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July 20, 2006

Tropical Tuna

I caught a fish just like the one pictured here on a fishing trip to Piñas Bay, Panama, with my dad. Its body and teeth looked like those of a mackerel, but its markings were exactly like a bonito...

Q: I caught a fish just like the one pictured here on a fishing trip to Piñas Bay, Panama, with my dad. Its body and teeth looked like those of a mackerel, but its markings were exactly like a bonito's. The captain called it an albacore, but the fish we know by that name is a tuna on the West Coast of the United States. Can you identify it for us?

Dominick Porcelli,                                                            Cincinnati, Ohio


A: Dominick, you are right on the money. That is a striped bonito, Sarda orientalis, a tropical species found throughout the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean. In the eastern Pacific, striped bonito have been taken from the tip of Baja California south to Peru, so your catch off Panama was pretty much in the middle of its range. Like all small tunas (these grow to about 46 inches), this species feeds on fishes, squids and small invertebrates such as krill. While striped bonito are abundant from southern Mexico to Colombia, they are not a major commercial species. Most are taken incidentally by recreational and commercial fishermen pursuing other species. Get one on a fly rod, however, and these fish tug pretty hard. - Milton Love