There is a lot of planning involved in making a DIY bonefishing trip successful. Preparing for a DIY trip is significantly different than booking a full service week at a lodge and attention to the details can make or break a trip.
Your principle interest is most likely to find actual DIY Fishing Locations, specific flats to fish and the appropriate gear to bring but there are many other details that need to be considered. Many of the best DIY bonefishing locations have limited resources and you will require a place to sleep, food to eat, local contacts, transportation to and around the flats. I have attempted to provide the information, contacts and recommendations you will need to decide on an appropriate DIY Destination to match your skills and expectations.
The information found in the site has been accumulated over years of DIY travel. Some I have learned from others but most is a direct result of my own experiences.
I am going to say this as simply as I can…
You are going somewhere HOT, and you are pasty white !!!
If you don’t protect yourself the sun and reflection on the water are going to fry you. Nothing will ruin a trip faster than a self induced case of sun burn (don’t ask me how I know this). The days of simply putting on some SPF 30 in the morning and going fishng are over. Now that I have that off my chest, here is what I recommend for you to stay safe for both short and long term exposure to the tropical sun.
Cover yourself from head to toe starting with good quality wading pants, a flats shirt designed to keep out the sun (yes you can get a sun burn through shirts), a buff designed for the flats that not only covers your neck but can be pulled up over your face, a long billed flats hat with side flaps covering your ears that buttons under your chin. Complete your flats wardrobe with a pair of sun gloves.
I still cover my face, ears, neck and hands with SPF 50 sunscreen in the morning and re-apply during the day as required. Apply a good quality lip balm with SPF 30 or better in the morning and re-apply periodically during the day. My eyes often dry out through the day as a result of the sun and wind so I carry a small bottle of eye drops used to refresh the eyes. The eye drops work wonders and allow me to continue staring into the water and through the glare for hours.
Sun glasses are a big deal and are dealt with at length in the equipment section of the website. Suffice it to say, buy the best sun glasses you can afford, always pack a back up pair and purchase glasses that cover as much of your face as you are comfortable with.
So to wrap it up, we are talking about covering your entire body from head to toe in pants, shirts, buff, hat, sun glasses and sun gloves. Add some sun screen of SPF 50, apply it a couple of times per day while on the water, frequently apply lip balm and you are good to go.
The places you will be traveling too usually offer limited medical facilities. The facilities will range from a simple clinic to nothing. I know of one island where you go to the vet for the best care. My advice is to make sure one of your group has at least their level one first aid certificate. Better yet make friends with a fishing ER physician and invite him/her along.
A first-aid kit contains emergency supplies and medication for unexpected illnesses or accidents. When going abroad make sure you talk with your doctor about any necessary vaccinations or special medications. Always carry your prescriptions on the plane, never pack them in your luggage.
I take a a variety of items with me to handle cuts, scrapes, punctures, burns, bites and stings (been stung by scorpions twice) and the various ailments that occur in foreign lands including upset stomachs, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and nausea.
First Aid Kit Contents
|First Aid Manual||sterile gauze pads of different sizes||adhesive tape|
|different sized adhesive bandages||triangular bandages (sling or scalp)||antiseptic wipes|
|mole skin/blister repair||antibiotic cream||hydrocortisone cream (1%)|
|aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen||tweezers||sharp scissors|
|safety pins||calamine lotion||alcohol wipes|
|thermometer||plastic gloves||sore throat lozenges|
|eye drops||after bite||aloe/sunburn remedy|
|cold/hay fever/antihistamine||dramamine||needle and thread|
I mention communication in two contexts: the first is to stay in touch with family and friends and the second is to keep in touch with members of your group while fishing. Many of the DIY destinations have poor or no cell service and if it does exist it can be very expensive.
Communications have improved substantially over the last few years and internet is available in some form most places we travel. The internet is probably the most useful tool you can have. When booking your hotel room, condo or home, make sure that there is internet and it works. I can’t tell you how many times we have been told there is internet service only to find upon arrival it does not work.
COMPUTERS – I carry a lap top, note book or tablet to connect to the internet and use this as my primary communication device via SKYPE and email. Computers are also great for accessing Google Earth which we look at virtually every night after a day of fishing.
CELL PHONES – make sure you understand before you leave if you have access to a land phone. If not, will your cell phone work and if so what do you need to do to makes sure your roaming charges don’t bankrupt you. I carry a separate cell phone and SIM card for the country I am traveling in. The phone cost $29, the SIM cards around $25 and then just buy minutes as needed.
SKYPE – I use SKYPE exclusively to make calls which is virtually free and the service is good enough to stay in touch back home.
SPOT – The new SPOT system is out and is very cool. Our group took it with us on our last trip and has many features that are great on a DIY trip not the least of which is an emergency call button. I am doing some more research on this. Remember, you can’t take these types of devices into Cuba, they will be confiscated.
VHF RADIOS – We have tried all kinds of walkie talkies through the years and finally just bitten the bullet and bought good quality VHF radios. They are durable, rechargeable, waterproof, they float, light weight and the range is significantly longer then any walkie talkie we ever used.
TRAVEL CANCELLATION – As I get older I have tended to buy the cancellation insurance to protect myself against a “whole bunch” of surprises that have tended to occur with more frequency.
