We have all heard the chit-chat about “glamour” fish at your local tackle store, marinas, and just about anyplace where folks talk about fishing. You know— a slam of this, or a slam of that. Mind you, I’m not knocking anyone who can catch three highly-prized game fish in one outing either on the flats, backcountry, or offshore. That’s quite an accomplishment, in anyone’s book.
But, living here in South Florida is quite a blessing in many ways and one of the fishing benefits is that here in Jupiter it’s not uncommon to catch six or more species of fish on any given summer day. Sure, it’s super hot and the afternoon thunderstorms can be problematic. However, some excellent fly-fishing opportunities exist, and some of the best and most exciting fly fishing is for species that are not high on the “glamour” list, but are as fun as can be. One particular species that’s one heck of a lot of fun to catch on a fly rod is the bonito, AKA: albie, football, hardhead, or bombers. It’s sort of like the Rodney Dangerfield of fish; until recently, “it got no respect.” But that all changed when fly-fishermen discovered that this cousin of the tuna can be caught in good numbers close to the boat and that they hit like you hooked a car going 30 mph, and then take off, not once, but for as many as four long runs. Pound for pound they are one of the best fighting fish in any body of water anywhere. My clients are often surprised when they discover I was not exaggerating about the hard fighting qualities of this fish.
During the months of May, June, July, and August, when the small baitfish are plentiful in the Jupiter area, the albies won’t be far behind. Mixed in with the albies out in the ocean depths, it’s not uncommon to catch a cornucopia of other fish such as rainbow runners, blue runners, dolphin, jack, sails, marlin, sharks, cobia tripletail, and kingfish.
When properly chummed, albies explode on the surface, and it gets really exciting really fast when you cast your fly into the teaming melee and strip set the hook.
Hold on tight, make sure your line is clear of anything that it will snag on (like your precious fingers!), and get that fish on the reel quick or be assured that Murphy’s law will kick in; and whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.
High-sticking a fly rod with an albie on the other end is a big problem. If you have ever done it, you know why. They break 12- and 14-weight rods as if they were pretzel sticks.
A 15-pound fish can dump a couple of hundred yards of line in a flash, so get your act together quickly. Albie fishing is a type of fishing that will change the way you think about fly-fishing. It’s amazing that a fish that weighs under 20 pounds will be your new standard of excellence.
I prefer an Orvis Large Arbor Vortex Big Game 10-13 wt. reel loaded with Orvis gel-spun backing, and attached to either Tarpon Wonderline Gen 3, or clear sink-tip fly line. It’s important to use Mirage Fluorocarbon 14.5# or 20 # leader material, since albies are very leader-shy at times. Mirage keeps the visibility of the leader to the very minimum. A Cowen Silverside #jv19l3-00 or a Blados Crease Fly # jv44k5-21 are good fly choices and will get you plenty of action.
One final thought
Unless you are using the caught albies for something special, I encourage you to practice catch and release. That way these beautiful game fish can live to fight again. Be gentle on the fish and remember they tend to behave when you turn them belly up when dehooking. Since bonito are fast-moving fish, it’s important to launch them head first into the water to get them breathing again.
Capt. Cliff Budd is an Orvisendorsed fly fishing guide fishing out of Jupiter, Florida. He can be reached at 561-745-9178 in the early evening, or visit www.seacretspot.com
This report can also be found in Orvis website. Please click here.