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Big Bend Florida Sportsman Guide

Fishing Tactics


Bonita are among my favorite fish to catch.  Off the Big Bend of Florida, we often spot Bonita attacking bait schools.  They are quite easily seen when the water is calm.  They usually are leaping in a graceful arc out of the water.  Light tackle and a medium to light drag setting is the name of the game.  Once you spot a school, do not run right up on the school but rather watch for a minute or two to determine if they are moving in a particular direction.  If they are, position your boat well in front of the school and let them come to to you.  They will surround a drifting boat but scatter quickly when a fast moving boat approaches.  Try and determine what size the bait is.  If you can get a line on this, match the size of the bait in your lure.  I like using the heavier 1 to 3 oz silver casting spoons.  Throw the lure into the boil of fish and reel as fast as you can.  The lure must be moving fast for the fish to hit it.  Do not try and be fancy with the retrieve, this is not a finesse game but purely a power toss.

I have not heard of any good recipes for Bonita.  I usually release all we catch except for 2 or 3 that I keep for bait or chum.  Grouper love Bonita strips.  Chunking Bonita is a great way to bring Amberjacks and barracuda right up to the boat.  Kingfish will often lay under the working school of Bonita, so every once in a while let your lure drop below the working fish.  You may be surprised at what is down there feeding off the bait fish scraps.

Euthynnus alletteratus
Little tunny

Euthynnus  alletteratus  (Rafinesque, 1810)  
 Family:  Scombridae (Mackerels, tunas, bonitos) picture (Euall_u1.jpg) by Hofinger, E.
Show available picture(s) for Euthynnus alletteratus
 Order:  Perciformes
 Class:  Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
 FishBase  name: Little tunny
 Max. size:  122 cm TL (male/unsexed; Ref. 26340); max.weight: 16.5 kg (Ref. 40637); max. reported age: 10 years
 Environment:  pelagic; oceanodromous; brackish; marine ; depth range 1 - 150 m
 Climate: tropical; 56N - 30S
 Importance:  fisheries: commercial; gamefish: yes
 Resilience:  Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (K=0.13-0.22; tm=2; tmax=8; Fec=71,000)
Atlantic Ocean: in tropical and subtropical waters, including the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Highly migratory species, Annex I of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (Ref. 26139).
 Diagnosis:  Dorsal spines (total): 15-16; Dorsal soft rays (total): 11-13; Anal spines: 0-0; Anal soft rays: 11-15; Vertebrae : 39-39. Anterior spines of first dorsal fin much higher than the those mid-way, giving the fin a strongly concave outline. Interpelvic process small and bifid. Body naked except for corselet and lateral line. Swimbladder absent. Incipient protuberances on 33rd and 34th vertebrae. Back with broken oblique stripes (Ref. 168). Caudal peduncle with 7-8 finlets. Dark stripes on the back and with 3-7 dark spots between pelvic and pectoral fins (Ref. 35388).
 Biology:  Found in neritic waters close inshore (Ref. 13628). This schooling species is an opportunistic predator which feeds on virtually everything within its range, i.e. crustaceans, fishes (mainly clupeoid), squids, heteropods and tunicates. Specialized traps (madragues) are used in Tunisia and Morocco. Diving bird flocks may indicate large schools (Ref. 9710). Utilized fresh, dried-salted, smoked, canned and frozen (Ref. 9987). A popular game fish (Ref. 9710).
 Threatened: Not in IUCN Red List  , (Ref. 36508)
 Dangerous:  reports of ciguatera poisoning , Olsen, D.A., D.W. Nellis and R.S. Wood. 1984
 Coordinator:  Collette, Bruce B.
 Main Ref:  Collette, B.B. and C.E. Nauen. 1983. (Ref. 168)