Tuna (Yellowfin) Fishing (Thunnus albacares)

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Tuna (Yellowfin) Fishing (Thunnus albacares)

Yellowfin, or Ahi, Tuna, are some of the most highly appraised big game catches of the world. They are beautiful, hard-fighting fish that just about push the limits of what a single angler is able to reel in. The incentive is there, because winning the battle means a sushi feast afterwards.

This species often feeds very close to the surface and so is easily found and able to be targeted by topwater techniques. However, even though they spend most of their time topwater, larger fish are known to dive to impressive depths of up to 4000ft.

They are often found schooling with other types of similar sized Tuna, as well as swimming alongside larger marine creatures such as dolphins, porpoises, whales and whale sharks. The most colorful of all Tuna fish, adults sometimes also sport distinct long sickle-like yellow fins, making them hard to confuse with any other species. 

Like other Tuna fish, the Yellowfin are also warm-blooded, which makes them extremely endurant, and hydrodynamic, which allows for agility and speed. This species is one of the fastest fish in the ocean and, pound for pound, one of the strongest fighters sure to give you a run for your money.

How big

The Yellowfin is among the larger fish of the Tuna species, similar in size to the Bigeye Tuna, but dwarfed up to more than two times by the Bluefin Tuna.

This species can grow to over 450lbs, but the official record, for which the setting angler was awarded $1.000.000, stands at 427lbs (the largest one caught is not on the record).

When & Where

Yellowfin Tuna are among the earliest fish to be targeted by sport fishermen. They started gaining popularity in the pioneering fishery around Catalina Island, CA. Soon afterwards, sport fishermen started targeting them in the Bahamas, Bermuda, Hawaii and elsewhere.

The largest Yellowfin can be found on the Pacific coast of Mexico, up to San Diego, CA and down to Puerto Vallarta. Prolific fisheries are located in the Gulf waters off Venice, LA, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, off New England and Nova Scotia. Yellowfin are not easily reachable, but possible to catch off Florida as well.

They can also be found around many archipelagos in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans and the Caribbean Sea, off the Canary Islands, South Africa, Mauritius and Madagascar, far east and west off Australia and off northern New Zealand.

Like all Tuna, Yellowfin come closer to shore with the water temperature increase, so the best fishing will be during the summer. Where there are Marlin, Tuna will likely precede them.

How to catch

These big barrels of power can be tougher to boat as the notorious billfish. Where billfish will lose some strength on aerial attempts to shake the hook, Tuna fish will conserve it by diving deep towards the bottom. Add that to their speed and weight and you've got yourself a battle.

Yellowfin are mostly caught by trolling baits or lures or, since they're often found topwater (if not, chumming will get them there), by sight casting or kite fishing. All Tuna have exceptional eyesight and so fluorocarbon leaders are advised to reduce tackle visibility, as is matching the lure size to the available local baitfish, otherwise they won't be fooled.

Artificials are the most popular choice, and these include special tuna feathers, cedar or Rapala plugs, plastic trolling lures or metal jigs (if the fish are deep). Poppers and flies are also used, with good results.

If going with natural bait, anchovies and sardines will work for smaller fish, mackerel for larger ones and Skipjack Tuna for the monsters. Any local baitfish that is known to be on the Yellowfin's menu, as well as squid, should work live, freshly dead or cut.

One of the most beautiful fish to take a picture with. Caught aboard L'Oiseau des Iles in Mauritius

Good to eat?

Yields white meat, considered a delicacy in eastern Asian and Japanese cuisine, especially when consumed raw. Can contain mercury, much like other Tuna species.



  • Season - always open;
  • Size limit - The Carolinas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi - 27'' curved FL minimum; other states have no size regulations;
  • Bag limit (per angler per day) - The Carolinas, Mississippi - 3; California has a 20 finfish bag limit, with no more than 10 fish of a single species allowed, within which the Yellowfin Tuna falls; other states have no relevant bag regulations;
         Mexico has a 10 fish bag limit, with up to 5 fish of a single species allowed, including the Yellowfin Tuna;
  • Season - always open;
  • Western Australia - up to 3 fish within the pelagic limit, no size limits;
  • Queensland - no regulations;
  • New South Wales - up to 2 if larger than 90cm, up to 5 if smaller than 90cm, both within the Tuna aggregate;
  • 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;


Similar Game Fish:

Tuna (Yellowfin) Fishing Destinations