As the night air starts getting cooler and the kids go back to school in September, my thoughts turn to those little speedsters – bonito and false albacore. Although it was probably 25 years ago, I still remember the first bonito I ever caught. I was fluke fishing with my father and my next door neighbor. As I started reeling in my line to get ready to move to another spot, something hit my white bucktail like a freight train. Instantly, what seemed like miles of 10 lb. test line began to melt off my little Berkley reel. Eventually I worked it along the boat where my neighbor was waiting with the net. Once aboard, I was amazed at the sight of this mini-tuna that almost spooled me. It was probably only around 4 or 5 lbs., but from then on, I was hooked!
Whether you call them bones, bonita, little tunny, albies, or fat alberts, these little pelagics are just a blast to catch on light tackle!
They are often spoken of or written about in the same sentence, as in, “I’m going to try to catch some bones and albies today.” While they are often caught together as they migrate down the east coast in the late summer and early autumn, they are in fact, two distinct species. The bonitos that frequent our area are Atlantic bonito (sarda sarda). They are most easily recognized by the dark angled lines on their backs and their sharp little canine like teeth. False Albacore (Euthynnus alletteratus) have squiggly lines on their backs and, while they have teeth, they are set further back in their mouths and are not very noticeable.
Another major difference is their food value. While the bonito is sought after for its delicious meat, the false albacore is not. A party boat mate once described an albie’s flavor to me by saying, “If you want your cat to hate you, feed it one of those!” While that may be true, (I don't have the courage to try one) I do know people who have eaten it and liked it.
Whatever their food value, the real reason I target these two fish is for their fighting abilities on light tackle. Once hooked, they are capable of making blistering runs up to 40 miles per hour. Put simply, these fish make drags sing!