In Search of Gray Ghosts
To say the elusive bonefish holds an allure for two longtime friends is an understatement.
By M. B. Roberts
“Whoa! Ron!” Richard Stanczyk shouts as he furiously reels in one of several lines drifting behind the boat. “You’ve got to keep reeling! He’s still there!”
“He can’t be!” Ron Modra yells back. Then his line tightens and the fish takes off, peeling away yards at a time. “Holy smokes! He is there!”
Modra, a Nashville-based photographer, and Stanczyk, owner of Bud & Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, Florida, are “staked-up” (their boat is held stationary via a long pole thrust into the soft sand bottom) on the ocean side of Florida Bay, on a tremendously windy December day. The ominous dark clouds gathering overhead have kept most anglers off the water. But not Stanczyk and Modra. What’s a little wind-whipping cold when there might be a bonefish around?
Despite their relatively small size (from two to 14 pounds), bonefish are among the most sought-after game fish in the world due to their speed, power, and extreme elusiveness. They are beyond skittish—any noise or movement sends them shooting off like silver rockets, never to be seen again.
Usually, anglers quietly stalk bonefish by poling small, shallow-draft “flats boats” across the shallow flats of the Florida Keys (or other exotic locales such as the Bahamas and Belize), gently presenting them with a bait. It’s challenging to find bonefish; due to their gunmetal gray bodies (hence the nickname “gray ghost”) and the strong light, they’re difficult to see. But they’re even harder to catch. That’s why Stanczyk and Modra can’t stay away from them. Wind be damned.
Since it is too windy to pole through the flats, Stanczyk suggests staking up in the Bay and setting out lines to wait for a hungry bonefish to cruise by. Modra’s game. Since the water is too deep to spot fish, they’ll have to get lucky. They’ll have to believe.
“Reel! Reel!” Stanczyk yells from the elevated aft poling platform where he is standing to get a better look. “Don’t let him get out in the open. No slack! These fish are unforgiving.”
Next page > Part 2: Suddenly the fish stops, and there he is, alongside the boat, showing his sleek, silvery self. > Page 1, 2, 3, 4
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.