Chasing Miami’s Urban Bonefish

On The Fly Saltwater

Featured photo by Jimmy Jacobs

By Jimmy Jacobs

August 2020

A while back the On The Fly South crew met Capt. Martin (pronounced Marteen) Carranza at a fly-fishing show and he had encouraged us to come fish his home waters of Biscayne Bay. It took us a couple of years to make that happen, but on an early Sunday morning we met him on Key Biscayne at the very busy boat ramps of Crandon Park Marina.

Once on the water, the towering high rises of Key Biscayne and even bigger ones of Miami in the distance provided an unusual backdrop for the pursuit of bonefish. Even more surprising, was the number of those fish we saw at our first stop. It was a 3-foot-deep flat framed by that urban skyline. The 8-weight rod was quickly rigged with a 20-pound tippet and a fly named the Boner that Capt. Carranza created and ties. The heavy tippet was due to the fact that bonefish of double-digit weights sometimes show up. If you got a shot at such a fish, you didn’t want the leader to fail. As to the fly, it reminded me of a cross between a Bonefish Gotcha and a slider with barbell eyes for quick sinking.

Soon OTFS Associate Editor Polly Dean took her turn on the casting deck and planted the fly in front of a pod of smaller bones. The first “urban” bonefish of the day took the offering and came to the boat. It was a good omen for what was to come.

First hook up of the day. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Next, we headed south through Biscayne Bay past Soldier Key and farther south to the region near Elliott Key. This is the “out back” of the bay that one would expect to offer less boat traffic and some seclusion. Along the way, Capt. Carranza gave us some insights into the fishery on Biscayne Bay. “I can’t believe how strong the bay is,” he said. “We do everything in our power to destroy it, but this guy keeps coming back.” The captain began fishing the bay in the 1980s while in college. Over that long haul he has seen the fishery decline and the amount of trash in the bay increase, but the bonefish, tarpon and permit still offer plenty of shots. “Fishing died off after the 2010 freeze,” he added, “but by 2014 bonefish came back strong.”

Capt. Carranza with Polly Dean’s big Miami Bonefish. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Our next stop was on a flat bordering a channel on the approach to a cut between a couple of mangrove shores. We were, however, not alone. Across the channel on a sandbar dozens of pleasure boats were anchored, playing music and partying. Yet, we soon were again on bonefish, and this time some that had broad shoulders. We now were tossing Foxy Clouser patterns and both Polly and I had our fly rods and reels tested as we were able to boat bones in the 5- to 6-pound range. All in all, our day was an eye opener with regard to just how good the “urban” angling of Biscayne Bay really is.

Capt. Martin Carranza is a native of Argentina, but has a long history in South Florida. In his youth he fly-fished with his family for trout in Patagonia. Martin first arrived in the U.S. when he received a scholarship to the University of Miami to play rugby. During his academic years, he also cut his saltwater fishing teeth by catching bonefish from the shore in the parks on the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Capt. Martin Carranza on the poling platform. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Surprisingly, those early catches came mostly on Wooly Buggers! Returning to Argentina, he became the owner of Chime Lodge in Patagonia, which he continues to operate, offering angling for huge trout. However, when the Argentine economy collapsed around the millennium, he moved his family to the Miami area in 2001. Subsequently he has been guiding the waters of Biscayne Bay, the Everglades and Florida Keys for the last 15 years. Additionally, he leads destination angling trips to Patagonia and Cuba. He can be contacted through his website Captain Martin C. Fishing Adventures.

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