TRAVEL MEDICAL – I buy an annual travel insurance policy and find that they are relatively inexpensive. This of course is not one of those items where you are shopping around for the “best” deal. What you want is the best policy possible when you need it. If you are traveling to the U.S. then travel policies normaly perform fine. But if you are traveling to where the bonefish are you need to make very sure you have the right policy. The fine print can bankrupt you.
EVACUATION – This type of policy has become more and more important and is in addition to your normal Travel Medical policy. Do your home work and buy the coverage you can afford. I carry and recommend Global Rescue.
RENTAL CAR – What can I say, rental car insurance is a pain. We all have credit cards and other coverages that say you are covered but in some countries it’s just not enough. Treat each situation differently and do what makes you comfortable. Driving in some of the countries where we fish can be an “experience” and adds risk to your normally good driving habits.
Understanding tides and the effect they have on bonefish behavior is critical to both the success you will have in catching fish and in the planning (when to go) of each trip.
There is some great reference material available on tides and bonefish behavior written by true professionals that I would encourage you to read. These authors have spent a lifetime on the water and clearly understand the relationship between tides, the moon and bonefish behavior. Some of my favorite references are listed below.
- Fly Fishing For Bonefish by Chico Fernandez
- Fly Fishing For Bonefish by Dick Brown
- Bonefishing by Randall Kaufmann
- Deneki Outdoors, Bonefish and Tides
- Fly Fishing In Salt Water
- Florida Fly Fishing Magazine
- Fisherman’s Coast
Now that you have read about tides, the moon, Spring and Neap tides from the experts, below is my “two cents” worth based on the last 20 years of fishing the flats.
As you have learned in the books and links above, Spring tides occur on the new and full moons and create the highest high and lowest low tides of the month. Neap tides occur during the quarter moons and have the least variance in tide heights in the month. This distinction is important as it can significantly impact where the fish are at any given time of the day, their travel patterns on and off the flats, how long they may be in places you can’t get to them and how long during each day optimum fishing conditions exist. The goal of course is to use the tides to maximize the time you have on the flats.
The effect that tides have on the fishing and the amount of “quality” time you have to fish differs from place to place. For instance in Chetumul Bay the tides seem to have less effect and the “good fishing times” are extended through most of the day. Certain places on Acklins have extensive mangrove islands/flats/areas where the fish want to get to. During the high Spring tides the bones are coming onto the flats but the high water floods the mangroves and the fish move far back seeking food and cover. You usually can’t get them when they are deep in the mangroves. Now you have to wait for them on the falling tide to come out after they have been feeding heavily for the last two hours. The less extremes of the Neap tide means the fish may not be able to get into places you can’t reach and stay on the flats longer.
Here are some general rules about bonefishing and tides:
- neap tides are generally better to plan a trip around
- bonefish use incoming tides to access prime feeding area and outgoing tides to find deeper water
- fishing should be targeted around the last two/thirds of an incoming tide and the first one/third of the out going tide
- rising tides in the early morning and dusk are good
- on weak tides bones may linger more around the edges
- on strong high tides they will move into the skinny water
- bonefish will often face or feed into a strong current
- bonefish are more aggressive and less spooky on the incoming tide as they head to and/or reach their feeding grounds
- you have to fish the good tides, even if it is first thing in the morning or at last light in the evening
- some experts believe that bonefish feed during the night of full moons
If the prime fishing is during the last two/third’s of the incoming tide and the first third of the outgoing tide, what do you do the rest of the time? First, in many locations the tides vary considerably from North to South and from East to West. For instance in Eleuthera the difference in tides between the Atlantic and Caribbean is two hours which means you can fish the quality tide on one side then jump over to the other and get in another couple hours of good fishing. As the flats dry out, I fish the edge of the flats and deep water as fish will often cruise edges as they wait for the next incoming tide. At low tide the fish will often school up and hold together in deeper water, where you might find them mudding or you can blind cast into deeper channels or holes just off the edge of the flat. Once you find these locations the fish will often be there most days.
Barometric pressure and wind can effect tides. Low barometric pressure exerts less pressure so high tides can be higher, high barometric pressure can suppress tides so high tides may be lower than predicted. Wind can have a dramatic effect on tides with strong onshore winds forcing tides higher and offshore winds can have the opposite effect with highs and lows being lower.
To the best of my knowledge there is no scientific evidence that says bonefish feed particularly hard during the night of full moons. But I know guides on Exuma, Acklins and Eleuthera who believe that to be true. The point is, if they feed during the night of the full moon they are going to be less hungry during the following day.
What does all this information mean to the traveling DIY fisherman. First get a tide table for the area you are planning to fish. Contact people/lodges/guides who fish and live there and ask which tides they prefer to fish. Plan your trip around the best tides for that area. You might not want to plan around a full moon if you believe the fish feed on the nights of full moons. You have to fish the tides, so plan your days before you go. There are going to be times when the good incoming time is early in the morning or late in the evening. You might miss breakfast or dinner…… but hit the tide. Visibility might be low……. but hit the tide. Your guides hours and the best tide may not coincide so work it out it advance and………hit the tide.