Bonito Blast 2014 Re-Visited
In April of 2014, when the Coastal Carolina Fisherman website was just a few months old and only getting a few hundred views each month. I asked my longtime friend Captain Jot Owens or Wrightsville Beach, NC to help with a story on Bonito fishing. I recently looked back at that story from our first year. After reading it I knew I had to run it again. It was a great piece of fishing information and one that holds true today. So today, the Coastal Carolina website is up to over 173,000 viewers a year and Jot helped us get there and with said, Jot’s Bonito story was pulled out of the archives for your enjoyment.
Captain Tim Wilson, Publisher
April 15th is best known in the United States as “Tax Day”. However along the Cape Fear Coast it’s also known as the start of the Bonito season. Depending of the weather and associated water temps, tax day signals the start of the Bonito season. This year I sat down with Captain Jot Owens and got his thoughts on how to face the “Bonito Blast” of 2014.
Jot started by telling me that Bonito are expected around the middle of April but the real determining factor is water temperature of around 60 degrees. The schools are commonly found anywhere from just off the beach to out to the 10 mile mark. With the increasing warmth of the water, the fish will move out by the middle of May seeking cooler water. So the coastal fishing season for Bonito, in most years, is confined to 6 weeks or less. Jot looks for areas with hard bottoms and ledges or even artificial reefs or wrecks. One of the key factors is fishing during low light conditions such as overcast or cloudy days or just after sunrise.
The Bonito feeds on large schools of bait fish just like the birds so looking for bait busting the surface or birds frantically feeding on the surface is a great sign that Bonito are near. In many cases the bait is being driven to the surface by the Bonito underneath. You can also find bait, locating the sub-surface Bonito schools, with your fish finder looking at depths of 30 to 40 feet.
Once you locate them, just start casting. Lures like the Standard Issue epoxy jig by Hogy are great to use. Colors like blue, purple, pinks and greens seem to be the best options. The 2’ and 3’ size work well with ½ oz. and 1/8 oz. weights available. He likes to use 40 pound fluorocarbon leader with and extremely small swivel to the main line. When you find fish breaking on the surface, approach the school slowly keeping a casting distance from the school in order to not force them to dive. Cast to the edge of the school and retrieve thru the school with a fast retrieve, keeping the lure just under the surface. Just keep repeating the process.
On days when the Bonito are not near the surface, trolling may be the answer. This is very much like trolling for Spanish Mackerel. Using a #1 and #2 planner and top rods. Connect a # 0 or # 1 Clark spoon to a 30’ leader of fluorocarbon. The best Clark color options are silver, gold or pink flash. You can use a near surface rig by tying a 1 oz. sinker to the leader with no planner. Make sure to increase the leader length to 50 feet to limit the chance of tangles. Option strategies can include the small size trolling birds or trolling Blue Water Candy’s Spanish Daisy Chain 60’to 100’behind the boat. Watch your speed and make sure you keep it around 5 to 6 mph.
When you get hooked up…..watch out!!! Make sure your drag is properly set. Bonito are known for both their speed and sudden fight. A drag too tight can break the line in an instant. When you hook up gradually tighten the drag down to slow down the fish and then start the fight. They’re great fun and pretty good eating.
As always it was great talking to Captain Jot Owens and I want to thank him for his contribution towards this article.