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Target Species Profiles

Yellowtail (Seriola lalandi)


by Dr. Larry G. Allen

I recently returned from a great four-day trip aboard the Shogun out of Fisherman's Landing. We were hoping for tuna, but as Captain Norm Kigawa explained after we boarded, the 32 purse seiners working the tuna grounds had pretty much taken care of the bite. So we opted to run to the Benitos Islands where Captain Norm put us on a huge breeding aggregation of yellowtail, and they were hungry. It turned out to be the greatest day of yellowtail fishing that I have ever experienced. I stopped, exhausted, after 10 fish and simply sat down and watched. The 'tail count for the day was 310 fish - need I say more? Here is a brief summary of what we know about these great fighters.

SCIENTIFIC NAME - Seriola lalandi, family Carangidae (jacks)

COMMON NAMES - Yellowtail, yellows, 'tails, Jurel de aleta amarilla (Mexico)

DISTRIBUTION - World-wide in subtropical and temperate seas. In California yellowtail are found from Santa Barbara south, most commonly in the summer and fall. Most of the southern California yellowtail probably migrate up from the Cedros Island area off mid-Baja California. Off southern California, many of the offshore islands and banks hold resident populations of large fish.

SIZE & AGE - To 5 feet and 80 pounds. The oldest known yellowtail was 12 years old and four feet long. They are very fast growing fish with average size at age being :

AGE (years)

LENGTH (inches)

WEIGHT (pounds)




















DIET - Sardines, anchovies, jack and Pacific mackerel, squid and pelagic red crabs.

REPRODUCTION - Some yellowtail mature in their second year, but all are mature by their third year at around 28 inches in length. Female yellows produce between 500,000-3,900,000 eggs per season. Spawning peaks in July and August mainly off of central Baja. In warm water years, yellowtail are also known to spawn off southern California, as well. Young-of-year yellowtail appear beginning in September.

FISHERY - Southern California sport anglers generally land fish that weigh 8 to 12 pounds, where as long-range anglers commonly catch fish between 12 and 18 pounds off central Baja. Yellowtail fishing is usually best during warm water years, such as El Ninos, where large numbers of 'tails are taken on kelp paddies and around islands and offshore banks.


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