Albacore vs. Yellowfin Tuna: An Easy Guide
Mar 12, 2021 | 6 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Fast swimmers and ferocious fighters, few fish are as fun to catch as Albacore and Yellowfin Tuna. Not only will they give you a run for your money, these two Tunas taste pretty darn good, too! The best part is, both species are abundant around the world, and in a lot of places, you can catch them both.

As good as that sounds, their abundance is precisely where the “trouble” starts. Albacore and Yellowfin can look very similar, especially if they’re of the same size. To make matters worse, people sometimes even confuse their names. So how do you tell Albacore vs. Yellowfin Tuna apart, then? That’s exactly what you’re going to learn today.

a school of Yellowfin Tunas underwater

First, let’s get the name confusion sorted out. Albacore Tuna (Thunnus alalunga) have a name that’s very similar to the latin words used for Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares). Because of this, Yellowfins go by the name of Albacora in certain parts of the world (namely Portugal and Brazil). 

Of course, things wouldn’t be nearly as fun if Albacores didn’t have their own alias. In places like Canada and South Africa, Albacores are referred to as Longfin Tuna. What’s the big deal? Just that Longfin Tuna sounds a lot like Longtail Tuna, which is an entirely different species.

If you want to know more about confusing fish names, check out this guide. If not, let’s get to the differences between Albacore and Yellowfin Tuna.

Habitat and Distribution

Of all the species of Tuna, Albacore and Yellowfin are among the most widespread. These guys swim in tropical and temperate waters around the globe but, of the two, Yellowfins tend to inhabit deeper ranges of the water column. Still, as both species like to gather into schools of similarly-sized fish, seeing the two swimming together is not an uncommon sight.

Albacore

In the US, Albacore Tuna like to swim along the west coast, from California and Oregon all the way up to Washington. In Europe, you can find them around the Bay of Biscay as well as the Mediterranean. Other major fisheries include Japan and New Zealand.

Albacore Tuna swimming around a school of fish

If you’re looking to catch Albacore, you should know that juveniles are a little more picky when it comes to water temperature – they keep to waters in the 60–67°F range. Larger Albacore can be found anywhere between 57–77°F.

Yellowfin

Yellowfin Tuna are even more widespread than their long-finned cousins. Most of the time, you can find them in depths of 330 feet, but they have been recorded in waters as deep as 3,800 feet. Yellowfins are exceptionally abundant along the shores of the eastern Pacific, especially from San Diego to Puerto Vallarta. On the Atlantic side, you can find them roaming the waters from Nova Scotia down to North Carolina. 

a Yellowfin tuna swiming

Yellowfins are also abundant around mid-ocean islands. They are frequent visitors of places like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii, Catalina Island, as well as the Canaries and Azores. In the Indian and Pacific oceans, you can find Yellowfins around South Africa and Madagascar, and as far east as Australia and New Zealand.  

Appearance

In terms of looks, there are a few things that set Albacore Tunas and Yellowfins apart. Number one is, of course, the size. While Albacore Tuna rarely exceed 45 pounds, Yellowfins in the 120–150 lb range are not at all uncommon.

An infographic showing the identifiable differences between Albacore and Yellowfin Tuna: appearance, size, lifespan, and taste

But what if you happen upon a Tuna that’s right around the 50 lb mark? Here are a few details that set the two fish apart:

  • Albacore Tuna have a distinctively long pelvic (side) fin – hence the name “Longfin”. Unlike other Tuna, the pelvic fin reaches past the second dorsal (topside) fin, and is the clearest sign that you’re looking at an Albacore. Yellowfins have reasonably long pelvic fins, but theirs don’t pass the second dorsal.
  • On a Yellowfin, the second dorsal fin is elongated, curved, and bright yellow. On an Albacore, the second dorsal is short, triangular, and grayish in color.
  • Albacore Tuna have larger eyes than Yellowfin Tuna.
  • Albacores boast a dark blue upper side, and a clear cut silvery-white lower side. Yellowfins are light or dark blue on top, with a bright lateral line on the side, and a silvery-white lower side.

