5 Things to Know About Fly-Fishing for Bonito in the Carolinas

Written by: Capt. Gordon Churchill

The Atlantic bonito is a blast to catch on a fly rod.
Photos by Capt. Gordon Churchill
  1. It’s not bonita. Atlantic bonito are not the fish that anglers farther south call bonita; those are actually false albacore. But we are talking about the same fish that guys in the Northeast go after in late summer. We chase them here in the Carolinas in spring when the water gets to around 65 degrees. They’re good to eat and fun to fish for. But they have an “O” at the end of their name, not an “A”.
  2. They are aggressive. I have caught them on a myriad of different flies and even on topwater plugs, such as a Zara Spook. Don’t get caught up in fly-selection quandaries. A nice baitfish pattern, such as a Deceiver in size 2 or 1/0, will work fine. Pink and chartreuse seem to be good colors.
  3. Don’t race all over the Carolina coast chasing them. These spring fish relate to shipwrecks. Pick an inlet from Little River, South Carolina, to Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, and pick an artificial reef a couple miles offshore with 65 degree water. Yup. That one. They’ll be there.

  4. Watch out for those teeth!
  5. You might find them on top. If you do, then the usual tricks to catch surface-feeders will work. Use an intermediate line. A Deceiver or Clouser works great. If it’s calmish, use a floating line and a topwater fly, like a Crease Fly. Wait until you see these guys come to the top in a gang and chase that thing!
  6. You may not find them on top. Then use your depthfinder and look for marks over the high part of the structure. They’ll show as streaks on your screen. Then use an 8-weight and a 350-grain Depth Charge and count down to them with a Half and Half. When they’re in, you’ll catch more fish doing this than chasing fish on top.

Bonus Tip: Check the NOAA water temps to find the 65 degree water and how far offshore it is.Find the magic water and you’ll find the bonito. Don’t forget, there is no “A” at the end.

Capt. Gordon Churchill runs Capt. Gordon’s Fishing Reports. He lives in North Carolina.

One thought on “5 Things to Know About Fly-Fishing for Bonito in the Carolinas”

  1. This is one of my favorite fish on a fly rod on Marthas Vineyard, whether it’s from my center console or kayak.
    My go to fly is a chartreuse and white Clouser. Your suggestion of a sinking line is exactly right when nothing on top is showing .Just remember to have patience and not to chase them, like False Albies theyn will circle back.

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