Florida offers up some of the best fishing in the world. With bonefish in the mix, you have an angler’s paradise.
Florida’s best bonefish fishing spots will deliver one of your most incredible fishing experiences.
Spend time in southern Florida and experience the incredible fishing and wildlife. It’s a rush to catch a bass only to have a crocodile snap it up right at the boat.
There are so many species in the lagoons that settling on a specific target is challenging, but bonefish are a special quarry in the hearts of many.
The flats of southern Florida are prime spots to catch the elusive bonefish. We show you several areas that stand out above the rest for their ability to produce big numbers consistently.
Bonefish are a unique species. They have a specialized air bladder that allows them to live happily in six inches of water. They’re also nearly impossible to see. They blend into the bottom almost perfectly.
Let’s take a look at the best bonefishing spots in Florida. Then, it’s time to get out on the water and catch some incredible fish.
Florida’s Best Bonefishing
Anglers highly prize bonefish for their fight. They’re one of sight fishing’s most sought-after species. Southern Florida is among the best areas in the world to target these bucket listers.
If you’re looking for bigger fish, Key West is the place. The bonefish here are larger on average than along the mainland’s coast, though with that size comes some experience.
The fish here are worth your time, though it’ll take plenty of it to figure them out.
The best times in the Keys are from August through October, though they hang around the flats of Key West and the neighboring islands throughout the year.
If you want the ultimate bonefish experience, hiring a guide is a good idea. They’ll help you spot the nearly invisible fish and get you into the best spots to put your streamer.
Key West is rather well known, so you get the idea for lodging and tackle shops. They have plenty of both.
Islamorada is possibly the best place in the entire world for bonefish angling. The fish are big, plentiful, and friendly to intermediate and advanced anglers. Bonefish aren’t the typical targets for newer anglers.
The Florida state record comes out of Islamorada at over 16 pounds. That’s a whale of a bonefish. It’s also possible to catch the next record here. It’s out there somewhere.
Islamorada is known for being the birthplace of saltwater fly fishing.
The flats around the Key will show you why within minutes. Perfect gin-colored waters filled with all types of species anglers only dream of catching are just waiting for you to head out on a skiff and catch them.
For larger game, this area also is famous for some of Florida’s best tarpon fishing.
Plenty of resorts, hotels, food, and tackle shops are strewn along the island.
Between Key Largo and Biscayne Bay is a fantastic flats fishery. The fishing here is nothing short of epic, with bonefish in the two-to-ten-pound range being most common.
Don’t get discouraged at the thought of catching a two-pound bonefish. It will put your reel through a nice workout and give you a taste of what’s to come with a bigger one.
One of the best approaches in this area is to chum with shrimp, cut fish, and conch. Toss the chum out and watch for the fish. A muddy plume or a tail sticking above the water indicates where to go.
Key Largo is a prime area for tourists and anglers alike. Plenty of lodging and food await, and the Cuban sandwiches at Ferdinand the Bull are some of the best around.
The islands on the southeasternmost portion of the bay hold trophy-sized bonefish. Several keys and smaller islands offer the perfect flats for bones.
Key Biscayne is one of the top spots for big bonefish. There are solid numbers in the flats, along with giant barracuda. There’s plenty of action to be had here.
Several smaller islands and the top of the Florida Keys are jumbled together at the bottom of the bay. This is where you want to go. Plenty of 5-pound-plus bonefish cruise these waters.
Miami is directly north, and the keys lie to the south. All have lodging and tackle for your trip.
Tampa Bay has been on almost every one of our “best of Florida” saltwater lists for a reason. The warm waters, epic flats, and ease of access make Tampa Bay a must-fish location.
Bonefish have been moving into the waters around the bay in larger numbers for the last several years. The migration of this warmer water species has been a great thing for anglers.
The bonefish here might be smaller on average than their Keys relatives, but they’re in Tampa Bay. That means the number of targetable species is through the roof.
The grass and mud flats around the islands in the bay are great spots to try your luck.
Tampa has everything you need for your trip.
Several areas around Tampa Bay also offer some of Florida’s best snook fishing.
Bonefishing Gear & Tactics
Bonefish are incredible fish. They camouflage perfectly with the bottom. The slightest noise of a motor sends them packing. Poling flats boats are required unless you want to wade in.
Keep in mind that bonefish are also a valuable food source for migrating sharks. It’s vital to play them properly before release to ensure they don’t get too tired.
It’s a fine line between being too tired and not played enough. When you pick up a bonefish that still has a run left, you will feel it for a while. They’re strong buggers.
The best way to sneak up on them is through distraction. Toss some chum out, and once they’re engaged, toss your line five to 10 feet ahead. Don’t let the line hit them, and try not making too big a splash with your bait.
Let’s check out some gear for both spinning and fly fishing.
The most popular approach is spinning because it’s user-friendly and accessible to almost everyone. You need a 7-to-8-foot rod with a decent reel.
You’ll need at least 200 yards of 8lb test braid or 12lb mono to minimize the risk of a fish breaking off.
Live bait is the trick. Be sure to get some chum in the water and let it dissipate a bit before chucking your line out.
Cut baits and some jigs also work, though live bait is their preference. Try shrimp first, followed by conch or crab.
Catching a bonefish on a fly is on almost every fly enthusiast’s bucket list. It’s far more complicated than spin fishing due to the lack of live bait.
You’ll need an 8wt or 9wt rod with a sinking tip line. Flies will be big, with an average 2/0 hook size, so be sure your line can handle the weight. Keep in mind that you’ll need to ensure everything is saltwater-rated, not freshwater. You’ll kill your favorite reel in short order on the flats.
Try the Gotcha, Borski Slider, or Spawning Shrimp flies. The Borski Slider is so popular that someone took the time to calculate how many could be tied if you shaved Chewbacca. Turns out it’s a lot. Just under 5,000 for those interested.