Flats fish chumming is standard practice in Florida, but it’s not practiced much in The Bahamas for bonefish. Traditional poling is the drill, leading to plenty of shots and hookups.
But bonefish can be scarce and wary at times, particularly on pressured flats frequented by DIY fly fishers. Plus, big high tides push them back into the mangroves along shorelines.
I once fished out of Treasure Cay, on Abaco, and we had a good morning of tailing fish until the new moon rising tide put the water and all bones back in the bushes by noontime.
“Wish we could chum them,” my buddy said to me on the skiff ride back. “Why not? Let’s get some conch in town,” I replied. At a local conch salad shack, men were cleaning the shellfish. For a $15 tip we scored 5 pounds of “conch slop,” the entrails and inedible parts that are loaded with scent.
The next day, we put it to the test during high tide as the mangrove shallows flooded. We fanned out about 2 pounds worth, and managed to coax out three small groups bones. They came to the skiff pronto. We landed a fish from each school. Our guide couldn’t stop smiling.
Tip: Don’t chum when lemon sharks are on the flat. Scent in the water will bring them to the boat. And they will attack your hooked, or your just-released, tired bonefish.
Tip: Bahamas regulations allow for travelers to bring over fresh foods, even meats, so fresh or frozen shrimp would be a backup should conch not be available.