Commonly referred to as Bonnies!
Both common and Watson’s bonito are great sport on light tackle and not only provide an entertaining tussle on light tackle but also make great bait when used fresh or salted and frozen down for later trips. Bonito also make excellent live and dead baits for larger game fish species such as shark and marlin. They are in fact so good when fresh, that Bonito are the only species of fish which have accounted for marlin hook ups with thick, heavy, wire traces designed for big sharks. Nothing puts big fish off from eating them!
The common Bonito can be encountered in W.A. waters from as far south as Albany right up to Shark Bay but prefers the cooler waters. They are also quite common throughout N.S.W. and southern QLD.
Very little is known about the growth rates and breeding cycles of bonito here in Australia this is possibly due to their poor recreational and commercial values although Bonito are a very underrated sport fish. It is thought that Bonito spawn during the warmer months of the year when they are least active. The Watson’s bonito do not grow as large as the common variety which can grow up to 8kg in weight. Most common bonito encountered in Australia average around 2 – 3kg with the smaller Watson’s variety averaging around 1kg.
Both common and Watson’s bonito inhabit cool, inshore, coastal waters with shallow reef and structure that hold large numbers of bait fish such as yellowtail, blue and scaly mackerel, herring, squid or whiting. All a favourite part of a Bonito’s diet. Coastal rock walls and head lands are great places to locate Bonito from shore.
Bonito are one of only two tuna species to have teeth with the other being the mighty Dog tooth. They are similar in shape to a tuna and when fresh from the water have a bright green coloured back with black horizontal lines running along it which later turns to dark blue after death. Bonito are also covered in tiny scales that are similar to that of a tuna. Watson’s Bonito are smaller in size than the common and have different black spots and shorter stripes running along their flanks. Watson’s Bonito also have a black spot on their first dorsal fin making the two very easy to tell apart.
The common and Watson’s Bonito are considered to be more of a sport/game fish than a table species.
Bonito like all tuna species are a fantastic light tackle sport fish!
Light graphite rods in the 3 – 6kg range, around 6’ in length matched to spin reels in the 2500 – 4000 class spooled with braided or gel spun lines with a breaking strain of 6 – 10lb are ideal for casting lures both from the shore and out in the boat for Bonito. Trolling for Bonito is also a popular technique and requires a light overhead or spin combo spooled with 4 – 8kg brightly coloured nylon line. Small lever drag reels and light rods are ideally suited for this exciting style of fishing. Bonito do have teeth so heavy nylon or fluoro carbon leaders are generally required to prevent bite offs with wire proving unnecessary for these smaller fish. Beware Bonito will bite through light nylon leaders.
Live yellowtail, blue and scaly mackerel, small herring and whiting will all make great live baits for common bonito with unweighted mullies also producing results. Most light live bait rigs will suffice. Small hard bodied lures 10 -20cms in length are ideal for both casting from shore and trolling from a boat at around 4 – 6 knots for Bonito. Small jet heads and other skirted lures such as Richter junior and silver tornado, Hock’s head and Jelly baby will all work well when targeting Bonito with quicker boat speeds of up to 10 – 12 knots. Bonito will also readily take live baits drifted down a berley trail from an anchored boat or suspended under a float from shore.
Look for signs of active white birds, current lines and fast flowing water moving over shallow structure when trolling around in a boat for Bonito and when casting from shore try adding a little burley into the area to help start a food chain and bring the fish to you.
Early mornings and late afternoons into evening are the preferred feeding times of most fish species including Bonito. Generally if a high tide coincides with this the fishing can be red hot!