Get ready for furious runs
It’s the middle of the fishing season and it’s time to start thinking about bonito and false albacore. Last year few false albacore were around but local anglers caught their share of bonito. Both of these species are hard to catch, but have thrilled local fishermen with their furious runs, stripping line from light tackle and giving anglers a memorable fight.
Many times false albacore and bonito are mixed in with striped bass and bluefish, like last year. They can be caught from boat and shore with lures and even on the troll. They generally range in the two foot range, weigh four to five pounds but have been caught as large as twelve to fifteen pounds.
Atlantic bonito are part of the same mackerel family (Scombridae) as tuna. Their meat has a darkish color and a firm texture, with a moderate fat content. The meat of young or small bonito can be of lighter color, close to that of skipjack tuna. They are often grilled or baked. However, false albacore are usually not eaten.
Last week at a Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association (RISAA) meeting, anglers learned how to target and catch bonito and false albacore. Guest speakers were Capt. Eric Thomas of Teezer77 Charters in Portsmouth. He was a featured speaker on false albacore and bonito fishing at the New England Saltwater Fishing Show. Local fishing experts Susan and Roger Lema from South County also spoke at the seminar.
I asked the Lemas for their top tips on how to catch bonito and false albacore. Susan Lema said “The first tip is use as little hardware has possible. We tie directly to a 25 pound fluorocarbon leader with a uni knot and no swivel. This keeps things simple with no hardware flashing in the water to spook the fish.” Roger Lema said, “The second tip is to fish the outgoing tide in front of rivers, coves and ponds as the water and bait have to be moving.” Susan said, “These fish are ram feeders. They open their mouths and hit the bait at high speed so things are moving.” The third tip is to be prepared to mix it up. Roger said, “When we go out we have five rods ready to go. Some prepared to cast silver lures like Deadly Dicks and Kastmaster lures. But, we are also ready to troll (at four knots) with broken back lures, shallow swimming and deep swimming lures to use depending on where the fish are in the water column.” And, one last tip, “You have to anticipate where these speedsters will surface again and be there when they do. So we like to fish the sides of the schools rather than getting out in front of them,” said Roger Lema.
In the August 2013 issue of “On the Water” magazine, Brendon Richards said, “The common characteristic of all quality albie and bonito haunts is deep, moving water of at least average clarity. These fish feed primarily by sight and are scarce in stained waters.” They like bay anchovies, silversides, sand eels, peanut bunker, small squid and shrimp…so silver lures do a fine job mimicking these baits.
Where’s the bite
Shore fishing. Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait & Tackle, Charlestown, said, “Fishing off the Breachway has been good with bass and blues coming though a couple of times a day. Mostly school bass are being caught with keepers mixed in. Fish range from 15” to 35” with anglers using baits like Slug-Gos (that mimic eels) and bucktail jigs that they bounce off the bottom. At night anglers are using mostly eels and they are catching bass in the 20 to 22 pound range. On the beaches bluefish have moved in from Watch Hill to the Matunuck area.” John Littlefield of Archie’s Bait & Tackle, Riverside, said, “Fishing at Sabin Point (East Providence) has been very good with as many as 50 to 60 anglers fishing for scup and Tommy cod at peak hours. Bluefish have started to move into the area which has anglers concerned… when bluefish arrive the scup tend to leave. At night anglers are targeting striped bass landing school bass from Beach Road near the Carousel with keeper size bass (28” or more) mixed in.” Fishing from Colt State Park, Bristol for scup continues to be good too.
Striped bass fishing in the Ninigret pond is OK for small stripers with Snappa blues, which are good as fluke bait, being caught on super light tackle.” Fishing on the reefs along the coast is yielding striped bass in the 15 to 20 pound range with Block Island anglers catching fish in the 30 and 40 pound range,” said Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait & Tackle. George Allen of Portsmouth said, “the fish at Block Island have been large this year and either you are on them or not.” Bristol anglers Frank Correia, Bryan Hennessey, Dennis Leonti, Paul Ferreira and Chris Correia landed bass to 40 pounds last week with a trip to Block Island. Eleven year old angler Michael Denblaker from New Jersey landed his largest fish ever on Block Island last week… a 48”, 38 pound striped bass at the Southwest Ledge using eels when fishing with family and friends. Mixed reports about the bass bite off Newport. So it seems things are hit or miss there too. Angler George Allen of Portsmouth said, “Last week the bass bite off Newport on reefs was very strong with fish in the 50 pound range being taken drifting eels, with menhaden chunks and trolling tube and worm.”
Summer flounder (fluke) fishing is still good. Angler Mike Swain of Coventry landed fluke to 28” off Newport… “The big one (close to ten pounds) was almost prehistoric in appearance,” he said. “Fluke fishing is happening in about 45 to 50 feet of water along the southern coastal shores with the keeper ratio not nearly as good as it was, about one keeper in every ten fish caught,” said Phil Matteson of Breachway Bait. “Fluke fishing out in front of Warwick Neck near the Seminary and off Barrington Beach between the Beach and channel has been OK. Anglers are catching a lot of fish, with a few keeper fluke mixed in. Fishing in the Newport Bridge and Goat Island area has been hit or miss. Two customers fished the area and boated twenty seven fish with fourteen keepers. The next day they went back and the fish were not there.” said John Littlefield. Summer flounder minimum size is 18” with an eight fish/angler/day limit.
Tautog season opened and will run until October 18 with a three fish/angler/day limit. The limit will jumps to six fish/angler/day from October 19 until December 15. Minimum size is 16”. A ten fish per boat limit apples to all periods (party and charter boats excluded). No reports of anglers targeting tautog at this time.
Captain Dave Monti has been fishing and shell fishing for over 40 years. He holds a captain’s master license and a charter fishing license. Visit Captain Dave’s No Fluke website at noflukefishing.com or e-mail him with your fishing news and photos at firstname.lastname@example.org .