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Yellowfin Tuna Fishing in Florida

Written by Capt. Noah on Tuesday, 23 April 2013. Posted in Fish Info

Yellowfin Tuna is found in tropical and subtropical oceans around the world and they are members of the Albacares genus of the Thunnus family, and are otherwise known as “ahi”. Yellowfin tuna is particularly prevalent in the western Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Among the larger tuna species, reaching weights of over 400lbs, Yellowfin Tuna are noticeably smaller than both the Atlantic and Pacific Bluefin Tuna and they are slightly smaller than the Southern Bluefin Tuna and the Bigeye Tuna.

A very dark metallic blue fades to silver on the belly, which has around twenty vertical lines. The second dorsal fin, the anal fin and the various finlets between them and the tail are all a bright yellow. In mature adults, the second dorsal fin and anal fin resemble scythes because they are long and reach almost as far back as the tail. The pectoral fins are longer than those found in the Bluefin Tuna, yet not as long as those of the Albacore Tuna. Yellowfin Tuna are simply gigantic and the biggest recorded fish ever caught weighed an astonishing 427lbs.

Yellowfin Tuna are found offshore, usually swimming between the surface and 330ft of water depth. This keeps them above the thermocline but they are capable of diving deeper, and do infrequently. A tagged individual in the Indian Ocean dove to a depth of 3 810ft, which is considerable. When conditions are suitable, Yellowfin Tuna may approach shore. Many mid-ocean islands such as those in the Caribbean often have concentrations of these fish feeding near the shoreline. When food is abundant and water temperature and clarity are ideal, they may venture inshore of the continental shelf. Known to traverse vast distances during their lifetime, Yellowfin Tuna have no problem crossing oceans.

Similarly sized individuals often travel together in schools, and they even school with other tuna species. Mixed schools of small Yellowfin Tuna and Skipjack Tuna are common. These awesome fish frequently associate themselves with certain species of dolphins, as well as larger marine animals such as whales and whale sharks. They also love drifting debris such as logs and pallets and they can even be found following moving vessels.

Aerodynamic bodies make Yellowfin Tuna incredibly fast underwater, reaching speeds nearing 50mph. Their prey includes other fish such as mackerel, flying fish, anchovies, sardines, lanternfish and smaller tuna such as skipjacks. They will also eat crustaceans and squid with heartiness. Other hunters will prey on young Yellowfin Tuna such as larger tuna, wahoo, shark, billfish and even seabirds. Once fully grown, they are threatened only by the largest and fasters predators in the oceans such as toothed whales, shortfin mako sharks, great white sharks and marlin. Warm-blooded, Yellowfin Tuna are fortunately able to escape most predators. Their warm muscles are an incredible advantage for their phenomenal speed.

Sports fishing enthusiasts consider Yellowfin Tuna among the most prized fish to catch. They are possibly the most frequently caught offshore game fish on earth. There are several reasons to explain their astounding popularity. These fish are often caught weighing anywhere from 100lbs to 300lbs and they are phenomenal fighters. Super fast fish, an angler with a tuna on their line is guaranteed an adrenalin-filled challenge. They catch their prey at alarming speed, and your bait is no exception. Yellowfin Tuna are also undeniably among the tastiest fish in existence, enjoyed in a variety of ways. Lightly seared or in sushi, they are eaten by millions around the world. Here is some information to remember when Yellowfin Tuna fishing in Florida:

Tackle for Yellowfin Tuna

It is a long and challenging process getting your catch into the boat, regardless of what tackle you use. Yellowfin Tuna will turn sideways and swim in large circles when they get near your boat. Scale your tackle to the size of the fish you are targeting. If you are after those in the 15lbs range then light tackle is extremely fun. The larger ones will require heavy tackle and at least 100lbs of braided line. Their eyesight is great, so a fluorocarbon leader will reduce visibility and be more resistant to abrasion. An Accurate Platinum ATD 50 or similar quality is recommended.

Bait for Yellowfin Tuna

Lures, frozen bait and live bait can be used to catch Yellowfin Tuna in Florida. If using lures, then cedar plugs, plastic skirted trolling lures, poppers and tuna feathers are ideal. For live and frozen bait, ballyhoo, skipjacks, mackerel, anchovies, squid and sardines work exceptionally well.

Techniques for Yellowfin Tuna

These fantastic predatory fish frequently feed near the surface, which means that topwater trolling techniques produce the best results. Here are some tips you can employ to catch a Yellowfin Tuna in Florida:

  • Lures can be used effectively. Replacing treble hooks with single or double hooks is a good idea. These fish are less likely to bend or shake them if you do. When you find a school of feeding fish, cast lures into them. Poppers are particularly thrilling to use. Chugger type lures can be retrieved in a pop-pop-pause rhythm. If you skip ranger type lures over the surface during a steady retrieve, you have a good chance of success. A good chum can work to entice any schools in the area.
  • Live bait can be used in a variety of ways. Kite fishing is particularly productive for very large individuals. The kite is flown behind the bite after live bait is attached to a long line that is temporarily suspended from the kite. This line must be rigged to break free from the kite when your Yellowfin Tuna takes the bait, or you will have trouble reeling it in. The flying kite keeps the bait near the surface of the water, making it appear as if the fish is panicking. The sound and sight of your bait fish splashing on the surface usually works when nothing else is. By rigging a three-way swivel and fishing two at once, tuna will get extremely excited. For true giants, slow trolling live skipjacks is the best method to use. Ensure you have tuna tubes on your boat to keep the skipjack alive. If you do not wish to use live bait or if it is unavailable, then “chunking” is a good option. Large chunks of big bait fish can be cut and thrown overboard. Hide a circle hook in one of these chunks and allow it to drift down naturally with the rest of them. A lot of line will need to be let out so that the chunk will drift without any drag. When your Yellowfin Tuna takes it you will feel, hear and know it immediately.

Call today to book your Tuna Fishing Charter in Florida and battle these strong fish.

About the Author

Capt. Noah

Capt. Noah

Noah is a United States Coast Guard licensed captain and PADI divemaster. He grew up in South Florida and has a passion for all things involving water. He is one of the rare bread of boaters who loves sailing and power boating. Noah sails competitvely and enjoys travelling, photography, and cooking. 


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