Playing tag with bonefish
Jul 5, 2007 - 5:18:43 PM

ading knee-deep on a sparkling sandbar off East End, I am scanning the shallows for silver-gray bomblets. My hopes are high, since I haven't gone more than 10 minutes this day without spotting a bonefish.

Sure enough -- here he comes, swimming nonchalantly and occasionally tipping down to dig his nose in the sand, revealing his flashing, diaphanous tail.

I cast one of captain Perry Demeritte's ''Silent Killer'' flies four feet in front of the bonefish's snout and strip it. I can tell he sees the garish pink-and-brown bearded Gotcha because he makes a sharp left, and I feel the bump as he inhales it. Suddenly realizing he is hooked, the fish begins racing east, peeling out all the fly line on my 9-weight reel.

He's not very big -- tiny, in fact, by South Florida standards -- at about 2 pounds. But he's feisty, managing a five-minute fight before I reel him up to where I'm standing.


Demeritte, wading with Walt Hunter about 50 yards, has heard the screams of me and the fly reel and heads toward me. Carrying a plastic kit with a Boga Grip, tape measure, tagging gun and data sheet, he and I quickly weigh and measure the fish.

''I want to tag him,'' Demeritte says.

He carefully sticks the needle behind a scale just below the dorsal fin and pulls the trigger, injecting a small streamer tag with ID and telephone numbers for the University of Miami Rosenstiel School. Then he puts the fish back into the water, walking it forward to force water into its gills. He lets it go when it struggles to swim free.

Number 11 for the day, and Demeritte's first fish-tagging adventure.

Read the rest of this article by Susan Cocking

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