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

Bonitos are definitely not your average fish. This cousin of the tuna is a fierce predator and is referred to by some as a “trash fish” and mainly used as bait. And yet, many people find Bonito fish absolutely delicious.

Are Bonito fish good to eat? Bonito fish are safe to eat, but because of the strong, harsh flavor and oily texture, it isn’t a taste that is accepted by all.

Many people have speculated whether or not it is safe to consume bonito fish. You should be aware that Bonito fish do indeed have a taste that is unlike any other. Though the taste is highly unusual, it is still perfectly fine to eat, should you be lucky enough to catch one. Let’s start with the basics – and progress to recipes!

What Are Bonito Fish?

These fish belong to the Scombridae family, and they include other fish such as mackerel and tuna. They only live in areas that contain saltwater and are certainly not one of the common species that you usually see at markets. Bonito possess a unique texture and taste that is different from other species.

What are the Different Types of Bonito Fish?

These fish are the only ones of its kind within the Scombridae family, and there are not yet any known classes other than these. However, if you’re a novice, you may confuse tuna and Bonito. The fishing industry typically categorizes them by age and region:

Young: These are small with meat that is fairly pink and light. Compared to the old ones, they don’t contain as much fat.

Old: Possesses very dark and firm meat. In many cases, the fat content is moderate.

Regional: These types are only known by their region which is either the Atlantic or Australian

With more experience, you may be able to start telling them apart, but the universal rule is that the smaller ones are younger because they don’t have much fat, and their meat will be more tender.

Bonito Characteristics

The Bonito is so unique that it has very distinct characteristics even though it is still often mistaken for tuna:

  • Bonito are ray-finned. They have rays on the tips of their fins so they can guard themselves and intimidate
  • Have an aggressive nature. They are hard to catch, and they pick fights.
  • They have an oval shape; this aids them in their swimming
  • Bonito are predators themselves and will eat small fish species like sardines.
  • Bonito can swim very long distances.
  • They swim in large schools because of their social nature, many times you will find them near shores.

How to Catch Bonito

There are a couple of different methods that are used; depending on what you like, you can catch them in several different ways.

Trolling

If your goal is to catch loads of Bonito fish, then this is your best method. To do this, you have to use a long net to drag across the ocean floor so you can collect multiple schools.

Line Fishing

Lay a line in the water, and just wait for fish to get caught. Lines that are 4-8 pounds will give you the best results.

Fishing Rod

This is clearly the simplest method, but it still requires a lot of practice and expertise. Your rod will ideally be sturdy and strong while still being flexible. It should be able to flex far enough when you’re in the middle of a battle with your prey.

Other Tips

When trying to catch Bonito, it is important that you use frozen bait. The most optimal live baits to uutilize are pilchards and sardines, but chum will also work. Experiment around with different baits to see which one of these works best for you in your location.

Make sure to put the bait at the bottom of the water as well as floating on the surface to get the most Bonito.

What Does Bonito Taste Like?

Some have described Bonito as a cross between tuna and mackerel. The flesh will not be quite as dense as tuna, and it will have a much oilier and fatter flavor in addition. When paired with stronger flavors, Bonito will taste particularly well just like in the Balkans and Spain.

Depending on the type of Bonito, it can also vary. Smaller and younger Bonito have flesh that is like skipjack tuna; it will be lighter in taste as well as color.

It’s usually a good idea to bleed these fish right after you catch them because the flavor will be improved dramatically, also make sure you have lots of ice on hand because they will spoil quickly.

  • Some cultures consider Bonito a tasty delicacy. The general census is that Bonito tastes its best when it’s grilled.
  • In places such as Turkey and the Balkans, young Bonito is usually preserved and then served alongside some sliced red onions as snacks to go with socializing and drinking.

Once you cook Bonito for yourself at least one time, you may also consider it a delicacy.

How Can I Cook Bonito?

There isn’t really anything more complicated to cooking Bonito than other fish. Whether you’re frilling, baking, or frying, it really all comes down to your own preference.

Grilling

When grilling, you need to clean the Bonito and get rid of all the skin, including the gut. Cut everything into nice slices and season the slices with oregano, salt, and garlic. Next, allow it to marinate for about an hour, heat up the grill, and cook the Bonito up for another hour before you serve it nice and hot.

Baking

Make sure the Bonito is cleaned and cut into large portions. Sprinkle a little bit of lemon juice, olive oil, and season the result with pepper and salt. Oil the baking pan while you preheat the oven to around 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the fish for 9-11 minutes.

Frying

When frying your Bonito, you can fry it as you would any other fish; just remember to get rid of the gut and skin before you season it to fit your tastes.

Marmitako: a Recipe Featuring Bonito

This is a take on the Spanish version that utilizes tuna instead of Bonito. The result of this recipe is a thick warm stew that is ideal in the springtime, expect Spanish flavors waft across your dining table.

Time to prepare: About 45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound of fresh Bonito fillet

2 dried ancho chiles or dried choricero pepper

Coarse salt

⅓ cup of olive oil

4 russet potatoes that total 2 pounds in weight

1 clove garlic, minced

1 yellow onion that is chopped finely

1 tablespoon of sweet paprika or pimento

½ green bell pepper seeded, cut it lengthwise for narrow strips.

Here are the steps to prepare:

  1. Rehydrate the dried chiles. Use a bowl that can take lots of heat and cover the dried chiles with boiling water
  2. Let this stand for about 30 minutes.
  3. Dump the water and cut the chiles open, scrape off all the flesh with a knife and discard the stems, skins, and seeds.
  4. Set aside the flesh for the moment
  5. Cut the Bonito into pieces and sprinkle it with some coarse salt
  6. Peel the potatoes and make a  small cut within each potato, break it open without cutting it in half. Set the potato pieces to the side.
  7. Using a stockpot, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.
  8. Add the vegetables and chile flesh. Saute this for about 5 minutes on medium-low heat or until the bell pepper and onion have started to soften, and the onion is becoming translucent.
  9. Add the pimento and potatoes to mix well. Season this with coarse salt and add water to cover all the contents by 2 inches.
  10. Bring this to a boil and decrease to medium-low heat, cook for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender enough for a fork.
  11. Now you can add the Bonito pieces to the pot and let them simmer for 5 minutes or until you see the fish becoming opaque.
  12. Take the bowl from the heat and let it stand for about 30 minutes before you serve them.
  13. Reheat carefully to a comfortable temperature and ladle the stew into some warm bowls.

The Takeaway

There are many ways to optimize the taste of Bonito, even if you’re afraid of not liking it. At the very least you should give this exotic fish a try since you won’t be able to taste anything like it anywhere else you go.

If you find that you just can’t do it because it’s just too different for you, then you can always use it as bait.

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