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  1. #1

    Default Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    My wife and I are moving to the tropics to get away from our families and one of the worst summers we've ever had. We are young, and we have the ability to work from wherever, so we are selling all our things and going for it. The plan is to buy a small skiff and fish as many days as we can handle.

    I've fished saltwater flats before for bonefish, and it's probably my favorite fishing I've ever done. It's one of the main reasons we chose our destination, which is the island of Vieques off the coast of Puerto Rico.

    So, I'll be transitioning from being a pretty skilled trout and steelhead fisherman to a fairly clueless flats fisherman. I know how to tie Crazy Charlies, how to strip strike and I can cast accurately in a strong wind... but that's about the length of my knowledge. Basically, has anyone been to Vieques and fished, and are there any other tips to make the transition a bit easier? Also, any tips on spotting fish in turtle grass? I've only ever fished over sand-flats, and fish are super easy to spot. Also, what's the best way to start chasing Tarpon or other inshore species?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Pinedale, WY
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    Congrats on the big move! Wish I could offer advice on fishing Vieques, but I'm clueless, hopefully someone here can offer solid advice.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Hillsboro, OR

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    Wow! Color me jealous. I would love, love, love to be able to fish the tropic shallows all the time.

    Well, guess there is more room on the river for me now.

    Good luck in your move and post lots of pics for us PacNWers as we wallow through the wet season up here.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    Yeah, it's definitely going to be an adventure. It's crazy, trying to learn all this new stuff, mainly about boats... I just realized I am totally clueless. My goal is to just buy a little 15' side-console skiff and outfit it with a deck and poling platform.. but I assume that's easier said than done.

    I'll definitely be posting pics and maybe keep an ongoing blog. The island was a Navy base for a good portion of the 20th century, and was really just opened to development in 2003. That means that resources are somewhat limited, but that also means that much of the fishing is basically pristine. Some of the flats aren't even open to fishing yet, as they are still clearing ordnance from Navy bombing runs that occurred in the 50's.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    south florida

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    I'm really excited for you. If I were younger I'd move away from the US too. Since you are moving there, you will learn quickly enough where the bones etc. are, what to use and how to spot them. I've never been there, but I've caught bones for a lot of years.

    I did a quick search and see that PR has glass minnows, pilchards and greenies (thread herring). Bones like glass minnows - especially the younger bones - and will race around like crazy chasing them. It is actually pretty comical to watch them doing it. They remind me of young dogs chasing butterflies around the yard.

    The glass minnows will "spray" or "shower" (jump in groups) ahead of bones but generally not for sharks, rays or baracuda. The minnows will spray even if the bones aren't after them. Sharks normally travel in a straighter line than bones too, and I think the glass minnows just part for them. Feeding snook act very similar to bones when chasing minnows , and the minnows act the same as well. So if you see minnows spraying in random patterns get that fly in front of them quick.

    Keep looking for nervous water, the slightest little ripple and so on. Even in very shallow water, often just the very tip of the bones' tails will periodically get close to or just barely above the water and make very discrete little disturbances that can be passed up as a lone finger mullet or something that lost his school. So keep track of them even if you think they are nothing. Bones usually don't push much water unless they are pissed off (from seeing a bad cast) or are excited and chasing down something.

    When they are pissed off at you they will hump up and push a huge amount of water - sometimes slapping their tails too. The most pissed off I ever saw one get was when I cast at him after my buddy, about 50 yds up the beach spooked him. This was a big bone. He no sooner got settled down on his way toward me that I cast at him and he went ballistic. He smacked his tail like a freaking beaver, humped himself up and then swam about a 3/4 circle around me pushing a huge wave in front of him and smacking his tail about every 15 feet. It was hysterical.

    Bones will sometime be close around the rays too in shallow water. Deeper and there will likely be a bunch of pesky little jacks around them like a school of remoras but I don't remember ever see the jacks like that in real skinny water.

    I like shrimp immitations when fishing in either turtle or bay grass rather than crab immitations and I would imagine the turtle grass there would be bright green as it used to be here years ago and still is further down the keys in places.

    Here are some pics of my go to flies when fishing grass for bones. I don't know what the name of them is. The top one is a Biscayne Bay fly that I'm guessing is a small mantis shrimp facsimile. I can't imagine what else it would be. If it is, it looks like it's already been cooked. A friend gave it to me and I've not used it - but I do know that he's very successful with it on Biscayne Bay bones.

    If I were in PR, I'd find out where they hang out and wade for them. On Google Earth it looks like good wading to me. Boats are a big pain for bones - especially for a single angler - except they can be handy for getting to flats not accessable by car and foot. The only time I've fished from a skiff for bones alone was a mucky area where it was impossible to wade - but then I only fish for them on flat days, since I can pick the day the same as you will be able to do, YEAH!, and only when I think they will be tailing. I never could get excited about deep water bonefishing.

    In my opinion (and I'd like to hear other opinions on this) I don't think bonefish like wind on their wet tails any more than I would like dragging my bare ass through the snow. They like warmth as much as me, and that's why they don't live in Maine either.

    The higher and cooler the wind, the less they like it. A hot or very warm light breeze they don't seem to mind so much, so I think its the evaporation cooling factor. On those days they are in deeper water - and nearly impossible to see without a poling platform, a high sun and no clouds in the background. But trying to control or stake out even a light skiff in the wind, secure the pole noislessly, and grab a rod without losing sight of them - not worth it to me. They don't just sit there waiting for you like cuda do.

    I'd rather wade for them in a spot I'm pretty sure they will show up at on a good tide, late on a calm afternoon. Then, if you have good eyes you can sometimes see them a long ways off as well. Just don't run down the beach unless you are in soft sand.

