Scott’s Species – bonito, light tackle sportfishing sensation

When talking about fun speedsters to do battle with while flicking the light tackle around, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan finds it hard to look past bonito! In this week’s edition of Scott’s Species, Scott discusses the underrated sportfish.

Species: Sarda australis (Australian bonito), Sarda orientalis (oriental bonito), Cybosardia elegans (Watson’s leaping bonito)

Eating: 3 stars

ID: Similar to tuna, but with dark stripes along the side.

Bonito have made a comeback in recent years and I reckon that’s great news!

Cameron Finnie with a thumping south coast bonito.

We haven’t quite got back to the summer metro runs that excited shore anglers a couple of decades ago, but improved numbers in inshore waters offer some hope that they could one day happen again.

Back in their peak days, anglers packed rockwalls and jetties in Perth and cast lures, hoping for a rare taste of land-based game fishing.

There are actually three species of bonito commonly encountered in Australian waters.

The oriental bonito (stripes along upper back) is found on the lower west coast, while the Australian bonito is found on the lower east coast.

The Watson’s leaping bonito (spots and broken bars along upper back) is found from WA’s South West across the top of the country to Queensland.

Oriental bonito are the most common species in WA and are a great little sportfish on light tackle, with plenty of speed when hooked.

They can grow to about 1m long, but most caught are in the 2kg to 4kg range. They are an aggressive species that often hunts in schools and they will hit a variety of baits and lures with gusto.

Large minnow lures and metals will often be taken, as will whole fish baits such as mulies and garfish. They can also be caught on fly.

Heavy gear is not usually needed as bonito are clean fighters and 4kg to 8kg spin tackle is more than sufficient.

They are often caught while trolling bibbed lures near shore or by casting at schools of feeding fish from a boat, but can also be caught from shore in some locations, particularly along the south coast.

The last couple of years have seen big numbers of bonito off Perth, and also along the south coast in autumn, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

While chasing salmon last year, we got one bonito off Cheynes that would have been close to 5kg, which is a thumper of a fish!

This bonito couldn’t resist Garrett Mundy’s trolled lure!