One of the favorite October targets of tourists worldwide and locals is the fish we find off the coastal Gulf known by many names: False albacore, little tunny and others.
The fish is sometimes mistaken for the bonito. Maybe it’s that “bonito” is one word and Spanish for the masculine form of “pretty.” Unfortunately, we must go with the lying, ugly term “false albacore,” for accuracy’s sake.
Throwing top-water plugs at albies is fun, but fly-fishing for them is a one-of-a-kind experience. In the late summer and fall, bonito migrate from New England to Florida, crashing the influx of baitfish. Match your fly to the baitfish — bonito typically eat 2- to 4-inch baitfish. Clouser minnow flies with some degree of chartreuse are popular.
The bait pods also will entice Spanish and king mackerel and bluefish, so be ready for a fast, toothy fight.
Albies are easy to spot. Head off the beaches, and look for diving birds or schools of albies slashing the water surface. Cast your fly into the baitfish and use a quick retrieval — don’t worry about stripping too slowly. It’s a feeding frenzy, and these darting fish can easy track down a fly. At the same time, try to keep the fly in the bait pod for as long as possible. Any number of species could tag the fly.
“I have found feeding frenzies in October with blues, king and Spanish mackerel, little tunny, tarpon and sharks all feeding on whatever is smaller than them,” said Capt. Rick Grassett of the Snook Fin-Addict.
Make a solid hook-set since fly rods are lighter than a typical spinning outfit. Be ready for a couple mean runs. Don’t try to stop them. Set a modest amount of pressure on your drag, and do not tear the hook from the albie’s soft mouth. Hang on.
Once regarded as trash fish by some in the 1990s, albies have become a prized game fish. And not for their table fare — there have been reports of ciguatera poisoning related to its consumption. But their fight and ability to be spotted on the surface has made them a bow-and-arrow-type target.
This week’s outgoing tides in the morning should help the beach fishing.
Try fishing a rising or falling tide. Let the fish come to you; be sure not to spook the fish deep into the water column by motoring around.
That would not be bonito.