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Can You Eat a Bonito Fish?

As a popular catch for offshore fishermen, the Bonito, Bonita, Atlantic Bonito, or commonly known now as false albacore, is found along the coast or offshore in the oceanic environment. It is often incorrectly categorized as a species of Tuna due to their shape, speed and meat fibers. However, it is fair to say they are a close cousin to both tuna and mackerel. In relation to most offshore game fish, the Bonito tends to be on the smaller side and prefers the shallow waters of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Mediterranean Sea.

The body of this fish fits well to their natural swimming behavior, which consists of swift turns and quick acceleration. Known in many instances to have striped backs, metallic-colored bellies, Bonitos tend to travel in schools. They rely on one another for protection. Although the Bonito is a predatory fish in their own right, there are a lot of bigger fish hunting them, such as sharks. The other downside for the Bonito is that they do not grow much bigger than 3 feet. At that size, it may be a little challenge to compete with the larger predators in their habitat.

With the way that Bonitos live, it makes a lot of sense why they would be a popular fish to catch for offshore fishermen. Additionally, they are also an integral part of the sport game fishing community, as they can be utilized as bait. It is very common that a freshly caught Bonito will be back on the hook as bait for a larger catch. Not only do they provide bait for big catches, but you can actually eat bonito as well.

This article will address and elaborate on some of the most popular questions and concerns regarding the Bonito fish. We will uncover the facts that makes this fish one of the most important animals in its ecosystem as well as a safe option for you to eat.

Can You Eat a Bonito?

Since this fish finds itself to be a frequent flyer on the decks of fishing boats, it is often questioned if you can eat this species of fish. You can most certainly eat a Bonito. As you closely examine the meat of the Bonito, you will notice that the meat it is very similar to the meat of a black-fin tuna. The main difference is that a Bonito has a nasty bloodline that you must remove. Besides being an oily fish, fresh bonito steaks are quite delicious!

How to Prepare and Cook a Bonito Fish

My recommendation for my cooking Bonito steaks starts with the seasoning. After cleaning the fish, I would do a basic seasoning of salt and pepper. As I prepare a hot pan to sear the fish, I will add between a half or full stick of butter. Once the pan is hot and the butter has melted, sear the Bonito for about 60-80 seconds on each side. This is a very similar strategy for how you would cook most common tunas such as the yellowtail. Your final product will look like fresh sashimi that you may find at an expensive seafood restaurant. For dipping sauces or toppings, I recommend soy sauce, sesame oil and/or sesame seeds. Odds are that you won’t be able to tell the difference between the way that this fish looks versus the most common tuna steaks.

What does a Bonito taste like?

Arguably the most important question is taste. While it is probably most similar to the taste of a tuna or mackerel type of fish, the meat tends to be a little softer and flakier compared to a common tuna. The oil aspect of this fish can make it taste a little more fishy, especially if its cooked more on the rare side. As long as you can handle a little extra of a fishy taste, the extra fat on the Bonito can be fairly tasty from what you might expect. As the case with most fish, the Bonito tastes its absolute best when it is freshly caught (within 24 hours).

Should I bleed out the Bonito right away?

For the best taste, always try to bleed out the Bonito right away. To successfully do this, you need to cut their gills and throat. This may cause the fish to bleed out a lot, but it is important if you want the fish to taste better. This process can also be very messy so try not to do all over the floor of your boat. A clean and controlled way to approach this task is to bleed the fish and immediately place its head down into a bucket. Once this is done, be sure to place the Bonito on plenty of ice in order to stay fresh.

Conclusion

In many countries now, the Bonito fish is becoming more of a delicacy on the plates of many restaurants. The accessibility of the fish as well as its similar tastes to more expensive fish, make it a upwards trending fish for eating popularity. I have personally had my False Albacore “tuna” steaks before and I absolutely loved it. We caught and cooked the fish the same day and grilled on the barbecue. It was great to catch and cook such a fun fish without needing to go more than a couple miles fishing offshore. For many years, fishermen counted this fish off as a poor tasting, oil junk fish that is only good for bait. It is time that we accept this fish as a more universe meal option for fishermen worldwide. As long as you take the precautionary steps prior to eating, there is no reason not to try this fish!

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Growing up on the south shore of Long Island, Chum Charlie has always had a passion for fishing. His favorite fish to catch is a striped bass and his favorite bait to use is bunker. Off the water, he enjoys blogging and sharing his favorite fishing tips & tricks that he has learned over the years.