By Captain Jason Sawick
Once mid-summer hits and the waters begin to warm those of us who are hard-tail junkies start to think about the Atlantic bonito which are the first of the small tunoids to hit our waters in late summer. The other small tuna we encounter is the false albacore which typically don’t show until a month or so after the first green bonito arrive. I expect to see the first fishable numbers or green bonito in late July in our southern New England waters. These fish are often aggressive and attack plugs, soft baits, and bucktails eagerly. As the days and weeks progress into late summer and fall, these same fish move further inshore and become notoriously more difficult to catch for most anglers. My take on this is that when these fish are in deeper water they are feeding on larger baits and are more aggressive in the security which that deeper environment provides. Tactics can therefore be broken down into two core strategies. Trolling for the aggressive deeper water fish and inshore spin and fly casting for the close to shore fast movers.
I have had tremendous success trolling for bonito with several different styles of lures. At the top of my selection are the narrow profiled swimming plugs such as yo-zuri crystal minnows and rebel fastracs. I will run 3 feet of 30-lb flourocarbon leader tied directly to the split ring of these lures. For catch and release fishing I will also switch out factory trebel hooks with owner or vmc in-line single hooks which are much easier on the fish. Many of the soft baits on the market such as Hogy’s or Slug-Go’s are also productive both on the troll and for casting as well. Trolling speed for these fish should be fairly fast but should be adjusted based on tide, sea-state, and the potential presence of tackle destructive monster blues. I typically start off around 5 mpg and will adjust slightly lower or higher based on the conditions.
I enjoy fishing with spinning gear and will troll with spinning tackle for these fish. I use Quantum Cabo PTsE reels on my boat paired with Fin-Nor Tidal PowerLite rods. The Quantum Cabo 40’s are great for casting but when trolling I often beef up to the slightly larger 50’s or 60’s which are more than capable for handling both larger bonito and the previously mentioned gator blues. Furthermore, there is also the potential for encountering small bluefin if fishing around the Vineyard and having the added line capacity helps in landing a small BFT should one be encountered.
Once in the shallows, bonito are constantly on the move chasing small baits and can be very boat shy for the run and gun crowd. This does not mean that these fish cannot be caught as a well studied approach to put your boat within quiet casting range of bonito or false albacore will produce. Pay attention to the patterns of movement as fish may be feeding up and down a shoreline or tidal rip. Watch for where fish repeatedly pop-up and determine how you can position your boat using either the wind or current to place yourself in casting range. This will be much more effective versus charging into breaking fish with your outboard and will make fly or spin casting easier. Good luck on the bones. They are a bucket list fish for many saltwater anglers. They are hard fighting, beautiful, and make great table fare as well.
FORECAST BY: Jason Sawicki is a USCG licensed captain who pursues many of the great fisheries that exist in the North East. He trailers his Mako CC “Megabite” throughout southern New England, targeting multiple fisheries with light tackle – knowing that being mobile is a huge advantage towards being consistently successful.