking ?

That’s the first thing I look for ...rent a kayak or paddle board and have a look around, you could even convince the wife to join you while covertly searching for areas bonefish visit.

Early mornings or evenings along the beach’s are also good times to go for a walk with wife and drink or alone with rod and fly

 

How do you see signs of them having been there feeding? I assume you mean little depressions in the sand?

We were talking about renting paddle boards but it's crazy expensive ($300 per SUP a week). Though that's less than a guide...

 

I like your thinking about the beach walks at night!


My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.


#7 wr1nkles

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 12:47 PM

Just found this YouTube video from 2007 of a guy fishing the flat i was trying. Says 17 small bones in 4 hours. I'd be happy with 1/4 of that production.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=G2AhZVll2eI

 

The second spot he fishes "bonefish point" which is now part of the natural reserve and can not be fished. Though, in my 5 trip there I've only seen 1 police car and 1 beach cop on an ATV. That point is out in a desolate area I doubt I'd run in to any kind of policing. I'm just not one to break the rules...


My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.


#8 DavidR

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Posted 28 November 2018 - 01:06 PM

From GinkandGasoline ..

Look for feed marks

When visibility is poor, it’s tough to even know if you’re on the right flat. Check the bottom for feed marks. These dark gray spots on the bottom are made when bonefish bury their heads in the sand chasing crabs. The darker the feed marks, the fresher they are, and their number tells you how many fish have been feeding. If the water is at all milky, fish are very close.

#9 Capt Bob LeMay

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Posted 29 November 2018 - 06:58 AM

On soft bottom areas bonefish feeding will show small puffs of mud (just like mullet only not moving as fast as mullet...).  A big school or group of bonefish will make a pretty big "mud".... Places where bonefish were feeding -but have moved on will have water that looks a bit murky compared to nearby areas (some call such waters "smoky looking"...).   As a general rule bones will feed into a current (or if no current - then into the wind...).  If the water is shallow enough that a bonefish when feeding shows it's tail (or just the tip of a tail- called "tailing") - what you'll see looks like the tip of a knife blade - made of glass - it's transparent and they're hard to see...  Tailing bonefish don't leave that tail showing for very long at all - and you'll only see the tail every few feet (once the tail goes down -they're very, very hard to see - they blend in with the bottom so perfectly...).

 

That's why, in soft bottomed areas the first thing I look for is their "muds" - you'll be able to see them when you can't see the fish itself...

 

By the way, I quit guiding for bonefish down here in south Florida maybe eight or nine years ago... I got tired of taking anglers to bonefish that were so spooky that my anglers weren't very succesful at all... I retreated back into the Everglades (where there aren't any) and fish for other species entirely...  Years and years ago the bonefishing in Biscayne Bay was pretty darned good (an average fish was 8lbs..) but these days the numbers are way down in comparison and the fish very heavily pressured.. doesn't make for much fun at all.... 


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#10 FlatsRoamer

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Posted 03 December 2018 - 06:08 PM

I was there this past summer, actually didnt fish in Provo, spent all our fishing time in North Caicos. Theres a ferry that will take you there, and it is honestly completely worth it. You bring the family and enjoy the beaches (Bambarra was our favorite). Also good fishing everywhere you see the flats. If you can rent kayaks at bottle creek, highly recommended, then cross the channel and experience a world class bone fishery. Just make sure to call ahead and ask in advance. Can also find bonefish all along the causeway between north and middle Caicos... make sure to buy the DIY Bonefishing book as it highlights pretty much every spot and its good and bad tides...

 

I didnt really enjoy Provo all too much, wayyyy too touristy for me. North Caicos was the place for me, mostly locals (nicest people you'll ever meet) and we only saw a handful of tourists for a week. The kind of stuff you read about in Jimmy Buffett books. 

 

Good luck with your trip and please ask any more questions!


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#11 wr1nkles

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Posted Yesterday, 01:48 PM

I was there this past summer, actually didnt fish in Provo, spent all our fishing time in North Caicos. Theres a ferry that will take you there, and it is honestly completely worth it. You bring the family and enjoy the beaches (Bambarra was our favorite). Also good fishing everywhere you see the flats. If you can rent kayaks at bottle creek, highly recommended, then cross the channel and experience a world class bone fishery. Just make sure to call ahead and ask in advance. Can also find bonefish all along the causeway between north and middle Caicos... make sure to buy the DIY Bonefishing book as it highlights pretty much every spot and its good and bad tides...

 

I didnt really enjoy Provo all too much, wayyyy too touristy for me. North Caicos was the place for me, mostly locals (nicest people you'll ever meet) and we only saw a handful of tourists for a week. The kind of stuff you read about in Jimmy Buffett books. 

 

Good luck with your trip and please ask any more questions!

 

Cool to hear from someone else who has been! We stay in Provo because a family friend has a house there and lets us use it. We always talked about going to North Caicos on the past few trips but are for sure doing it this year. Is there a good spot to enter and wade the near side channel of Bottle Creek? Same question about the causeway. Did you rent a car when you got there?

 

I see from Google Earth that Bambarra has like a long shoal going out, did you wade this and fish either side?

 

 

I am the only angler in the family so trying to reserve some time for fishing is hard, and even harder to get them to understand it's not a 30 minute activity. I'd wander the flats all day if they let me.

 

I have two DIY bonefish books, the one by Chico and one more I can't remember the title of.

 

 

Any other tips, tricks or spots on North Caicos you can think of would be great. I look forward to connecting with you more about this! Thanks!


My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.


#12 mikechell

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Posted Yesterday, 02:00 PM

Tell them ... this is what happens when an angler doesn't get enough time on the water.

 

https://vignette.wik...=20171005021651


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#13 FlatsRoamer

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Posted Yesterday, 07:11 PM

I would definitely recommend renting a car... 

 

Also, invest in Rod Hamiltons DIY Bonefishing book. It highlights pretty much every spot on the islands (as well as many other places) and the secrets behind them. I think the online version cost 10$, so worth it...

 

For flies, they aren't too picky lol. Any kind of gotcha or Charlie variation should work. I used a size 6 spawning shrimp pattern with medium bead chain eyes. Usually schooling fish but you will see the double digit fish in doubles, usually. 


Still hunting for my first tarpon on fly! 


Why are windknots in love with me?


Can't wait for that diy trip to Acklins!!

 

 

Find my youtube channel in the link below

 

https://www.youtube....plkVnmuDObYCLBg


#14 wr1nkles

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Posted Today, 07:40 AM

I would definitely recommend renting a car... 

 

Also, invest in Rod Hamiltons DIY Bonefishing book. It highlights pretty much every spot on the islands (as well as many other places) and the secrets behind them. I think the online version cost 10$, so worth it...

 

For flies, they aren't too picky lol. Any kind of gotcha or Charlie variation should work. I used a size 6 spawning shrimp pattern with medium bead chain eyes. Usually schooling fish but you will see the double digit fish in doubles, usually. 

 

Rod's book is the other one I have, I just pulled it out from the bookshelf last night to start going over it again.

 

Good to know they're not too picky, my boxes are full of gotcha's and charlies, some merkin crab and spawning shrimps. Though those are all store bought and I want to tie my own to get the full thrill of my first bonefish on my own fly.

 

Did you walk the beaches and blind cast from shore? Any luck with that?


My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.






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