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Bonefish, Tarpon, and other Obsessions Turquoise water, silver demons on the fly

Thread: Crab vs shrimp flies for bonefish Reply to Thread
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Topic Review (Newest First)
09-28-2006 08:29 PM
I'll take 1 quivering, tailing 5 pounder at dawn on a crab to 20 intercepted fish on clousers.
Words to live by... can't wait to be back in 'heaven'.
09-28-2006 07:24 PM
Bob Bergquist Perhaps with permit swimming crabs are more often eaten. I have caught them in Belize in 10-15 ft of water around coral as the crab fly is sinking and still quite a ways above the bottom. With bones however, stripping the crab other than to position it in the path of the fish often results in a flushed fish. When fishing the crab to tailing fish I wait until the fish stops tailing and starts to move. The crab should land softly about 4-5 ft in front of the fish and allowed to settle. If the bone sees the crab it is often rushed and tailed over. When the fish "quivers" he has eaten. With small shrimp (puffs, squimps etc.) however I like to put the fly right next to the tailer and give a short strip. Just my technique. I'll take 1 quivering, tailing 5 pounder at dawn on a crab to 20 intercepted fish on clousers.
09-28-2006 07:12 AM
Swalt Why is it that when fishing a crab fly everyone fishes it differently than you do a live crab? When fishing a live crab in the keys, you toss out in front of the fish, reel in fast enough to keep the crab on top of the water and drop it when the permit comes to it, which it almost always does. Yet with a crab fly you toss it out let it sink and sit there.
The one permit I have caught on a fly was working a small coral head, the fly landed about 5' from it, I stripped and it jumped off and had the fly before it had gone a foot under the water. This after tossing many flies and letting them sink and twitch. with a short strip, without success.

I havn't fished crabs much for bonefish but it seems to me, especially with fish that are not tailing, that aproach would work well for bonefish in shallow water. A slow sinking crab that flees when the fish aproaches. If I was a crab I would not just sit there and wait if caught out in the open.

Has anyone ever tried a neutrally boyant pattern. One that will sink a few inches under the water and stay there? Lee Haskins makes a Shrimp Neutralizer that I am going to give a try for bonefish and permit on a trip in November. I want to see how it does. Seems like it would work well on shallow flats. You could cast well ahead of the fish and it would be easier for them to see than a fly sitting on the bottom.

Just some thoughts, looking for comments from the more experienced.
09-27-2006 09:30 PM
Bob Bergquist The trick I've found with the crabs is to not move them much if at all. The reason I like them on Acklins is that the permit seem to show up on the flats and points at anytime there is enough water and they love small light colored crabs. The bones also charge the crab as it sinks, and if you let it "hide" they tail like nuts which is what is all about!
09-25-2006 11:00 AM
alan caolo
a couple thoughts . . .

first, as for the "why bother with crab flies . . . ?" issue: based on my experiences on the flats, they are potent patterns, particularly for bigger bones, bigger stripes, and obviously permit. learning to fish them (where, when, how) is a fantastic skill to have if you're a flats fisher.

second, I think most folks don't know how to fish these flies which results in a negative perception. The references to not fishing them with too much movement (as described in above posts) are sound advice. I call it "hardselling" . . . just won't work.

third, I think a lot of crab flies are taken - ESPECIALLY with bones - and rejected, but never detected by the angler. Many strikes on crabs are entirely visual (this ties into the subtle twitch / hop softsell strategy). How many times have you gotten a mashed up pattern back from a bone (hook flattened to the side, etc), but never felt a thing?

fourth, unlike baitfish flies - which we want fish to eat right away - the longer a fish looks over a crab fly, the more likely it will take it. I know, this sounds odd, but most game just doesn't crash a crab fly. Do whatever it takes to hold the fish's attention (the subtle approach) and eventually it will eat.

last, don't bother with bottom-working crab flies if there is too much current - stick with the shrimp (baitfish for stripers). Crabs niether hold nor swing in currents - it's really tough to fish them effectively in these conditions (use lots of slack line to eliminate drag if you do).
09-25-2006 06:42 AM
Originally Posted by bonehead
My crabs now consist of a tuft of marabou, three strands of yarn, mini-lead eyes and a weedguard. So simple it's stupid, but it works. It's all in the way you move it.
I recently came to the same conclusion about marabou. While in Acklins I developed a variation of Bob Berquist's variation of the Turneffe Crab using mottled marabou (substitute base fluff from grizzly hackle).

