Pacific bonito may range throughout state waters, but they are most prevalent south of Point Conception. They sometimes arrive off California when the ocean warms in the spring, but during periods of colder than normal water temperatures they may never show up.
- Dark blue above, dusky on sides, silvery below
- A number of slanted, dark stripes along the back (the only tuna-like fish in California to have this characteristic)
- Body cigar-shaped
- Head pointed and conical
- Mouth large with sharp teeth
Life History & Other Notes
Pacific bonito prefer to feed on small fishes, such as anchovies and sardines. Their diet can sometimes include squid as well.
Pacific bonito may not spawn successfully off California every year; spawning generally takes place farther south. The bulk of southern California spawning appears to take place from late January through May. The free-floating eggs take about three days to hatch.
Pacific bonito are excellent fighters and have hearty appetites. Once a school is aroused they will take almost any bait or lure that is tossed their way. Most Pacific bonito are taken by a combination of trolling and live bait fishing. Schools are located by trolling feathers, and then live anchovies or pieces of squid are used for bait. Fishing for Pacific bonito generally takes place offshore in 300 to 600 ft. of water, but fishing next to kelp beds may also be productive when fish are found near shore.
Pacific Bonito Quick Facts:
Scientific Name: Sarda chiliensis
Other Common Names: bonehead, bonita, Laguna tuna
Range & Habitat: Statewide, but usually south of Point Conception
Length & Weight: to 40 inches and 25 pounds
Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on anchovies, sardines and other small fishes; try live
anchovies or squid for bait; also try artificial lures
Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book. Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.