Are Bonito Fish Good to Eat? Your Guide to Catch & Eat

Bonito fish are cousins of the tuna fish, and they are often referred to as trash fish, because they are most commonly used as bait, despite being a fierce predator in the wild. They aren’t really that common as food, but some people find them to be absolutely delicious. 

Pacific Bonito Fish

Bonito fish are completely safe to eat, and as we’ve said, some people find them delicious. However, these fish have a very strong and harsh flavor, as well as an oily texture, so not everybody finds them appealing, and whether they are nice or not depends completely on every individual’s preference. 

It is very common for people to question, time and time again, whether they are actually safe to eat or not, because of their very unique and “different” flavor. However, we will reiterate that they are completely safe to eat, and you might really enjoy them! 

But what exactly are Bonito fish? We can answer that, and we can tell you all about how to catch them, what they taste like and how to cook them if you want to give them a try! So let’s get right into it! 

What are Bonito fish?

Bonito fish aren’t exactly popular, or a well-known dish, so you might have never heard of them before. That’s why it makes sense for us to start from the very basics, and explain exactly what Bonito fish are. 

Basically, Bonito fish belong to the Scombridae family, and they are cousins to better-known fish such as mackerel and tuna.

They live in salt water only, and are not very common as food, hence why you’ve probably never heard mention of them at any markets! 

They have a very unique texture and taste, which sets them apart from other fish, and they are usually used as bait for fishing. 

Oh, and fun fact, Bonito means “pretty” in Spanish….but these fish aren’t exactly considered to be appealing. In fact, their nickname is “trash fish”, kinda mean! 

There are a few traits that set the Bonito fish apart from all the rest, and which you can look out for in order to identify them. Here they are: 

  • They are ray-finned. Bonito fish have rays on the tips of their fins, which in the wild serves them to guard themselves, and also to be intimidating towards other species. They are, after all, predators! 
  • They have a very aggressive nature and are known as one of the fiercest predators. They are hard to catch, and are known to start fights with other fish! 
  • They are oval in shape, which helps them swim better. 
  • They eat other fish, mainly sardines. 
  • Bonito fish are known for swimming very long distances, so they have a lot of endurance! (This also means that if you get in a tug of war with them, they will be able to keep going for ages!)
  • They usually swim in large schools, as they are very social amongst their own kind. 
  • They are usually found near the shore. 

However, despite Bonito fish having some unique traits and personalities that should easily set them apart, it is actually very easy to accidentally confuse a Bonito fish with a Tuna. Most beginners do! 

Bonito fish are unique in their species, but they are categorized by their age and their region. 

Here are the main different categories, or types, of Bonito fish:

Old Bonito fish

Old Bonito fish have very dark and firm meat, with moderate fat content. 

Young Bonito fish

Young Bonito fish are smaller in size, with pink and light meat, and barely any fat content. 

Regional Bonito fish

Regional Bonito fish are either Atlantic or Australian, and this depends on the region in which they are located. 

How to catch Bonito fish

If you want to try and catch your very own Bonito fish, then there are a few different methods that you can try out and use: 

Trolling

Trolling is the best method if you are trying to catch as many Bonito fish as possible in one go, like when you are bulk fishing. Basically, you use a long net and you drag it across the ocean floor, collecting as many schools of Bonito fish as you can. This is the method used by fishermen looking to sell the Bonito fish to the market. 

Line fishing

With line fishing, you essentially just lay a line within the water, and then you wait for the fish to get caught on it. As a general rule, we recommend that you use a line between 4 and 8 pounds, as these will get you the most Bonito fish! 

Fishing rod

Using a fishing rod is the good old classic fishing method, simple and straightforward. However, it requires technique and a lot of patience.

You will ideally need a rod that is sturdy and strong, as Bonito fish can put up quite the fight! 

Oh, and if you are going to try and catch some Bonito fish, then here are some tips that we have, that might come in super handy:

  • Use frozen bait! Bonito fish love it! 
  • If you are using live bait, we recommend sardines or pilchards, as this is what Bonito fish are most likely to bite. 
  • While you are fishing, combine placing the bait at the bottom of the water with having it floating around, so that you can tempt as many Bonito fish as possible! 

What does Bonito fish taste like?

Bonito Fish

Okay, so Bonito fish are most definitely not popular in the kitchen, with most people not liking their unique taste and texture. However, they are completely safe to eat, and some people actually consider them a delicacy! 

So what do they taste like? 

To put it simply, Bonito fish is a bit of a mixture between tuna and mackerel. The flesh of the Bonito fish is not quite as dense as tuna, and it has a lot more oil. It has a very strong flavor, so it goes well in Balkan and Spanish cuisine. 

However, the taste varies a little depending on the Bonito in question. Smaller Bonito fish are lighter in taste and color. While older Bonito have a lot more fat and are a lot heavier. 

Some people dislike the strong taste of the Bonito fish, but others consider it to be delicious. And as a general rule, it is said to be best when grilled. 

In some places, like Turkey and the Balkans, Bonito fish are preserved, and then served with red onions as a snack! So in those cultures, Bonito fish are regarded as quite the meal! 

At the end of the day, some will like Bonito fish, and some won’t. You will never know exactly what it tastes like until you try it. So why not try and cook some Bonito fish yourself, to give it a go? 

How to cook Bonito fish

If you’ve decided to brave the unique taste of the Bonito fish, and you want to cook one in order to give it a go, then there are several different ways in which you can go about it, as Bonito fish can be cooked in many different ways. 

Here are the main methods of cooking in order for you to prepare a meal with Bonito fish:

Grilling

Grilling is regarded, as a general rule, as the best possible way to cook Bonito fish, as it provides you with the best results and the best flavor. 

In order to grill a Bonito fish, you first have to clean it, and remove all of the skin and guts. You then have to cut it into small slices, and it is recommended to season these slices with some oregano, salt, and garlic.

You should then allow the Bonito fish slices to marinate, roughly for about an hour or so. Then, grill for about an hour, and serve with whatever other ingredients you would like to add! 

Baking

Baking is another popular method of cooking Bonito fish. In order to do so, you must first clean the Bonito, and then cut it into large pieces. It is recommended that you add some lemon juice, olive oil, pepper, and salt. Then, preheat the oven to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and then bake the fish for around 10 minutes or so. 

The result should be a delicious crisp meal of Bonito fish, in which you can fully enjoy the strong taste of it. 

Frying

Frying is a pretty straightforward and simple method of cooking Bonito fish. You can go about it as you would with any other type of fish, just clean, remove the skin and the gut, season to your personal preferences, and fry for a few minutes. 

If you want to truly experiment with cooking Bonito fish, we recommend looking up some recipes, as there are plenty available online from many different countries and cultures, that will mix different flavors and ingredients with the Bonito fish to create a unique dish.

Usually, they say that Bonito fish is either you like it or you don’t, and you should know where you stand from the very first bite. Nevertheless, we recommend trying Bonito fish in a few different ways, and paired with a few different ingredients, before you give up on it! 

Summary

In conclusion, in regards to whether Bonito fish are good to eat or not, our answer is that it depends on your personal preference. They are 100% safe to eat and can be cooked and prepared in many different ways, but they have a very strong and unique flavor that isn’t appealing to all.

So while most find them to be unappealing, making them very uncommon as a dish, others find the Bonito fish to be a delicacy, which can be served and enjoyed in many different ways! 

As for catching Bonito fish, there are many different methods of doing so, but what you should know is that they are aggressive and fierce, putting up a fight whenever this is possible, and if you want to tempt them the best way is to use some sardines! 

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