Tuna (Bluefin) Fishing (Thunnus thynnus / orientalis / maccoyii)

All Tackle Record
1496lbs / 907lbs, 6oz / 369lbs, 4oz

Tuna (Bluefin) Fishing (Thunnus thynnus / orientalis / maccoyii)

Most of today's civilized world loves feasting on sushi and sashimi, and the Bluefin Tuna is to thank for this. The sushi time might be running out though, as this fish faces extinction due to being so delicious.

There are three closely related types of Bluefin Tuna - the Pacific (Thunnus orientalis), Atlantic (Thunnus thynnus) and Southern (Thunnus maccoyii), each inhabiting waters designated by their name. As other Tuna fish, chilly seas pose no problem - their highly developed thermoregulatory system allows for keeping their body temperature up to 36°F warmer than the surrounding water, which not only means they can thrive in great geographical latitudes, but in great depths as well. Not losing heat through their gills also dramatically adds to their stamina, making them extremely fast (can swim up to 40mph) and endurant (Gordon Johnson speaks about a 62 hour long fight in his book, "It Happened in Canada") predators.

An interesting fact about red-flesh fish is that their meat was regarded as a low class food in Japan before refrigeration was invented, as it was basically impossible to conserve. The popularity of sushi, however, brought the Bluefin Tuna to a meat value pedestal, culminating in 2013 with a $1.76M purchase of a single 489lbs fish at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo.

With the surge of interest for Tuna meat and profits to be made from it came a dramatic rise in (especially commercially) harvested quantities of this fish. The Pacific Tuna population is estimated to be at 4% of what it would be without the fishing pressure, the Atlantic Tuna stocks have declined by 72-82% (from east to west in the ocean) in the last 40 years and the Southern Tuna is also on the critically endangered list as recorded by the IUCN. However, illegal fishing only seems to be additionally spurred by the scarcity of the species and, conversely, the value increase of its meat.

How big

Bluefin Tuna being among the largest bony fish in the sea, here's a breakdown of the maximum sizes: the Pacific Tuna grows up to about 10ft and 1000lbs, the Atlantic Tuna reaches a staggering 12ft and 1500lbs and the Southern Tuna is the smallest of the bunch at a maximum of around 8ft and 600lbs.

When & Where

The names of the species indicate their native fisheries fairly well, but here are some specifics on where the Bluefin Tuna can be fished for:

  • The Pacific Bluefin inhabits cold waters of the north Pacific, from the east coast of Asia to Mexico and north to Southern California. They spawn consistently from April to August, earlier during this time frame in the northwest Philippine Sea (off Honshu, Okinawa and Taiwan) and later in the Sea of Japan. Some migrate to the east Pacific, and have occasionally been found in the southern hemisphere as well.
  • The Atlantic Bluefin spreads throughout the Atlantic Ocean and within the Mediterranean Sea (formerly in the Black Sea as well, but they have become extinct here). They spawn during the hotter months around the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean and in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the best migratory spots in the US is off the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
  • The Southern Bluefin can be found in subtropical and temperate waters of all oceans of the southern hemisphere. They migrate seasonally between Australia and India.

How to catch

Like all Tuna, the optimal way of catching a Bluefin is by trolling natural bait like herring, mullet, mackerel, smaller Tuna, Bonito, flying fish, whiting or squid (or any other marine item on the local Bluefin menu), or artificials, which include various spoons, plugs, jigs or feathers. Flies and poppers are used with success and chumming will help bring them closer to the surface.

It goes without saying that these fish don't go down until the last breath. They are some of the toughest fighters in the world, prone to fast surface runs and aggressive deep dives. The heaviest of tackles and a sturdy fishing belt are items you need to be using if you want to stand a chance at landing a Bluefin.

Good to eat?

Phenomenal. Appreciated worldwide, especially when consumed raw, as part of the Japanese cuisine. Can contain mercury, much like other Tuna species. Also, if caught in the Pacific, radioactive cesium coming from the Fukushima meltdown.



  • Season - always open;
  • Size limit - South Carolina, Louisiana - up to to 73'' curved FL (from 27'' for SC);
  • Bag limit - South Carolina - 1 per vessel per day, Louisiana - 1 per vessel per year with appropriate federal permit as incidental catch during the open season; California has a special limit for Bluefin Tuna set at 10 per person per day, which may be taken or possessed in addition to the overall general daily bag limit of 20 finfish;

         * The species is mostly federally managed and requires obtaining a permit and reporting your catch;

         Mexico allows keeping up to 2 Bluefin Tuna, wherein 1 counts as half of the normal daily limit of 10 fish;
  • Season - always open;
  • Western Australia - up to 3 fish within the pelagic limit, no size limits;
  • Queensland - no regulations;
  • New South Wales - up to 1 fish, no size limits;
  • Victoria - up to 2 fish smaller than 160kg within the Tuna aggregate, no size limits;
  • South Australia - up to 2 Yellowfin and Bluefin combined total per angler, up to 6 Yellowfin and Bluefin combined total per boat;


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