Sci: Sarda australis and Sarda orientalis

Common Names: These two closely related fish are usually called bonito or Australian bonito, although this is often shortened to "bonny" or "bonnie". In some areas, these fish are also known as "horse mackerel" or "horsies". These two bonito may also be confused with a smaller, sub-tropical species known as the Watson's leaping bonito.

Description: Bonito have moderately large, strong jaws which carry a single row of relatively small, but distinct, conical teeth. They are generally dark green to blue on the back, silvery-green on the sides and silvery-white on the belly. A series of dark, longitudinal stripes are evident along the fish's upper and middle flanks. When fresh, these stripes may be broken into separate dashes by lighter, vertical bars. The stripes of the bonito are limited to the fish's upper and middle flanks, while those of the striped tuna or skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis) are found on the lower flanks and belly.

Size: Bonito commonly weigh from 0.8 to 3.5 kg. Specimens over 4.5 kg are generally uncommon, although off certain parts of the south coast of New South Wales, bonito up to about 7 kg and more are sometimes taken.

Distribution: These inshore predatory pelagics rarely venture outside the continental shelf and range from southern and central Queensland to about Wilsons Promontory in Victoria, with a similar sub-tropical to temperate distribution along the west coast.

Fishing Techniques: Bonito respond to the same techniques which take skipjack and mackerel tuna, and also fall for those employed to target salmon, tailor and kingfish. Boat anglers sometimes take good hauls by trolling diving minnows parallel with the shoreline, close to headlands and rock ledges, or by casting and retrieving lures around "washes" of broken white-water adjacent to these areas. Land-based anglers also do well at times by casting and retrieving lures from the ocean rocks, jetties and breakwalls. In addition to lures and flies, bonito will attack pilchards and garfish rigged on ganged hooks, as well as live baits and strip baits or cubes of fish flesh , especially when these are free-lined in a berley trail.

Eating Qualities: While bonito have long been regarded by many anglers as fit only for bait or berley (for which purposes they are excellent), their flesh is actually quite tasty. Many of the prejudices concerning these fish could stem from anglers confusing them with the less palatable skipjack. Bonito flesh is pink and flaky, and much better to eat if the fish is bled immediately after capture. If possible, bonito should be eaten fresh rather than frozen.

By Steve Starling

Saltwater Species:

Albacore Barracouta
Barracuda Barramundi
Blue Groper Boniti
Bream Coral Trout
Drummer Flathead
Garfish John Dory
Kingfish Leatherjacket
Luderick Mako Shark
Mangrove Lack Marlin
Mullet Mulloway
Queenfish Sailfish
Salmon Shark
Skipjack Tuna Snapper
Snook Tailor