Fishing Charters in Aruba

Atlantic Bonito

Fishing in Aruba


Bonito (Atlantic)
(Sarda Sarda)

Sarda sarda, as is the scientific name, is commonly known as the Atlantic Bonito, a large mackerel-like fish belonging to the family Scombridae. It is common in shallow waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea, where it is considered an important commercial and game fish. They have an average lifespan of 5 years, are generally 90 cm in length and weigh somewhere around 11 kg. The Bonito is characterized with the dark blue and black lines on its body extending from its dorsal fin down and forward to the abdomen.

Atlantic Bonito are mainly exploited by coastal fisheries that are often traditional. The species is particularly important in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where several methods are used to harvest this species including tuna fish traps, nets, purse seines, hooks, and hand lines. Also known as a popular sport fish, the Atlantic Bonito has been caught primarily as by-catch in the mackerel fishery conducted in Norwegian waters during 2010 and 2011. The average size of individuals captured was approximately 1.5 kg

Atlantic Bonito
Habitat and Behavior

The species are widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean while the others are also distributed in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Pacific Bonito located in the eastern Pacific waters from Alaska to southern Baja, and especially from Chile to Peru are being replaced by Striped Bonito from Baja to Peru. The Atlantic Bonito will either inhabit brackish or coastal saltwater areas. Some species also extend themselves even into colder waters for survival, in the areas like the North and South Atlantic Ocean. Known to be strong swimmers, the Atlantic Bonito often form large schools with other small-sized tunas or related species in coastal and high seas waters and is quite common offshore in the New York City, where it is known as “skipjack” because of its habit of jumping from the water.

The results from preliminary studies conducted on Atlantic Bonito in the north-western coasts of Africa showed that this species reaches its first sexual maturity between 38 and 49 cm FL, and the spawning period extends from May to July. However, the growth rate currently estimated for Atlantic Bonito is observed to be rapid for the first two to three years and then slows as they reach size-at-first maturity. Due to low tagging levels of these species, the information on the migration patterns of small tuna species is quite limited.

Subsequently, the Atlantic Bonito have been found to embark upon feeding migrations in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Mackerel, sand eels, sardines, anchovies, other schooling fish species, and squid are important prey species to the Bonito. The Atlantic Bonito have been found to occur at depths extending to 200 m, in temperature ranging from 12–27 °C, at salinities between 14 and 39 ppt. The Atlantic Bonito reach sexual maturity at approximately 2 years of age.

Atlantic Bonito -
Physical Description

  • Size: – Atlantic Bonito, grow up to 75 centimeters (30 in) and weigh 5–6 kilograms (11–13 lb) at this size. The world record of 18 pounds 4 ounces (8.3 kg), was caught in the Azores.
  • Appearance: – With the ability to grow to 12 pounds in weight and 30 inches in height, the Atlantic Bonito is mainly silver in color, along with blue-green dorsal fins and black stripes at the back with a silver belly. Atlantic Bonito belong to a group which has the dorsal fins very near or separated by a narrow interspace. Its body is completely scaled in the pectoral fin area and the lateral line usually larger in size. Bonitos differ from tuna by their compressed bodies, their lack of teeth on the roof of the mouth, and certain differences in coloration. The Atlantic Bonito has a narrow tail base, a forked tail, small, sharp teeth, as well as short pectoral fins on a streamlined body. The Bonito have finlets behind their anal fin that help them maintain their stability while swimming.The dark oblique stripes on the back and with a maxillary only about half as long as the head is noticeable characteristic features of the Atlantic bonito, whereas the striped bonito can be identified by the stripes on its top, nearly horizontal and a maxillary more than half the length of the head. Dark blue in color, the dorsal area of the fish has black lines extending from the fin down and forward to its abdomen. Its lateral sides are silvery with shades of green and light blue.

Atlantic Bonito
Conditions for Survival

The Atlantic Bonito, belonging to the species of the small Tuna, are widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea. The Bonito occur at depths extending to 200m, in temperatures ranging from 12-27°C, at salinities between 14 and 39 ppt.

The Atlantic Bonito feed on Mackerel, Menhaden, Alewives, Silversides, Sand lances, Squid, among other small fish.

Aruba Fishing Seasons and
Availability of Bonito (Atlantic)

The spawning being taken place majorly in the month of June, the Atlantic Bonito is abundantly available in the Caribbean Sea in the months of May, June, and July.

However, one can also try a hand at Atlantic Bonito in the months of January, February, March and September, October, and December.

When January February March April May June July August September October November December
Availability Fair Fair Fair Good Excellent Excellent Excellent Good Fair Fair Fair Fair

  • Your chances of landing a Bonito is excellent from May to July.
  • Bonito in Aruba enters its low season from January to March and September to December.
  • There is no closed season for Bonito fishing in Aruba.

