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Pacific Bonito (Sarda chiliensis)
Written by: Dr. Larry G. Allen
I like bonito! They are sleek, gorgeous, and powerfully built fishes. I have caught them consistently since I was 6 years old, and I like to eat them, too. I know what many of you are probably thinking right now. This guy is nuts! Yeah, they fight real well, but boneheads are some of the fishiest tasting fishes ever. But really, if you bleed them and keep them cold (I put them directly on ice), they can be great as sashimi or barbeque fare. And, they are coming! Bonito fishing should tear wide open in the inshore waters as the temperature continues to heat up. So, for those anglers that think the landing fees for albacore and yellowfin tuna trips are a bit beyond their means, I suggest that they hop on those half-day boats and enjoy the fishing for these exciting nearshore tuna with teeth.
SCIENTIFIC NAME - Sarda chiliensis , family Scombridae (mackerels and tunas)
COMMON NAMES - Pacific bonito, boneheads, bonito (Mexico)
DISTRIBUTION - In the north Pacific from Alaska to southern Baja California including the Sea of Cortez though most common from Pt. Conception south to Bahia Magdalena in most years. In El Nino years, they can be found in numbers as far north as northern California. In the South Pacific the same species occurs off of Peru and Chile. Bonito occur nearshore typically, occuring mainly within 15 miles of shore, but can be found out to hundreds of miles offshore.
SIZE & AGE - To 40 inches and about 22 pounds. The oldest known Pacific bonito was 6 years old. Bonito grow fast reaching 20 inches in one year and 27 inches in three years.
DIET - As is typical with most fast pelagic predators, bonito feed mainly on anchovies, sardines, squids, and krill and consume up to 6% of their body weight per day.
REPRODUCTION - Most spawning occurs off the Pacific coast of central Baja from January through September. In some years spawning may occur in southern California waters from January through May. Female bonita mature at about two years (25 inches) and probably spawn more than once per season. Most males mature at one year of age (20 inches). Bonito are pelagic spawners producing planktonic eggs and larvae.
FISHERY - In many years Pacific bonito are a mainstay for the recreational and commercial fisheries off of southern California. Large numbers of bonita tend to enter southern California waters in the summer and fall where they can comprise as much as 21% of the total marine recreational catch in some years. During the "whopper" El Nino of 1984-85 quite a few bonito were caught as far north as Del Norte County in northern California. Some small bonito can be caught year-round in areas influenced by warm water effluent from electrical generating stations off southern California.