I do bother with the bead eyes, and madam X some legs but then instead of the time-consuming spun deer I tie a tuft of mottled marabou for a shell and tie another.

Bob developed the "Acklins Crab" variation of the Turneffe Crab with elk hair. After a discussion with him in Delectable Bay at Felton's I tied up some of my "grizzly crabs" and they were key in my success when I needed a crab fly. In fact it was the only crab fly I needed for the rest of the week.

Marabou compresses to nothing while casting then puffs out to a very active and mobile profile even while at rest and that's why I went to it as well.

Your description of the strip and tip to tight sent shivers up my spine as it was just how I recall my own luck with a marabou crab.

09-24-2006 12:49 AM
Hot crabs here, hot crabs!

When I first began fishing for bones I almost strictly used shrimp flies, so of course I caught all my fish on those. However, a small trip to Eleuthera a few years ago started me on crabs. We found this nice bay that held fish. It was sandy, wadeable and the fish were biggish. I was able to get 1 early on with a Gotcha, but after that we couldn't buy a hookup. On the way back to the car we noticed all these potholes in the flat, each one with a little, tan crab in the bottom. That night we whipped up a some #6 crabs and the next time we hit that flat... it was money. You'd toss the crab a little ways in front of the fish, wait till they got near, give one 6-inch strip and stop. You'd clearly see the fish dart forward, tip up and eat. Setting the hook was merely a matter of smoothly coming tight with an easy strip.

After that I started fishing crabs more at home and there are certain times when they really get the majority of strikes. This can be especially true with big, smart fish that will spook at the constant stripping action you mostly use with shrimp flies. That can also be the problem: crab flies are harder to fish than shrimp since bonefish mainly want the crabs sitting still so you have to watch for the strike. You can't feel it like you can if you're stripping a Gotcha or something.

Just this last winter season I did very well on crabs, so much so that they were my go-to flies. I tied so many #6 Merkins that I coudn't stand it. So, I simplified. I lost the rubber legs and splayed feathers. My crabs now consist of a tuft of marabou, three strands of yarn, mini-lead eyes and a weedguard. So simple it's stupid, but it works. It's all in the way you move it.
09-12-2006 10:25 AM
josko Just trying to broaden my optioons, I guess. I like to fish in order to become a better fisherman, and often tend to abandon a working method in order to try out something new.
09-11-2006 10:53 PM
teflon_jones If you're having good luck with shrimp flies, why bother with crab flies?
09-11-2006 04:41 PM
Jim Miller Josko
I had the best luck when not moving the crab at all. Next was to move it only a smidge ... like a 1/2 inch ... more a shudder than a strip.

You are welcome to use the patterns I tied for Eleuthera ..... Turnaffee (sp) crabs, flexo crabs and small epoxy guys. They are just collecting dust up on my bookshelf.
A word of caution .... they didn't work very well for Bull Sharks.
09-11-2006 01:26 PM
juro Josko -

I have a couple of crab patterns that area awesome on dem bones. Most recently a variation of a great crab Bob Berquist showed us in Acklins, and man did it work well. I did not use deerhair but rather made the body with alternate materials.

Also the small felt crabs have worked well for me in the past. I will post pics and a few tactics I've come up with for fishing them with good success.

or maybe I will post the pics and PM the tactics
09-11-2006 12:08 PM
Adrian I've not done much with crab patterns on bones but the odd times when I did they worked great. Nothing special about the presentation but in each case there was eveidence of huge numbers of crabs in the area. One spot down in the yucatan was littered with millions of bleached fiddler crab shells. I aksed the guide, "what about a crab pattern?", he just shrugged, so I tied one on and the first fish nailed it. I've also had success with bigger crab flies (merkins etc) in deep water and the surf.
09-11-2006 09:48 AM
Crab vs shrimp flies for bonefish

I can't seem to get in the groove with crab flies for bonefish. I seem to get looks and not much more with crabs; my take/hookup percentage is much higher with shrimp flies. I've read that crabs should be manipulated much less, and I've tried stripping them every which way, from not at all to almost as fast as shrimp, but still, nothin' doin'.
I've watched the flats and selected reasonable combos, even going to store-bought flies such as beadys EP crabs, small Merkins, etc.

So, what's a good way to bring up one's crab fly bonefishing skills?

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