    When wading, you will see and learn a lot more than you will from a boat - like exactly what the crabs look like, how they act and their general size range. Then you can start to tie them up yourself. You will also learn exactly how the flat floods and where the fish will likely move onto it from. But I'm thinking from a Keys perspective, and those flats may not be as "flat" as these down here. Nonetheless, unmollested bones are really very habitual creatures and if you wade a flat for a while, you will actually get to know them - the local bones that prowl that flat- and since you are also prowling it, you can try to figure out why they are doing what they are doing.

    If you are in a boat and go racing off for a "better" place, you'll never know if they showed up after you left or not. They could well have been swimming around off the edge then heard you leave and said "lets go eat, that idiot in the boat finally left".

    Looking at google earth, it looks like crab immitations would work well in the sandy areas, and you might get lucky and get a permit bite as well using crabs. They don't seem to mind wind on their tails as much as bones either, but they range much further north too. You won't be seeing anything on a mottled bottom like turtle grass on those windy days anyhow.

    I've rambled too long. You'll figure it all out. When you do your strip strike, don't grab the line very hard. Their reaction time is explosive, and their tails are pretty big for their size.

    Good luck. I'm sure you're going to love it down there. Make sure you get back to us after you get there. Cheers, Jim

  6. #6

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    Wow! Thanks for all the info. That will be super helpful.

    My main reason for getting a boat, initially, is that a lot of the flats on the island are somewhat inaccessible by land because of the aforementioned Naval activities. Also, from what I've gathered so far, there are some good flats that are easily foot waded, but they are a few hundred yards off shore. I'll mainly be using a boat to access these, and then getting it more set up to actually fish from as I meet other anglers.

    As for the more accessible flats, I am planning on getting a scooter with a rod rack on it as my "skiff", before I get a boat

    I am just really excited as the island is getting some really good publicity. It just means the population will grow, and hopefully a contingent of flyfisherman along with it. There is a NYT article that says it's very similar to some of the more popular Florida Keys destinations of 50 years ago, which sounds pretty rad to me.

    I imagine it also only be a matter of time before I start chasing Tarpon as well. From what I've read, PR has some monsters. Supposedly, the world record was taken there, but they didn't want to kill the fish to actually claim it (which I agree with).

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    south florida

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    I'd like to see someone IGFA certify a tarpon kill 60 pounds over the record tomorrow because that would eliminate a bunch being killed on the way to getting there. The girth and length tarpon forumlas are really quite accurate and can be done with two people in a skiff if they have everything together, so the record hunters wouldn't be killing any. But that likely will not happen.

    When you get onto a big one and it takes you long enough getting it boatside to where it lets out a long moan, you'll have to drag it a long time to revive it. Make sure you got those yellow gloves because their jaw can't be held on to without them they are so slimy.

    Bonefish can be weighed with a certified boga grip so long as the angler is standing on solid ground in the water or on shore - not the boat. But now they have to be measured on an official tape, which requires dry land or a boat gunwhale or something to set it down on.

    The bones down there will probably be like the ones here from the 70's. The "downtown" fish from around Islamorada in the wadeable flats now have seen more flies than me. But none of the flats around me have had any bones on them in the last dozen years or so, so I don't fish for them that much anymore.

    I'm sure the PR water is real clear. You wouldn't believe how beautiful this place was in the 50's, and teeming with life of all kinds. It lasted real well till about 1990 - despite the pressure.

    It's still as good a tarpon spot as you'll find anywhere though. And there are bones not far south of me and not that far north either. You're going to be there at the right time. Cheers, Jim

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Tucson, AZ winter, Durango,CO summer

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    I have not fished Vieques but have caught a couple hundred bonefish in the USVI back in the 80's when we were running our yacht charter business.

    I was faced with fish that were hard to see unless the tide was low and with turtle grass that would bury a weighted fly. My solution was to fish when I could see the backs of the bones. Then I would throw a small, un-weighted, size 6 - 8 weedless fly and hit them on the head. Worked well enough.

    Did not have many permit or tarpon so can't help you there.

    For barracuda use a teaser such as a hook-less Zara Spook to locate the barracuda and throw a fly to them.

    Good luck.
    "I hear voices, they tell me to go fishing"

  9. Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    Hi Oregonism, congrats on your decision to move to the tropics. I've been in PR for 18 years and have fished off of Vieques many times. But deep sea fishing as the waters here get very deep very quickly. A mile north of PR is the PR trench, the floor drops off to over 3000'. A mile south of Vieques the floor drops over 1000'. Unfortunately, the big game fishing hasn't been as good in recent yers as it's been previously.
    Now, there is plenty of tarpon fishing in San Juan Bay, Boca de Congrejo, and heck, even in the lakes around the Dorado golf courses have 40 lb tarpons.
    Vieques is nice, but it's very remote. I'd consider PR personally. Either way, it's better in the Caribbean.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    south florida

    Default Re: Moving from the NW to Vieques, PR

    Quote Originally Posted by gbanker View Post
    I was faced with fish that were hard to see unless the tide was low and with turtle grass that would bury a weighted fly.
    Good luck.
    Good point, GB. Just goes to show that a lousy picture is sometimes not worth a dozen words. I'm glad you pointed that out to Oregon.

    Many of those flies in my picture are old, and are not weighted with lead. They have very light bead eyes which start out gold, but soon the salt makes them look like lead. They do not bury themselves in grass, but the slight amount of weight they add keeps the hook riding up and tracking well.

    I do have some lead eyed ones in this same pattern for blind casting into known bonefish highways (chanels) when the flats become too flooded to see tails - particularly late in the evening. Then, I fish them like salmon streamers. I have caught a number of bones doing this, and also a lot of snapper, snook and jacks .

    This is my go to fly down here when not fishing crabs on different bottom. Cheers, Jim

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