As I am typing this, I'm sitting in my hotel room in Weldon NC. It's the beginning of the Striped Bass spawn and I'm happy to be on the river again. The only downside to the Striped Bass run, is that it cuts into our Atlantic Bonito season on the Crystal Coast. The Bonito will probably be around for another week or two, but I probably saw my last Bonito of the year come over the gunnels last week before traveling up to the Roanoke River. By the time I get back, it could be over until next year. I don't mind that too much, because we had a great, albeit short, Atlantic Bonito season.
If you're not familiar with the Atlantic Bonito, it is a species that we see each spring, which is similar in many ways to the False Albacore that we chase each fall. They are a pelagic speedster in the tuna family that swims at high speeds as they annihilate Anchovies and Silversides. They even have a somewhat similar color and pattern to the Albacore. Some of the key differences are that they have a dorsal fin similar to a Mackerel, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and most importantly they are delicious to eat, unlike their Albacore cousins.
I look forward to each April when our neashore waters approach 60 degrees, and the Bonito begin to arrive at our nearshore artificial reefs and hardbottom ledges. These fish are just passing through on their way to the New England area where they will spend their summer. By the time the water temps hit 70 degrees, the Bonito are already on their way out and headed North.
In that short window of time, we are watching the weather and seas forecast and looking for every opportunity to get out after them. Mid April, we had some relatively cooperative weather and we were able to get out there for several days and chase them. That means leaving the house at 4:30am and shoving off the dock at 5:30am to hit the early morning bite and get some fish boated before the majority of the traffic arrives. Generally the biggest part of the action occurs between first light and 8am. This year was a little different, and we had many schools of fish pop up and blitz on the surface in the middle of the day. Although these fish can definitely be dredged up from the depths, my favorite way to pursue them is on top when they are blitzing on small baitfish.
Overall, it was a great experience and I'm already ready for next year. And shameless plug, if you ever want to get in on some action like this that only occurs for a short window of time, please contact me. There is no rule that says you can't book a year in advance.
Atlantic Bonito may have been the main target, but when you are fishing around structure in the ocean, there are a plethora of other species available. This Grey Trout is one of many species that we caught last month while targeting Bonito.
A huge thank you to every one who came fishing with me over the last few weeks, I could not do it without your help!