|CARE OF THE CATCH Although Pacific bonito aren't known for their palate-pleasing flavor, the table quality of the catch can be dramatically improved by following a few easy steps, whether the catch is baked, broiled, battered or barbecued.¿ Always "bleed-out" a freshly caught bonito by making an incision through the fish's gillrakers in its throat area. After cutting, stand the bonito on its nose in a small, wet burlap bag placed in a plastic chest or bucket.¿ When the blood flow ceases, immediately place the whole fish on ice in a chest.¿ When done fishing, fillet the catch at sea, but be extra careful to leave at least one square inch of the bonito's skin intact on each fillet (a California regulation) for identification purposes.¿ When filleting, carefully remove the horizontal band of dark, red meat running along each side under the fish's lateral line.¿ Pack fillets in plastic bags, being careful to keep water out of bags. Also squeeze out excess air before sealing bags.¿ Place bagged fillets on ice in chest the for trip home.¿ Flavor is enhanced even more by preparing and serving refrigerated fillets while still fresh, not frozen.|
When encountered in a focused, feeding mode, bonito are relatively easy to catch. Live anchovies are the best natural baits, although small sardines are also effective. Immature mackerel can also appeal, but typically only to the larger bonito. Although bonito can occasionally be hooked on the bottom at depths to 50 or 60 feet, they are much more commonly caught on or within a few feet of the surface, making them vulnerable to fly-lined (no sinker) baits. A light-action, fast-taper, 7 1/2- to eight-foot rod and a palm-size, revolving-spool reel will pitch a 'chovy out to boat-shy fish hanging in the chumline. On a small boat, light spinning gear and six- or eight-pound-test line is ideal tackle to start out youngsters and to show them how big of a fight a little fish can stage. Indeed, bonito are kid-friendly. Generations of evolving salt water anglers cut their light-tackle teeth on the Pacific bonito. What the species has undeservedly lacked as a table favorite (see sidebar, below) has been more than counterbalanced by what it possesses in fighting spirit. Bonito are often worked into a feeding frenzy that can make almost any angler look talented - producing that every-bait's-a-bite chaos when the voracious attackers really define "slamming" a bait.