Pelagic Fish

As the fishing season moves from spring to summer, the Gulf Stream pushes closer to shore. It brings warm water with it, and with that warmer water come a tremendous variety of seasonal species of fish. Bonito, False albacore, skipjack and other tuna, like mahi mahi move into areas that traditionally hold coldwater fish. Over the years there have been a random tarpon caught up north. Think about that.

For many anglers, these new species represent a breath of fresh air. For inshore anglers and charter captains who target species like striped bass and bluefish, the pelagics (fish that live near the surface) are a welcome addition to their common catches. Catching a Slam (striped bass, bluefish, and either a bonito or False albacore) or a Grand Slam (striped bass, bluefish, bonito, and False albacore) in a day add an exclamation point to an otherwise great day.

I spoke with Captain Corey Pietraszek of Plug N Play Charters from Southeastern Massachusetts. He was in between charters with a day of boat maintenance and rerigging, but he’s lit up talking about these fish. “What I like about the pelagics is that they offer variety to a day. For the past four months I’ve focused on striped bass and bluefish, but now that the water has warmed the bonito and albies are in. They’re challenging to catch, they make long, aggressive runs, and they make a day complete. With the exception of False albacore, the pelagics are some of the best eating fish, with tuna and Spanish mackerel being among my favorites. Be prepared to hear your drag sing.

“The other part that appeals to me as a charter captain is that I get an opportunity to fish different types of water. Sometimes the fish are close to shore and wade fishermen get phenomenal chances to hook up. Other times I’ll head offshore where I’ll see several different species of whales. Being prepared for the different types of fish is really important, and with so many fish mixed in I get an adrenaline rush every time I see birds working or water churning.”

The pelagics are rolling in to our area right now and depending on the fall weather patterns and water temperatures they’ll be around until mid-through-late October. We’re at the front end of a big push of fish. Like Captain Corey, I can’t wait.

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Tom Keer

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer who lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a Contributing Writer for Covey Rise magazine, a Contributing Editor for both Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program.  Keer writes regularly for over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics related to fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor pursuits.  When they are not fishing, Keer and his family hunt upland birds over their three English setters.  His first book, a Fly Fishers Guide to the New England Coast was released in January 2011.  Visit him at or at