Bonito has to be one of the most underrated of the tuna species. If you like explosive visual strikes, long drag screaming runs, and okay table fare, then the Bonito might be your perfect match. There is no doubt that they will test your angling abilities and push your tackle and gear to its max. Before we jump all in and tell you everything you need to know, let's learn a little about the Bonito.
Did you know that Bonito in Spanish means "Beautiful"? I think that is appropriate for the Bonito fish as well because their striations and markings are phenomenal. They are very streamlined fish. When first caught, they are a beautiful blue with a large forked tail that screams speed. Bonito is a predatory fish of the genus Sarda in the mackerel family.
A topic that fishers have been debating on for years is whether or not Bonito is a tasty table fare? They are very popular among commercial anglers, and many who like sushi swear by Bonito. Why do people have such a distaste for Bonito fillets? Bonito is very oily and bloody; the key to tasty fillets is to bleed the fish and then throw it on ice immediately. Like any game, if you don't prepare the meat properly than you probably won't like it, or you might even say it has a gamey taste.
The good news, if you don't want to eat it, then you can use Bonito as bait. They work for a wide array of fish species, dead sticking Bonito or trolling with strips of meat will yield the best results. So how do you catch them? That brings us to our next topic.
Bonito is considered a pelagic fish; they have been documented swimming miles upon miles every day. They cover a lot of water, and they move quickly, the idea is to locate a school of fish and either pitch to them or troll. You can also lure them in with a healthy chum slick; be mindful that chumming also attracts other unwelcomed guests who will probably be looking for an easy meal as well. The taxman always gets his right?
Getting a Bonito to bite is typically not difficult, especially if you get them in a mild frenzy. Let's talk about the lure preferences that will have you catching in no time.
Lures for Catching Bonito
Atlantic bonito eat mackerel, menhaden, alewives, silversides, pilchards, threadfins, as well as squid. Therefore, your lure choice should be one that is shiny, and that puts off significant vibration or noise. Here are some of my top lure suggestions for Bonito:
Using Live Bait to Catch Bonito
Some don't like using live bait, but I am just the opposite; the reaction strikes that you can get from live bait fishing is sometimes a spectacle that you won't soon forget. The idea is to keep this rig as simple as possible; Two to three feet of 30 to 50lb leader tied directly to your braid with a Uni Knot and 2/0 Owner or Gamagatsu circle hook. Free line out a threadfin, sardine, or pilchard and hold on. You can also use various cork rigs that are incredibly effective.
What Gear Do You Need to Catch, Bonito?
You probably already have all that you need to land your first Bonito, I recommend a 4000 size spinning reel with a smooth drag (The drag is important because these fish pull hard and fast, you don't want to break off). A seven-foot medium heavy rod will have plenty of backbone to turn a football-sized skipjack. I recommend spooling your reel up with 20 to 30lb 832 Suffix.
Bonito Handling Tips
After landing a fresh Bonito, you will see that they like to go into a state of convulsions. If you hold the fish upside down, it sometimes helps prevent the shake and, ultimately, the blood from slinging all over you and the boat.
Smoked Bonito Recipe
Here is a great recipe that is perfect for all oily fish, especially those in the mackerel family
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Brine Time 8 hrs
Course: Appetizer, Cured Meat
Servings: 2 pounds
Provider: Hank Shaw
Check out Josh and crew wrecking some Bonito on a recent trip offshore, take note of the tackle, lures, and technique:
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