Current Waters: Bonito

Cape. Carl Bois •


We’re still on the stripers. They’re definitely in their August patterns, but the fishery is still good. Still having great numbers of bluefish. Bottom fishing isn’t what it once was, but we’re getting some. Weather events definitely help stir things up and reactivate things. This is especially needed in August. The recent thunderstorms and drop in temperature are mixing things up.

Tuna fishing is outstanding. Find your favorite charter and go. Yesterday Nantucket charter fleet all did well on tuna. If you have the opportunity, now is definitely the time.

August comes along and so do all the jellyfish (including Portuguese Man o’ War). This Thursday, every beach (except Sconset) had a jellyfish (or hazardous marine life) warming. We’ve said it before, but the warm water, and the extended heat wave we experienced the past month, bring in those warmer water species. We could see these into fall as well since the heat wave will delay cooling things off.

Now is also the time of year we start seeing bonito and a little later false albacore (or albies). Bonito have already been caught on both sides of the island, including around Great Point and off of Smith’s Point at the Bonito Bar. There is usually a lot of excitement around the bonito coming in this time of year. When other fishing action has slowed, the fun-fighting bonito take the lead.

Atlantic bonitos (Sarda sarda) are a tribe of medium-sized, ray-finned predatory fish in the family Scombridae – a family it shares with the mackerel, tuna, and Spanish mackerel tribes. They are a beautiful fish - mainly silver with blue-green dorsal fins and black stripes along the body. The Atlantic bonito can grow up to 12 pounds and 30 inches long. They are less prolific than false albacore when they come in, presenting the angler with the more challenging task of first finding the fish and then enticing them to bite.

Bonito are predatory and display traits like other members of their family. You’ll find them following bait schools and feeding aggressively. The Atlantic bonito is a ram ventilator, meaning it cannot bite. They must eat their pray whole. That is why they eat mostly smaller fish like mackerels, menhaden, but primarily sand eel in our waters.

There have already been some bonito caught and they are starting to come in closer to shore. Water temperature and bait are always key variables governing that movement. One of the critical elements for a sustained bonito run is the presence of preferred bait within the region.

Bonito are somewhat more tolerant of temperature variations than false albacore and can sometimes remain in local waters through the middle of the fall. We may continue to benefit from the bonito for a while.

Unlike albies, bonito are excellent table fare. The meat is soft and is great seared on the grill. As a member of the tuna family, bonito can be prepared raw like tuna and enjoyed sashimi style. Google cooking with bonito and you’ll get a ton of different recipes.

Keep an eye out for false albacore as well, though they’ll be coming in a little later. Keep in mind, the same New York food columnist who said cooking bonito was like cooking with yellowfin tuna, said that false albacore tastes like “wet carpet.” We’ll look in the coming week for albies and report back. They may taste like wet carpet, but they really mark the start of the fall fishing season.

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