(Summer/Fall, and year round during El Nino events)
Bonito is best eaten raw, pan seared or flash grilled (keeping the center raw). This is my favorite tuna, bar none. It is considered an under-utilized species in this country where the unsustainable bluefin and bigeye tunas get mot of the culinary respect.
Your bonito order will typically weigh in at just over one pound. There may be some red meat that needs to be trimmed off. It arrives with skin on, because we find that the meat stays in better condition that way.
Bonito are the dwarfs of the tuna clan usually weighing in at 5-12 pounds. They are also short-lived, rarely living past 8 years. Nevertheless, they are still a piscivorous fish that eats a lot of other fish. So follow the health advisories of similar species. I found nothing on the OEHHA site pertaining to bonito but I did notice that barracuda and mackerel are listed as fish that should be consumed no more than twice or once (respectively) per week. As those species are similar in terms of diet and life history, the consumption guidelines may be comparable.
Gear and fishery info:
Bonito stocks are doing well, as they are not targeted with the kind of zeal directed at other species of tuna. They live fast, die young, and produce a lot of offspring—all of which contributes to the sustainability of the bonito fishery. All of our bonito are caught by hook and line.
Fish Nerdism 101:
No doubt this has been an el Niño fishery and I have no idea if we will still be getting them throughout the year… though signs point to yes. I spoke to a herring biologist who informed me that he caught some bonito underneath the San Mateo Bridge in late January 2016. It is rare enough to get bonito in the bay, but that deep, and in January? Unheard of! The real question everyone has been asking is whether this year’s strange ocean conditions (writing this in Feb 2016), are due to el Niño or something more insidious: global warming. In any case, if we can be permitted a touch of gallows humor. Pacific bonito may represent one of the few fringe benefits of global warming.
This is a really, really fun fish to catch. Especially on light tackle! They swim at supersonic speeds and attack lures with unbridled fury. A big school of bonito breaking the surface as they thrash a school of mackerel is a really cool thing to see.
Scientific Name: Sarda chiliensis
Habitat: Coastal Pacific waters
Diet: Other schooling fishes, namely anchovies and mackerel
Size: 5-15 pounds
Range: Pacific Ocean, Mexico to Oregon
2010 - present
2010 - present