Bonito are here, bonita are on their way

Bonito have been darting along shorelines chasing squid, a few sand eels and peanut bunker. They’re racing around Galilea’s center wall, driving boaters, kayakers and rock hoppers crazy as they swim by faster than most can cast. A few guys have them wired but even those in the know know that no spot is perfect because everything changes with tides and time. One of the challenging but amazing things about bonito fishing is that often they never show up on your fishfinder and neither does the bait. It’s a dance fast as lightning, this predator prey relationship. 

Bonito taste amazing as sashimi. Like bluefish, they should be bled and iced as soon as possible. I ran into kayak fisherman Jimmy Chappel a few mornings back as he was splashing his kayak hours before dawn. He mentioned he packed a bag of ice in case bonito were around just as I noticed my milk carton full of lures and rod holders was back in the garage. Be prepared, I’ve been told. Another kayak fishing ace, Ian Clark, landed a bunch and made dinner plans right away. He prepared a grilled masterpiece with zucchini, shrimp, corn and heirloom tomato salsa. That dish right there is precisely why we love this time of year: fresh fish from the sea with greens from our gardens. Amen Ian. 

The morning after, one fish fell for a green over pink Sluggo modified after I bit the top off clean and added a DOA jig head. Tucked into a small cove between two big avenue-ending rocks, there was a nice wash to the inside as I drifted in about 40 feet. Without a hint of action from birds or my sounder, the rod ripped right, spun my kayak about 150 degrees, twisted me in an angry chiropractor move and left me facing the stern with my rod slapping into the two backup rods stored on the aft port side in the crate I had actually remembered. In a flash, I was contorted, holding on as best I could, praying all my late night leader tying, possibly done with the aid of a few Narragansett tall boys, held fast. In addition to any counsel some may offer about lures, rigs, colors or speed of retrieves, wear gloves. If bonito catch you daydreaming or reaching for a sip of coffee, they just might tear the rod right out of your hands. 

Since it’s September, false albacore are really on the minds of southern New England fishermen. The Spring striper migration is so needed after long winters and the passing of trout’s opening day, surfcasting from big rocks on a hot summer night is the best, rubbing elbows and attitudes with trophy hunters along the Cape Cod Canal is tradition and of course, the fall striper run lays out a welcome mat for the inevitable coming of those cool nights. Even with all that, albies remain an obsession for many because they’re fast, fickle, beautiful, challenging to catch with tins, epoxies, soft plastics or flies and just so exciting when they’re finally in the boat. 

Bonita typically show up on The Cape first. While it’s a real tease, it does provide some warning for us to check out how many sick days we have left and double check our tackle boxes. To help celebrate their arrival, the 3rd Annual Albie Shootout happens this weekend. Sponsored by Why Knot Fishing, a fishing community platform created to bring fishermen together and, in their own words, “Have a damned good time,” they have a catch, photograph and release division which is wonderful since albies are definitely not meant for most tables. They’re rich with myoglobin, the albies I mean, a protein binding oxygen and iron to help them swim so fast which also makes them taste pretty awful if they’re not bled and immediately filleted to remove any of that myoglobin-rich dark meat. If you’re just curious, take Jimmy’s lead and pack some ice. The tourney is open to Ocean State, Massachusetts and Connecticut waters and there’s an after-fishing party at Peter Jenkins’ shop, The Saltwater Edge in Middletown. If you’ve ever visited Peter’s place, you know it’s a fully stocked store with plenty of room for fishermen to gather, shuck a few clams and, well, have a damned good time. The price of admission is just $30 through the website, or you can save ten bucks and register at Peter’s store. 

Let’s forget about a crazy hot summer, dismal offshore reports and days getting shorter; let’s fight a few bonito, watch that horizon for bonita and visit Peter’s place. First, we should probably get some ice. 

Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman who lives not far from Rhode Island’s Saugatucket River with his wife, who supports his fishing clearly to get him out of the house and a young son who catches more Sarda sarda than him.


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