Yellowfin Tuna Fishing Tricks

Yellowfin tuna. A staple of the Southern California sportfishing scene come summertime and one of my personal favorites to chase. A fired-up yellowfin school will dial up the fun factor to MAX in a hurry.

Typically locating the school, tossing a bait net or two of “freebies”/chum, and flylining a live sardine will do the trick. But not all days come so easy and there are certainly times where they act more like their finicky bluefin cousins. Keyed in on micro baits or the un-hooked live chum you pitch them. But fret not, there are a few tricks you can implore to entice a bite. Even when picky.

Here are a few of my favorites I’ve learned along the way:

  • Scaling Down Your Gear: Specifically, your leader & hook size. For local offshore fishing, the Gamakatsu is Nautilus 2/0 circle hook is my day in, day out hook. Well-matched to our local live bait (primarily sardines) and most gamefish swimming our waters. When the Yellowfin are eager to bite – my 30lbs. live bait stick with the 2/0 is my favorite. But when they are reluctant to bite the hook baits, my first trick is sizing down. So a 15lbs. live bait setup with size #1 Nautilus circle hook is next up. Sometimes, with this smaller hook allowing the bait to swim a little more freely and the light leader disguised – they won’t be able to say no.
  • Mixing in a Hooked Bait with a Scoop of Freebies: Pitching your hooked sardine in with a scoop of 3-4+ live, unhooked chum. The process is actually quite simple but can be incredibly effective for us private boaters that don’t have bottomless bait to brail as chum. Scoop up a half bait net, say 3-6 sardines. Pick the best (no red spots + min. missing scales + etc.) bait and hook to your line. Now take the rest of the bait net and pitch it off the side of the boat. As quick as you can, pitch your hook bait in the same spot and begin to flyline. The thinking here is that mixing in your flyline bait with a mini bait ball of freebie chum will help to fool the yellowfin into attacking the group, and not focusing on the hook/leader of a single bait.
  • Slow Trolling Live Baits: Both a great tactic to work a zone and locate schools of yellowfin as well as entice a bite by offering up a slightly different presentation. I know this isn’t always the exciting way to fish, but it works in a myriad of fishing situations. I’ve certainly had some luck utilizing this method with yellowfin when I know they’re in the zone (whether found on the fish finder or seen on the surface) but not under the boat. A slow trolled sardine followed by a couple scoops of chum after the bite can change their attitudes and get the school under you.