The Atlantic Bonito (Sarda Sarda) is a fast, hard pulling relative of the tuna and mackerel families and a favorite of anglers using Fly and light tackle. It is migratory and is found in large numbers just of our coast for just a few weeks each spring. Bonito make excellent table fare but must be eaten fresh, they do not freeze well. They are sometimes confused with False Albacore which have squiggly lines on their backs and are not good to eat.
The best time to target them is early in the morning around first dawn but you can find them at other times too. They usually travel in large schools and often can be seen busting on balls of bait fish at the surface. Quite a sight to behold for a set of winter-fatigued eyes!
Once the water gets above 62, you can start looking for them. They will come very close to the coastline but seem to prefer structure that breaks up the currents. The near shore artificial reefs are a great place to hunt for them. While they do come fairly close to shore it would be rare to be able to catch one from shore or the pier.
They spook fairly easy so you will need to approach them from up current if at all possible and then drift toward them. If they are not on the surface, use your fishfinder in combination with a vertical jigging rig to find them in the water column. Once you have located them and get close enough, they are fairly easy to target. They are a bit leader shy so I use a fluorocarbon leader, never metal or heavy mono filament line.
You can fish for them much like you would for Spanish mackerel. I like to use a fast action, light duty rod and reel, much like a flounder or sea trout combo with 10 or 12 pound test line. Many fishermen like to use a light metal jig like a Maria lure or a Lurh Jensen crippled herring to target them on the surface. Anywhere from ½ to 1 ½ ounces usually works well depending on the water conditions. If they are deeper in the water column try using a diving type lure such as the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow Deep Diver or pull a Clark spoon on a trolling weight.
The bonito will at first bite seem almost an easy pull, but when the fish realizes it is being pulled away from the school and it will make a FAST run trying to catch up. Then they will begrudge you every inch of line as you reel them in. Once they see the boat it starts all over again, only this time the run isn’t quite as far. Pound for pound they are one of the hardest fighting fish out there. A pure blast on light tackle and a favorite of saltwater fly fisherman!