Tips for catching Yellowtail

Tips for catching Yellowtail on a San Diego Sportfishing Trip

Yellowtail are a popular target fish of Southern California sportfishing boats which fish San Diego on down the Baja Peninsula. Although yellowtail typically run 10 to 20 pounds, they can reach an enormous 79 lbs as was caught in 1991 at Alijos Rocks, Baja, a popular destination of San Diego’s charter fleet.

Yellowtail are a local and my personal favorite target game fish to catch and eat . This fishing article is a collection of tips I have put together after catching and observing other San Diego fisherman catching this beautiful and courageous big game fighter. My goal is to help fisherman of all levels and ages coming to San Diego land one the most explosive and legendary pound-for-pound popular big game fighting fish in San Diego’s local fishery:

Yellowtail or “Mossbacks” as some fisherman call the lunkers are epic fighters and pound for pound the best fighting local San Diego game fish Yellowtail on a line are explosive fighters making them a favorite target for local skippers. This is hands down my favorite local fish when eaten fresh (best within the first 3 days of being caught) otherwise it can turn “gamey” imo. They are also excellent when served fresh as Hama chi (Sashimi with a cocktail sauce)

Contrary to popular belief the California Yellowtail is in the Jack family of fish and is NOT a tuna

. A common mistake in identity is Yellowfin Tuna (in the Tuna family of fish, local brief name “Yft’s” and large fish are called “cow’s”) and Yellowtail (in the Jack family local lingo “Yellow’s”). The East Coast and Gulf of Mexico Amber Jack is a close cousin. Email me if I missed a local name for the Yellowtail in your area.

Most years the Yellowtail caught in Baja are more plentiful and they are not as smart. They are bigger, easier to catch and you can use chunk bait (strips of bait) for bait or heavy iron jigs (local name “iron”) and yo-yo deep. Baja fishing is done in about 80 to 300 feet of water with heavy as 14-ounce sinkers on the bottom and heavy tackle rigged with about 80-pound line. That isn’t overkill because big yellows hang around structure and the heavier tackle makes it easier to “turn” the fish and keep it away from or power through structure thus less chance of breaking a fisherman off.

Southern California Yellowtail are more seasonal and require more technique and can be elusive and more finicky to get to bite (a popular local phrase is “line shy”). Most yellowtail fishing locally is done by fly lining [live bait fishing with little or no sinker carolina rigged or similar] using small hooks and light line to get bit because the fish are so touchy. Another popular local technique is throwing light surface iron lures or if the fish are deeper, heavy iron “yo-yo’d” (dropped deep and retrieved ultra fast stopping every so often and letting the iron fall repeating this technique like a yo-yo) Yellowtail season in Southern California is April to September. However, a “second” season develops during the winter when larger fish are found within areas of spawning squid and at the Clam Beds near Coronado Islands. Deep sea sportfishing boats from Newport Beach at Newport Beach Landing, Dana Point at Davey’s Locker and San Pedro at 22nd Street Landing all the way down to San Diego landings target yellowtail year round but peak season being from Spring to Fall.

November 2006 brought some of the biggest fish and best YT fishing since the 1950’s some old timers say. The picture below is a fish taken by angler Justin Ryan of San Diego while fishing from the 3/4 day Mission Belle at the Coronado’s (Island chain just south of the San Diego/Baja border. His fish weighed in at a whopping 55lbs:

Yellowtail from San Diego

…to read more :