Photo by Capt. Randy Brown

I was lucky to fish the Fl. Keys when it was still good. Before the water turned bad…before the jet-skis blew up the flats…before everybody who had a driver’s license also owned a flats skiff. It’s hard to explain unless you were there. We had big bonefish. Really, really BIG bonefish. You heard a lot about the Shell Key area bayside of Islamorada…some true whoppers caught there…but big bonefish were caught all up and down the 113 mile island stretch of the Keys from Key Largo to Key West. The bonefish in this picture was caught by Bill McCaskill of Jackson, Wy. in the 1990s, fishing with me off the Spanish Banks area in the Lower Keys backcountry. It weighed 12 1/2 pounds. We caught it on a crab pattern home tie. I was poling down sun on the east side of one of the long finger banks on the falling tide and three fish came swimming down the bank. Bill made a great cast and I can still see all three fish fighting over the fly. One ate and took off out of there burning up fly line and backing like so much smoke. It was a great fish. But we caught lots of big ones. Bonefish over ten pounds were common. Eleven, twelve and even thirteen pounders were caught regularly. I remember at least three we weighed at 13 pounds that we caught on fly. I have old, grainy videos of ten and twelve pound bonefish caught on my guide trips. And lots of still photos of twelve pounders exist.

I know these big fish are rare today in the Keys. And worthy groups like Bonefish and Tarpon Trust are working to find out why. The 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and part of the 1990s were the glory days. Maybe they will come back. I hope so. But it sure was fun while it lasted.