How to Spot Bonefish

Vision & Spotting Bonefish

Look for movement. When you first see a bonefish, it’s untypical to see the clear outline of the fish. Bonefish generally first appear as grey or dark spots, moving slowly and steadily. They’re almost always moving, so keep your eyes out for movement. Ripples on the water and the movement of your boat (if you’re poling) can sometimes make it difficult to tell if that spot is actually moving, so try to find another object on the bottom as a reference point, and compare the ‘movement’ of the spot against that point.

Look where you can see. This may seem obvious at first, but you should spend most of your time looking in the direction that you can see. The angle of the sun and the color of the bottom will make for better visibility in one direction and one area – look there! If you can’t see well 100 feet out, look 50 feet out. A periodic quick scan of areas with tough visibility never hurts, but most of the time you should systematically search the areas where you can see well. Don’t waste your time looking where you can’t see.

If you can’t see the bottom, look at the surface. Don’t make this your first choice, as 80% of the bonefish you’ll see will be crusing the bottom. But, if clouds and/or glare prevent you from seeing the bottom, look at the surface of the water. V-wakes, nervous water and certainly tails and/or fins could indicate the presence of bonefish. Cloudy but calm days can actually produce some fantastic fishing if you learn to look for movement on the water rather than trying to look in the water.

Follow your released fish. If you haven’t spent a lot of time looking at bonefish in the water, take advantage of every opportunity you get. One of the best comes when you or your partner has just released a fish. As the released fish swims away, try to keep your eyes on him for as long as possible. This is a great way to get used to how bonefish look in the water at various distances.

Partly Cloudy, Light Winds

Look for Movement

Spotting Fish

In this scenario, the dark backs of the bonefish coming straight at you (upper right of photo) are easy to pick out. However, once they turn sideways (arrow points to sideways bonefish), they blend in with the bottom and become more difficult to see.
Spotting Fish

Then there are these scenarios where you can’t miss ’em!

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