Fishing

Alright, you know how to recognize Albacore vs. Yellowfin, but what about catching the two?

Albacore 

Like many other Tuna species, trolling is a good way to target an Albacore. Live bait works even better. Albacores feed on smaller sea creatures, so anything from anchovies, sardines, and mullet to herrings and squid should work. Lures are a good option for Albacore, as well.

Tuna fishing: Two anglers holding an Albacore Tuna

Albacore’s big eyes allow them to see exceptionally well, so using a fluorocarbon leader might be a good idea.

Yellowfin

Yellowfins are best caught on live bait. Depending on their size, they will attack any variety of baits you offer. The smaller ones will readily attack anchovies and sardines, much like Albacore do. California anglers know how well Pacific Mackerel works on these fish. For the largest Yellowfins, you’ll need to use something like a Skipjack Tuna. 

Three anglers holding a Yellowfin Tuna they caught while fishing in Venice, LA.

Yellowfin will fight you like the fiercest of Billfish, but the chase will definitely be worth it. If you want a chance to catch the largest Yellowfins out there, make sure to check out what San Diego long range fishing has to offer.

Taste

Albacores and Yellowfin are both renowned for their exquisite taste. Let’s see how they compare.

Albacore

Out of all the Tuna species, Albacores boast the mildest flavor and lightest flesh. They are commonly canned as “white tuna,” and comprise 20% of the US canned Tuna market. On occasion, you can find Albacores in the form of Tuna steak.

a chunk of canned Albacore tuna

One downside to Albacore meat is that it’s relatively high in mercury. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, adults should consume White Tuna no more than three times per month.

Yellowfin

Yellowfin Tuna, on the other hand, are some of the most versatile seafood options out there. In comparison to Albacore, they are a little stronger in taste. Their flesh is firm and pale pink in color, and a tad less dry. Like with Albacores, you can buy them canned, or make Tuna steaks out of them. But that’s not all. 

two Yellowfin Tuna steaks on a plate with a salad on the side

Due to Yellowfin’s more pronounced taste, you can often see them as sushi. In fact, Yellowfin sashimi is a delicacy that is often served in high-end seafood restaurants. If you’re a sushi lover, this is a great alternative to the endangered and more expensive Bluefin Tuna.

Which is Better?

The answer is… Why should you have to choose? Albacore and Yellowfin Tuna are fantastic game fish, and they’re both good eating, too. However, if you’re after a bigger catch, your choice should obviously be Yellowfin. If you’re just getting into Tuna fishing, go with Albacore, and you won’t regret it.

Whichever of the two Tunas you choose to catch, you can count on a tasty dinner once you’re back ashore.

And now, we turn it over to you. Where do you stand in the Albacore vs. Yellowfin tuna debate? Which tastes better in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments (4)
  • Lucille Finnegan

    Aug 8, 2020

    I ordered yellowfin tuna by accident on line!
    I LOVE it!
    So much tastier then albacore tuna!
    Not dry at all!!!!
    Thanks for explaining the difference!

    Lucille

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      Sean

      Aug 10, 2020

      Hi Lucile,

      Thanks for sharing!

      That was one lucky accident, wasn’t it?

      Yellowfin tasted awesome, and it’s also very versatile, so you can prepare it in a variety of ways.

      Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

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  • karen marsack

    Apr 22, 2020

    In Mich most all the stores sell albacore. It is all we ever ate. But it is very very dry and can be difficult to swallow. We live in an italian neighborhood. A store here sells mostly yellofin tuna in oil or water. I love it! What a difference it makes in a tuna pastas salad…but, here is is quite a bit more expensive than the white? Why?

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      Sean

      Apr 22, 2020

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for reading!

      One of the reasons why Yellowfin Tuna are more expensive than Albacore is that Albacore are generally more abundant and easier to catch. In addition, Albacore contain more mercury, which is why most people shouldn’t eat them more than two or three times a week.

      If you want to read more about Tuna food choices, check out this article.

      Thanks again for reading, and have a great day!

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