Stalking the Flats
Sight Fishing in Miami
The acres of shallow flats that border south Biscayne Bay serve as my hunting grounds, right in Miami's backyard. These beautiful expanses of water stretch across the entire length of the bay, serving as a barrier that protects the inland coast from the open ocean. Every day, twice a day, an entire bay full of water flows across these shallows making its way offshore. Then, at the turn of the tide, fresh water flows right back in completing the cycle. During both tidal periods life is swept across the flats where fish of all sizes take part in feeding on the unsuspecting critters that flow by with the current. The bonefish and permit that frequent these areas are constantly foraging for food in water less than two feet deep, making them excellent sight fishing targets. In its finest form, sight fishing unearths our most primitive and hard wired instinct-- the need to hunt. From my vantage on top of the poling platform, I still have issues as a guide with controlling my excitement as I watch fish move into casting range. There's nothing more primal than being able to track, chase, and bait a target that is in sight the entire time. No it isn't easy, and success can't be guaranteed over night, but there's nothing like thrill of the hunt.
When a target is in sight, teamwork takes over. Both guide and angler have their individual responsibilities that can make or break the hookup opportunity. These fish were born weary and have the unfair advantage of being practically invisible, even while crossing flats that barely cover their backs. As a guide, it's my job to remain vigilant in order to spot fish, position the boat, and communicate properly with my angler to give him (or her) the best chance to present a bait. At the same time though, the angler also needs to be ready at any moment. These fish are not accustomed to giving second chances and sometimes all it takes is one misstep, a bad cast, or any other slight disturbance for these fish to blow out and head for the safety of deeper water. For the amount of time a guide stalks a flat, not being able to seal the deal can be a frustrating affair. Anglers need to be on point with their presentation, and sometimes this takes practice before ever setting foot aboard the boat. Being prepared to fish, to cast, and to hookup should be every anglers' number one goal when sight fishing the flats. When that moment finally does arrive and I get to watch that bonefish slurp up a shrimp, or a permit engulf a crab, nothing can wipe the smile off my face. It is the culmination of preparation, execution, and luck when everything does go right. Its one hell of an adventure, and I'm addicted for life.