A fish species with a Spanish name, bonita, or bonito, is not a species commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico, but there are reports of this fish caught in the northern regions around the area. Primarily, bonita are a small, open water fish that stick close to coastal waters, and they are in the same family as mackerel and tuna.
The typical bonita can live up to 9 years and can spawn by their second year. It is common for bonita to reach 24 inches and weigh up to 5 lbs. Larger-sized fish can reach 15 lbs.
Bonita are blue-gray, ray-finned predatory fish. Younger fish may be lighter in color. They have longitudinal stripes on the back, a feature that distinguishes them from other members of the tuna family. They are small to medium-sized, and are streamlined as well as swift. Bonita have 20 to 23 dorsal spines, 15 to 18 dorsal soft rays, no anal spines, and 14 to 17 anal soft rays. The body is covered with very small scales and has a large spleen. Bonita do not have a swim bladder.
Bonita have a forked tail with a narrow base, and the mouth is moderately large, which is useful as they eat an array of other fish species. A common diet consists of herring, menhaden, hake, mackerel, anchovies, shrimp, and squid. Bonita are cannibalistic; adults eat smaller schooling bonita fish.
Bonita have a large distribution, covering both the eastern and western regions of the Atlantic Ocean including Norway, South Africa, Canada, and Argentina. They live in temperatures from 12º to 27º Celsius and varying salinity levels, and remain in the northern gulf region year round, moving north in warmer temperatures.
Bonita form large schools mixed with bluefish and mackerel and are extremely predatory. They may enter estuaries and typically remain within 20 miles of the coast.