Atlantic Bonito
How to make the Catch?

Often captured by Tuna fishermen when trolling for bigger game, Bonito is also taken in larger numbers in pound nets. Most fishermen take Bonito to be inferior to Tuna because of the huge quantity of oil presence. Due to this, it is also sometimes used as bait.

Bonito is often observed jumping at the surface of the ocean while chasing the bait. While you try to catch the Bonito, you would notice it being surrounded by birds trying to catch their prey. It is, hence, advised that you keep an eye out on them. To lure in an Atlantic Bonito, consider using fast moving lures or bait. Being their prey, Menhaden or sand lance proves quite successful as bait. It is recommended that you troll at or near the surface, jib, or surface cast for this fish.  One must motor the boat near the school of Atlantic Bonito, and not through it, as motoring may result in scattering the school, making it difficult to relocate the fish. The Bonito has been claimed as one of the favorite fish of the anglers because it fights hard and quick, offering an essential sport on the lighter fishing gear.

The best time to catch bonito is when the temperature of water ranges from 16 to 20 degree Celsius at dawn in autumn and summer. To capture the fighters among the school of Bonito, the fast action spinning rod of 7 ft works perfectly as it helps one make an accurate casting, along with using several kinds of live baits. Both artificial and natural lures work the trick successfully, depending upon the sea conditions. The most effective technique is when the group of fish is in the middle of their meal, anchoring the boat close to the group. Active jiggling proves quite successful while catching the fish.

Atlantic Bonito
Eating for Humans

A popular fish in the Mediterranean, the flesh of Bonito is similar to Tuna and Mackerel, while its size is intermediate between the two. Weighing somewhere under a kilogram (around 2.2lb), and known as Palamut in Turkish, the fish is often grilled as steaks for consumption. The larger specimen, known as ‘Torik’ in Turkish is cut into steaks and preserves as ‘Lakerda’. In Algeria and Spain, Albacore Bonito is often prepared as ‘Escabeche’, which preserves it for about a week. Bonito may also be baked and served cold.

Similar to Tuna, and the favorite meal of the Mediterranean, Bonito is an oily fish and tastes great with light seasoning. Atlantic Bonito, however, serves well as bait.

Atlantic Bonito -
Unknown Facts

  • The Atlantic Bonito is a ‘Ram Ventilator’, which implies that it cannot bite. The fish must, hence, eat its prey all at once. This being the reason, Bonito hunts on the smaller fish like the Mackerels, Menhaden, and Sand lance. Larger fish like Tuna, Marlin, and Wahoo are known to be the predators of Atlantic Bonito.
  • The Atlantic Bonito is a largely an unknown species. Their method of reproduction is still a mystery; however, the fish is known to spawn in the month of June.
  • Atlantic Bonito are a pelagic species, implying that they live in the middle of the sea in the open water. The fish cannot be found on the bottom of the ocean or on the surface.
  • Atlantic Bonito are considered valuable in Recreational fishing and are not as important as commercial species in the United States.
  • The Atlantic Bonito majorly lives throughout the western Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia to Argentina. However, the fish is present in lesser quantity in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Four species of the Atlantic Bonitoare generally recognized, namely – Sarda of the Atlantic and Mediterranean, S. orientalis of the Indo-Pacific, S. chilensis of the eastern Pacific, and S. australis of Australia and New Zealand.
  • The average lifespan of Atlantic Bonito is five years.
  • Total estimated landings of the Atlantic bonito may be highly variable between years. The number was around 15,000 tons in 2007 and 55,000 in 2016.
  • Most of the catches of Atlantic bonito are taken in the Mediterranean Sea, while a smaller fraction of the fish is taken in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Have a Question?
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What is the difference between Atlantic Bonito and Tuna?

The Atlantic Bonito has the same body shape as the Tuna. The only difference is that Atlantic Bonito are skinnier than Tuna. Bonitos differ from tuna by their compressed bodies, their lack of teeth on the roof of the mouth, and certain differences in coloration.

Can you eat Atlantic Bonito fish?

Yes, one can eat Atlantic Bonito. It is known to be an oily fish, quite delicious in taste.

What does a Bonito fish look like?

An Atlantic Bonito is silver in color with stripes on its dorsal fins and back.

Is Bonito a Tuna?

Bonitos belong to a tribe of medium-sized ray-finned predatory fish in the family Scombridae. A Bonito is not a Tuna. However, they both belong to a similar family.

How to cook Bonito fish?

It is advised that Bonito is cooked fresh, straight as it bled. It must be grilled as steaks to make the best of its taste.

Where are Bonito fish found?

Bonito can majorly be found in areas where the water temperature ranges from 12–27 °C, and is found at depths extending to 200 m.

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