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Articles :

Monster Islamorada Bonefish
By: Captain Ray Kelly

On this adventure, we head down to the beautiful Florida Keys. I love fishing there because they have some of the best fishing in this country. Islamorada is the Sportfishing Capital of the World. And you guessed it, Islamorada has some of the best bonefishing in the world! However, this trip was not your typical Adventure in Fishing since we would be fishing with a female charter boat captain. As some of you know, female charter boat captains are few and far between. I located Capt. Ann Holahan on the World Wide Web. I find that the Internet has a tremendous amount of information on fishing, and I can spend hours on end surfing the various fishing sites. This is exactly what I was doing when I located Capt. Ann Holahan's Website (NO BONES ABOUT IT). I emailed Capt. Ann and asked her if she would be interested in sponsoring our television show, ADVENTURES IN FISHING WITH CAPT. RAY KELLY. Capt. Ann immediately emailed back and stated she wanted to be featured on our show.

We scheduled the filming for January since that's one of the best times of the year for some of those monster Islamorada bonefish. We had produced segments for the TV show on bonefishing in the past, but no really big fish had been caught during the filming. I had heard about the monster bonefish in Islamorda but didn't know whether or not they were fish tales or not.

I also emailed Bill Sampson at (The PELICAN COVE RESORT) Bill is the Assistant Manager of this beautiful resort located on the Atlantic Ocean in Islamorada, FL.. The Pelican Cove Resort has sponsored our show in the past and Bill didn't hesitate when I requested they sponsor our show for this filming.

I drove down to Florida in my van and picked up my cameraman for this particular shoot at the Miami Airport. I would be working with my son, Chris Kelly, who is the Associate Producer of the TV show and likes to get out in the field and do some camera work at times. (He also wanted to do some fishing.) It is not that often that Chris and I get to spend some time fishing together and enjoying each others company.

We checked into the Pelican Cove Resort located at Mile Marker 84.5 Oceanside in Islamorada. Each room overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and I must say the sunrises are spectacular and the accomodations are superb - overall a great place to stay when visiting or fishing in the Florida Keys.

Arrangements were made to meet Capt. Ann (also known as The Boneranger) at Bud N' Mary's Marina. Ann is the only female captain at Bud N' Mary's. We met at 8:00 AM. Ann is an experienced flats guide who knows what she's talking about when it comes to fishing for her favorite quarry, the elusive bonefish.

After filming a brief segment at the dock, we boarded her flats boat. We were getting excited, but the question to be answered was "Would the bonefish be there?". Ann headed for the first of her favorite locations. She guided the boat through a small cut in the mangroves on the west side of Islamorda. I thought for sure that we would run aground, but we didn't and it wasn't long before we were on the other side of the mangroves. The scenery was fantastic - the water so blue and green. - truly a tropical paradise.

Capt. Ann tried a couple of her secret spots with no luck. There had been a severe cold front a couple of days before and it was affecting the fishing. At the third location, Capt. Ann staked-up the boat just outside Tavernier Creek on the oceanside flats and started chumming heavily with crushed shrimp, the bait that we were using. Sure enough, it didn't take long before two small bonefish came swimming by the boat. Of course, our baits had been cast out about 50' from the boat. And by the time Capt. Ann reeled in one of the rods, the fish had disappeared.

So she cast the bait out again and within five minutes, one of the rods was bent-over like a pretzel. Chris got up on the bow and Ann gave him the rod. The fish took off and proceded to give Chris a nice fight. But when the fish got close to the boat and Ann saw that it was a Cow fish, we all felt a bit of disappointment. However, Cow fish do run like bonefish and give an angler a nice fight so I could see that Chris was happy having landed the first fish of the day. Another shrimp was put on the hook and Chris cast out the line. It didn't take long and another fish took the bait. Ann grabbed the rod and reeled it in; another Cow fish.

Capt. Ann explained that the Bahamians eat the bony Cow fish, although many of the captains in Islamorada consider them a nuisance fish. Even so, our television audience would enjoy seeing them being caught. And in the mean time, the bonefish were living up to their description as being elusive. Apprpriately, another name for bonefish is the grey ghost.

With about an hour left on the outgoing tide, and as Capt. Ann chummed some more shrimp, two big bonefish swam right under the boat. Again our baits were out about fifty yards, but before I knew it, Ann had reeled one of the baits in and was casting it in the direction we last saw the bonefish heading. It didn't take long before the line tightened. The beautiful sound of the drag being pulled is what we heard next. Ann handed me the rod and told me to keep the tip high. I tried to reel in the fish but was having a hard time since it was Ann's Rod and, unlike me, she's a southpaw. The fish just kept running and peeling line from the reel.

I thought for sure I was going to lose the fish as it ran across the flats. Capt. Ann kept coaching me, telling me that it was a big bonefish. I was worried about the line holding because we were only using 8 lb test. I kept pressure on the fish but not too much. Chris was filming the highlight of the show...A MONSTER ISLAMORADA BONEFISH. All I had to do was land it.

The fish no sooner came to the boat when it made another run. Ann was more excited than I was, telling us that this would be the biggest bonefish landed on her boat!

She estimated the fish to be 12-13 pounds as she got the net ready. And when I finally reeled the fish to the boat, we all could see that it was a MONSTER. Ann netted the fish and said we would have to handle it gently since the fish would be released. But she did want alot of photos of this trophy, so Chris stopped filming and photographed the fish with his 35 mm and digital cameras as well as with Ann's camera.

What an experience! Ann measured the fish; it measure 32". She then put the beautiful bonefish back in the water, revived it and watched as the fish swam away. Finally I had caught one of those MONSTER ISLAMORADA BONEFISH, a memory that Chris and I will share for the rest of our lives.

The next day, Ann told me that after discussing the length of the fish with other experienced Islamorada captains, the fish was estimated to be about 14-15 pounds.

For a bonefish trip, that you will never forget, give Capt. Ann Holahan a call at 1-305-664-5891 or email her at And don't forget to stay at the Pelican Cove Resort. Give Bill Sampson a call at 1-800-445-4690 or 1-305-664-4435. He can be reached on the internet at

Visit Capt. Ray at his website or drop him a line at


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