Overview: Bonito, False Albacore, Spanish Mackerel on Cape Cod

These speedy members of the tuna family show up in waters on the south side of the Cape in mid summer and in the case of false albacore, don’t leave until late October or even a bit later. Ranging in size from a pound or two into the low teens, they are primarily targeted by anglers in boats but sometimes will swoop in close enough to shore for shore-bound fishermen to have a shot.

Lure Selection

All three species are taken on small lures or flies for the most part but the 7-inch Original Hogy in Amber color has proven to be an absolute killer for albies in particular. All of these fish have excellent eyesight so using light line and leaders with no extra hardware such as snaps or swivels is imperative. Most anglers get the best results using a very fast retrieve but sometimes a small lure that is allowed to sink with no imparted action will out-fish a similar offering that is ripped through the water. These fish can be maddeningly selective in terms of lure color, size and retrieve speed so experimenting with all those variables is the best way to success. When hooked they positively scream away, sometimes destroying reel drags and the confidence of anglers lucky enough to hook up.

Approach

At times anglers in boats succumb to “albie fever” and charge around from school to school of these lightening fast fish in hopes of putting a cast or two in front of them before they sound, only to reappear some distance away – and the chase is on again. While this strategy may yield a fish or two from time to time a better bet is to take the time to observe the pattern in which the fish are moving, turn off the motor and wait for them to come to you. Doing this will be less likely to spook the fish and give the chance of many more casts, at least until the run-and-gunners show up!

Bonito & Spanish Macks

Bonito (identified by the straight lines running on an angle down from the tops of their backs) are absolutely delicious when grilled, baked or broiled but false albacore (with squiggly lines on their sides) are inedible. Spanish mackerel fall somewhere between. These are warm water fish and if you intend to eat a bonito or Spanish mack be sure to ice it immediately.

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