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Everything You Need to Know About Yellowfin Tuna Fishing
What is a yellowfin tuna?
Yellowfin tuna (thunnus albacares) is found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters, and is common throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. It is a pelagic fish, and is among the larger of the many types of tuna. It is smaller than a bluefin and bigeye yet generally larger than a blackfin, skipjack, or albacore.
Yellowfin are distinguished from other tuna mainly by the crazy shape of their second dorsal and anal fins, which are bright yellow and extend out far from their bodies as long curved skinny fins. In mature fish these can extend quite a ways and reach back almost to the tail.
How big do yellowfin tuna get?
Yellowfin tuna will commonly reach maturity at around 2 years and 40 inches, and will weigh under 100 pounds. The fish live a relatively short lifespan of 5-10 years, but can reach upwards of 300 pounds in that span. They are certainly a much better prize than the blackfin they are often caught with.
Whats the biggest yellowfin tuna ever caught?
While yellowfin can purportedly get up to 94 inches and 440 pounds, the IGFA record currently stands at 388 pounds for a fish that was caught in 1977 off the Pacific coast of Mexico. There are a few challengers that have not been IGFA certified though, including a 405 pounder and a 425 pounder. Additionally, a massive 480 pounder was caught by spear in 2018 off the coast of the Dominican Republic. While this is not rod and reel fishing, it is certainly awesome to see such a beautiful fish and impressive to see the true potential of the size of a yellowfin.
Where is the best place to catch yellowfin tuna?
The biggest yellowfin tuna are known to be hanging around the Pacific side of Mexico, especially off the Baja Peninsula or Catalina Island. These are often targeted from San Diego in longer-range boats. Other common destinations include Puerto Vallarta, Hannibal Bank, Panama, Hawaii (where they are called Ahi), the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and Venice, LA (known for having very little travel time between marina and tuna).
Yellowfin are epipelagic, meaning they live in the open ocean, but are close to the surface where plenty of sunlight feeds plenty of plankton and life. They are usually in the top 300 ft of water.
When should I catch yellowfin tuna?
Yellowfin tuna will come closer to the shore when the water temperature is higher, so the best fishing is usually in warmer months. Because you need to head far offshore to catch them, you will also be relying on a good weather window and calm seas.
The season for yellowfin tuna in the US is always open, with the Carolinas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi having a 27'' curved FL minimum (other states have no size regulations). The Carolinas and Mississippi have a 3 fish bag limit while California has a 20 finfish bag limit, with no more than 10 fish of a single species allowed (including yellowfin tuna). Other states have no yellowfin bag regulations.
How do you catch yellowfin tuna?
Yellowfin will be caught by either trolling baits and lures, sight casting, or jigging. You can chum them up to the surface (they usually aren't too far below). They are often schooled up, so when you're on them, stay put. They also tend to like some structure, and in the Gulf of Mexico tend to be found around offshore oil rigs.
Yellowfin have great eyesight so it is recommended to have fluorocarbon leaders to reduce visibility. In terms of lure, artificials are popular and you can use tuna feathers, rapala plugs, or metal jigs. If they're on the surface, you can use flies or poppers to good effect.
Once you get one on, it's a unique fight. Rather than wearing themselves out quickly, yellowfin (and all tuna) are notorious for their deep dive and circular motion - they'll swim downward in broad circles and pull on the line all the way up. They are a powerful fish and their size combined with their strategy for staying alive makes for a tough fight.
Are yellowfin tuna good to eat? What are the best yellowfin tuna recipes?
Yellowfin is a delicacy both raw or cooked. While not as popular as its relative the bluefin, yellowfin is fast becoming a sashimi treat. Eat the fish raw right after you catch, and cook into thick steaks after that.