Yellowfin tuna are well known for their physical beauty and powerful swimming, however, the similar appearance across the different varieties of tunas can lead to some confusion over identification. The bluefin, albacore, yellowfin, and bigeye tuna are all football shaped and have a streamline body with shimmers of silver on their sides and darker colorations by their dorsal. The yellowfin has a dark blue dorsal surface while it can appear brownish in the water. True to their name, the yellowfin tuna have yellow in their fins and a shiny, golden yellow along their sides but coloration alone won’t allow you to correctly identify the different species of tuna. A key feature to identify a yellowfin tuna is the length of their pectoral fins. Each species has a particular “design” to their pectoral fins that identifies them: The yellowfin’s pectoral fin reaches the beginning of their second dorsal fin while the albacore pectoral fin always goes beyond the start of the second dorsal and the bluefin pectoral fin never reaches the second dorsal fin. The combination of color and pectoral fin size should give you a clear identification in most cases.
Size of the Yellowfin
Yellowfin tuna grow faster than the bluefin tuna, but do not reach the large size of their giant cousin. The largest yellowfin tuna on record was 388 lbs. And was caught in Mexico in 1977. The growing cycle for a yellowfin tuna 8-10 pounds at one year, age 2 about 35 lbs. and at 3 years old about 75 pounds. By 4 years old a yellowfin will averages about 130 lbs and can on average get as large as 200 lbs.
Angling and Handling Tips
Yellowfin tuna are one of the most challenging species to catch with a rod and reel. Their large size and high capacity for exercise can result in broken tackle if you are poorly prepared. Trolling and chumming are the primary methods used by anglers, but there are many tips for catching Yellowfin Tuna. Trolling involves creating a flashy presentation of multiple lures trolled in the boat wake while moving along at 7-8 nautical miles per hour. Single hook lures with plastic skirts are a common offering and chains or spreader bars of lures are an option to increase the visual attraction. Green is a popular color for yellowfin tuna. The idea is to have a pattern of lures that splash, wiggle and sparkle enough to trick the fish into thinking it is attacking a group of agitated baitfish. Chumming involves introducing a baited hook to yellowfin tuna while the boat is drifting or anchored. Cut pieces of common bait fish are tossed in the water around the baited hook to attract tuna.
Both methods use similar fishing tackle. Yellowfin typically range between 30-80 pounds, so use high quality 30, 50, or 80 pound-class reels, rods and line to fish for these beauties. Yellowfin that exceed 100 pounds are matched well with the 80 pound class gear. Lighter tackle can be used and is gaining popularity, but you better be prepared for a fight if you want to land a 150 lb. yellowfin tuna with 30 pound class tackle. Once you’ve hooked a yellowfin, rods are transferred to the angler wearing a gimbal belt and/or back harness. This allows for a “stand-up” fish fighting technique. A good position for an experienced angler but one that can quickly fatigue an inexperienced angler faced with a large tuna. The excitement generated in the cockpit as multiple yellowfin tuna strike and rip line off the reels is the highlight of sport fishing for yellowfin tuna.
Catching Yellowfin is Exciting
Tunas will fight to the end to get away so, if you are planning to release your catch, keep the fish in the water if possible while you remove the hook. Try to avoid bruising or cutting the tuna during boatside handling. If the tuna is fatigued, swim the fish along for a few minutes while the boat is in gear to allow the fish to “catch its breath” (release carbon dioxide and make up oxygen debt). If you’re planning to boat the tuna, be sure to bleed and chill the fish as soon as possible. Fresh yellowfin is a delight to eat and a 40 pound fish can feed a lot of people. Raw Yellowfin doesn’t have the same reputation as bluefin tuna sashimi, but don’t pass it up if you like sashi