Yesterday I saw my first sign of spring, viewing an osprey nest I pass daily I saw a wee chick that had just hatched wobbly peering at me over the edge of the nest. Welcome to the world and hurrah! Spring is fast approaching with spring like conditions in place and good fishing. Purple martins, swallow tailed kites will follow along with tarpon very soon.
With a past month of consistent cold fronts we are in a stable warm pattern which the fish like. The gulf water is an azure greenish blue and the backcountry is nice and clean. False Albacore have been showing off the beaches along with sharks and a few snook on the beaches.
False Albacore (also called Albies and Little Tunnys) are one of my favorite fish to catch. For some reason, we call them bonita but they are truly False Albacore. They’re are simply just screamers when hooked and are definitely our best fighting fish. The other day on my way back from getting bait a few miles south of Naples out in the gulf I spotted birds diving and consequently groups of Albies feeding. I picked up my clients Derrick & Angelia and headed south out Gordon Pass until we found the fish, Derrick hooked up first making a perfect cast with a Live Eye Action plug and landed a beauty 10 pounder. We continued south until we found more fish and subsequently got three double headers, six more fish to round out the day with seven. A stellar day and a great way to start the day. The next day a cool front went through and the fish were gone.
Since then I have been cruising off the beaches looking for Albies but haven’t found them again so we’ve been concentrating on the backcountry fishing. The backcountry is slowly getting better with snook starting to get more active along with redfish. We were struggling the other morning so we headed south to one of my favorite bays where I new the tide was about to change, we jigged some troughs and caught a couple pompano then I could see the tide line coming towards us so we switched to fishing this particular shoreline and caught some bruiser jacks and a nice 28” redfish. We continued following the tide into the backcountry and caught another nice red and some more jacks. I went back yesterday and didn’t catch any reds but did catch some snook and more bruiser jacks.
Sharks are starting to show off the beaches and will show in the backcountry any day as the water temperature climbs into the mid to high 70’s. Shark fish is awesome with the variety of species that can be found including black tips, bull sharks, lemon sharks, atlantic sharp nose sharks as well as the occasional tiger shark and hammer head shark. Along with the sharks tarpon will follow into the shallow bays. These are resident tarpon that lay low when it’s cool and there’s no reason to be active and feed, when the weather warms the tarpon get comfortable and happy they move around to their happy haunts and are more apt to feed.
Tarpon fishing is one of my favorites and will continue to improve and we head towards spring and early summer. Tarpon fishing peaks in May and June and am currently booking tarpon fishing trips. many of my clients stay at the Bayfront Inn where I can pick them up behind the hotel before the trip. Plus there are numerous bars and restaurants nearby for afternoon and evening activities.
May Tarpon Season
June Tarpon Season
False Albacore Biology and Comparison
Bonito, Little Tuna, False Albacore, Spotted Bonito, Blue Abacore
This fish is distributed Gulf wide in blue and green water at all depths. It comes closer to shore than any other tuna species.
This fish has a “tuna-shaped”, but streamlined body. The back is steel blue to dark blue in color and has a patch of wavy lines on the rear part of the back. The belly is very white and has several dark spots on each side between the pectoral and pelvic fins. No other species with a back-patch of wavy or mottled lines has these spots, although the spots may be hard to see on some fish. The closest look-alike to the little tunny is the less common Atlantic bonito. Besides lacking the belly spots, the patch of wavy lines on the back of the Atlantic bonito extends further forward, to a point equal to the front of the dorsal fin. In the little tunny, the patch of lines begins at a point about halfway back from the beginning of the fin.
Little tunny are a strongly schooling species that can form schools nearly a mile long. When a large school is actively feeding, they are very noisy, keeping the water splashing and foaming. They feed most heavily on fishes such as herrings, sardines and scads, but they will also readily take squid and crustaceans. They are fast-growing, but short-lived fish. At one year of age and 14 inches, they are mature enough to spawn, which takes place offshore in waters over 100 feet deep. Little tunny seldom live over 5 years. Little tunny average 10-12 pounds, but are not rare over 20 pounds.
Bonito vs Skipjack Tuna and Little Tunny: Defining Differences
One of the biggest differences here, as mentioned above, is that bonito is actually a tribe of fish that break down into eight different species, whereas skipjack tuna and little tunny are specific species within the Thunnus tribe, commonly called tunas. This makes distinguishing bonito themselves a little more difficult, as each species has slightly different markings and characteristics.
Something that makes the bonito tribe unique among the Scombrinae sub-family is that it contains one species that has a swim bladder, whereas every other species does not. This is significant because all of the species that lack a swim bladder need to constantly be swimming in order to maintain basic functions such as buoyancy in the water.
Another way to distinguish bonito from these two tunas is that bonito all have some form of stripes along their back and/or sides. These stripes can range in color, thickness, shape, and design, but they will be there. Their anal fin (the fin that is furthest back on their bellies) is further up than that of the little tunny and skipjack. They also have a deeply forked tail fin.
Their meat also contains a very moderate fat content, compared to those of the tuna tribe, who has a much lighter content. That being said, different species of young bonito have very similar flesh to that of a skipjack tuna, and are often used as a substitution in canning.
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