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Sportfish Profiles

Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares) Yellowfin Tuna

Written by: Dr. Larry G. Allen

 The last decade, 1986-1996, could be declared the decade of the yellowfin as far as the southern California sport fleet is concerned. In fact, fisheries biologists from the National Marine Fisheries Service have recently gone on record as saying that the last decade was indeed warmer than normal because of a succession of El Nino events in much higher frequency than normal dating back to 1983. Warm water in the summer means yellowfin tuna. Recent catch reports of 10 to 50 pound yellowfin being caught 50 to 100 miles off Pt. Loma provide proof that the trend continues. Here is a brief summary of  the biology of the yellowfin tuna:

SCIENTIFIC NAME - Thunnus albacares, family Scombridae (mackerels and tunas)

COMMON NAMES - yellowfin, yellowfin tuna, ahi, atun de aleta amarilla (Mexico)

DISTRIBUTION - World-wide in subtropical and tropical seas. Off North America, yellowfin have been taken from Morro Bay south to Peru.

SIZE & AGE - To 6.5 feet and 450 pounds. It has been difficult to age yellowfin accurately, but we do know they live more than five years. Like most tunas, they are very fast growing fish with average size at age estimated at :

AGE (years)

LENGTH (inches)

1

19

2

35

3

50

4

61

5

67

Males apparently grow faster reaching larger sizes than females and may live longer.

DIET - Anchovies, sardines, and other small fishes, squid, krill and pelagic red crabs.

REPRODUCTION - Yellowfin females mature at about 2 years and produce as many as 1 million eggs at that age. By 3.5 years of age females can produce up to five million eggs per year. Eastern Pacific yellowfin spawn off Central America where larvae and young-of-year fish occur in abundance.

FISHERY - Southern California sport anglers encounter yellowfin most readily during warm water years, especially El Nino years when fish actually enter the waters off southern California. In most years, the sport fleet targets yellowfin tuna in the waters off northern Baja in the late summer and fall. Females tend to drop out of the fishery at about 3.5 years of age. Whether they die or move to areas where fishing is rare is unknown. Because of this, most of the large yellowfin caught are males.

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