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Bonito (Sarda sarda / Sarda chiliensis)
- Size 2 to 12lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Low
- Habitats Nearshore
Often mistakenly called "Bonita" (probably with the name of Bonita Springs in mind) and mixed up with their bulkier doppelganger Little Tunny, Bonito are on the smaller side, often caught as bait for larger fish.
These schooling pelagics share their family with Tuna and Mackerel are caught in a similar manner. The Sarda genus, which they belong to, is comprised of the Striped, Australian, Pacific and Atlantic Bonito, the latter two being the most prevalent. Not very popular as game on the East Coast of the US, these fish are the essential warm up catch for charter fishing in California.
The Pacific Bonito outweigh their Atlantic relatives, but both species are usually caught up to a maximum of 30'' and 10-12lbs.
When & Where
Atlantic Bonito (Sarda sarda) can be caught throughout the eastern and western Atlantic ocean, as north as Nova Scotia/Scandinavia and as south as Argentina/South Africa, with the most important fisheries being the Mediterranean and Black Seas. There are few of these fish in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea (however, the eastern side of the archipelago sees good action). April through September will be the best time.
Pacific Bonito (Sarda chiliensis) can be found in eastern Pacific waters from Alaska to southern Baja, and especially off San Diego and from Peru to Chile, being replaced by Striped Bonito from Baja to Peru. They can be caught when the waters are warm enough (usually within the El Niño time frame).
How to catch
The Bonito diet consists of smaller fish such as mackerel, menhaden, alewives, silversides, sand lances, sardines or other species of the local variety. They also eat squids, as well as small Bonito from time to time. Any of those will work as natural bait. As for artificials, a variety of soft plastic lures or metal/epoxy jigs will do the trick, depending on the weather/sea conditions at hand. See a great rundown on Bonito lures right here.
If you go out during their feeding time, a fishfinder will be redundant, as Bonito make a lot of noise blitzing (jumping out of the water) at the surface. As if that wasn't enough, birds will point towards them as well, as they will also be making a commotion looking for their piece of the baitfish cake.
Trolling through the school is the most effective technique. However, if the fish are in the middle of their meal, they'll take anything, so anchoring the boat close to the school and active jigging/still fishing will do the trick.
Good to eat?
A very oily fish, often canned and marketed as tuna (not in the US), however, is of lesser quality. Popular as food in the Mediterranean region.
Fish Species Similar to Bonito
- Size 10 to 20lbs
- Food Value Average
- Game Qualities Average
- Habitats Inshore, Nearshore, Offshore, Reef, Wreck
- Size 5 to 15lbs
- Food Value Low
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Nearshore, Offshore, Inshore
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