How to identify a Bonefish

The dorsal fin consists of 17-19 soft rays. The anal fin has 8-9 soft rays, the ventral fins have 9, and the pectoral fins have 15-17. There are 65-73 scales along the lateral line-none on the head. The sides and belly of the fish are bright silver. Parts of the fins and the snout may show a yellowish or dusky color. Their body is long, thin, and fusiform, with a bluntly conical snout. Bonefish are basically schooling fish. The smaller ones can be seen in large schools on the flats. The larger ones tend to form smaller schools or groups. They feed on crabs, shrimps, clams, sea worms, sea urchins, and small fish that inhabit the sandy flats and intertidal areas. They are often seen rooting in the sand, their tails breaking the surface of the shallow water; an action commonly known as trailing. At other times they will plough the bottom stirring up silt and mud, known as mudding. They are powerful and run very fast and hard when hooked. Fishing methods include plug, fly or spin casting from a skiff or while wading on tidal flats, using shrimp, crabs or similar baits. Most bonefish are caught in depths from 6 inches to 10 ft. (15 cm to 3 m).The species begins life looking more like an eel than a fish and undergoes a leptocephalus larval stage during which it grows to a length of about 2 1/2 in. (6.3 cm); then during a period of metamorphosis the eel-like larva shrinks to half its former size. As it shrinks, fins begin to appear, and after 10-12 days the eel has become a 1.5 in. (3.81 cm) miniature bonefish, and begins to grow again. Tarpon and ladyfish undergo similar stages of development.

Where to catch Bonefish

Occurs worldwide in shallow tropical and subtropical waters around flats and intertidal areas.


How to Identify a Bonefish
 1 65-73 scales along the lateral line-none on the head

 2 Sides and belly of the fish are bright silver

 3 Body is long, thin, and fusiform, with a bluntly conical snout


  • Baitfish Patches
  • Cliffs
  • Deep Shore Water
  • Jetties and Breakwaters
  • Night Fishing
  • Saltwater and Tides
  • Surf and Shore
  • Saltwater Weed Beds

  • Breakers
  • Colliding Waves
  • Floating Foam and Debris
  • Merging Water
  • Roily Water
  • Shore Points
  • Tidal Flats

Acknowledgements:  We thank (, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Indiana Department of Natural Resources for their contributions to these FISH FACTS.