The Best Tuna Fishing

When fishing the saltwater side of Sportfishing, the Best Tuna Fishing is found of the Southern West Coast. In general, Tuna Fishing can be schedule and targeted with fairly good accuracy.  There are never any guarantees, but the goal for the Sportsfisherman is the Yellow Tail, Albacore or Blue Fin Tuna.

Understanding The Seasonal Patterns And Migrations When Tuna Fishing

Yellow Fin Tuna
Yellow Fin Tuna

Tuna ChartersBeginning in February, good numbers of Yellow Tail & Yellow Fin Tuna start arriving off the Southern West Coast around the end of February and become more prevalent in around or by the third week of March. Albacore Tuna begin arriving around the third week of April and into early May, and will be present until mid to late September.  Albacore Tuna then begin making their way up the north coastal water into Morro Bay area for a few weeks and then further upward to the turbulent offshore water of Oregon and Washington State There they succumb to short boat runs usually no more than 30 miles from the sport fleet and encounter heavy commercial fleet fishing.  The water off the northern shore is considerably rougher than the gentle waters in the zone 1 and 2 off the Southern West Coast regions.

Southern California – Its All About The Yellow Tail Tuna

Blue Fin Tuna
Blue Fin Tuna

The California Yellow Tail has been in catchable numbers along the southern California coast, Coronado Islands and outside the “Bull Pin” off Ensenada Baja Mexico. This species is commonly referred to as the “Home Guard”. They are thought to have migrated out of the area but the actual issue is that the sport anglers give it up and the sport fishing boats don’t have adequate numbers to fill the boats to seek out the Yellow Tail Tuna.

Finding Blue Fin Tuna Off The Southern Coast


Following the Albacore, and depending upon current and water temperature, the Blue Fin Tuna show up in various grades as is true with the Yellow Tail and Albacore Tunas. Large schools begin to arrive in late May early June and continue throughout summer and into early fall. Blue Fin Tuna can average 25-50 lbs fish and with an abundance of the larger grade 60 to 150 lbs fish.
Don McDowell - 40lb on Malihini
In late June, early to mid-July expect to encounter Yellow Tail in large numbers averaging in the 25-45 lbs range as a general rule. The bonus fish Dorado are usually around in good numbers as well during August and will stay until the last week of September. At the latter part of September, the Big Eye Bruiser Tuna show for a short time and they can average in the 100-150 lbs category. A 160+ Big Eye is possible. At the end of the favored Tunas, the Skip Jack, aka “Skippies”, appear.  Although fun to catch, they typically signal the end of the Yellow Tail, Blue Fin and Albacore runs and are about to move out the area.

When Tuna Fishing, methods include trolling with feathered jigs, spoons, and lures; live bait fishing with sardines, squid, anchovies, sardines and other small fishes. The Blue Fin, Yellow Tail, and Albacore are considered by anglers to be an excellent light tackle game fish. Before engaging on tackle with the any of these Tuna’s, check the local dock counts and talk to the captains and deck hands to get an idea the of the weight class of the fish.  Understanding that over the 60-70 lbs class will over tax or more likely trash your “light tackle”, falls into a different category of equipment, which is considered to be 40 lbs line class and lighter. “Fish On” is one thing, landing it is another and we recommend chartering the more experienced Tuna Boats for Sportfishing.

Understanding Fish Zones And Water Conditions For Tuna Fishing

There are three zones to consider when Tuna Fishing.  Pelagic, Reef and Demersal.

Don McDowell on the Tuna ShufflePelagic fish live in the pelagic zone of ocean or lake waters – being neither close to the bottom nor near the shore.  Tuna primarily live in this region.  Demersal Fish do not live on or near the bottom and  Reef Fish, are associated with coral reefs.

Any water in a sea or lake that is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore can be said to be in the Pelagic zone. The word “pelagic” is derived from the Greeks, meaning “open sea”. The pelagic zone can be thought of in terms of an imaginary cylinder or water column that goes from the surface of the sea almost to the bottom. Conditions differ deeper in the water column such that as pressure increases with depth, the temperature drops and less light penetrates. Depending on the depth, the water column, rather like earths atmosphere, may be divided into different layers.

Given the temperament of the governing weather patterns of the El Nino and La Nina the arrival of Tuna may vary.  Being informed about weather is important and suggest you go to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Official Site and nose around to get a feel for the weather and current patterns as they apply to your area.

What Is Full Contact Fishing When Tuna Fishing

The key to success when Tuna Fishing and the most important task you have as an angler fishing for Tuna off a boat is to stay in front of your line, follow the line; it’s called the “Tuna Shuffle”.  When you hook up, every angler on the boat is shuffling down the gunnels following your line.  The fish will dictate where you have to go. To avoid letting your fish and line getting away from you, you will run over and under other anglers on either side of you.

Experience anglers know the courtesy of keeping up with your fish.  Be clear with other anglers by announcing your intentions while following your fish.  “Coming over/under” is a common call to avoid confusion.  In Tuna fishing, it’s sometimes referred to as “Full Contact Fishing” and that’s primarily because the next guy isn’t paying any attention to what you’re doing. You take control of your fish by following your line and dealing with what’s required to land the fish. Look, you HOLLER out gaff and you’ll have a deck hand at side until that fish flops on the deck. Keep your Man Card in your pocket; let the deck hand assist you. After the fish is on the deck then pull out the Man Card and commence with chest pounding!

Tactics And Methods For Tuna Fishing

General Tactics And Methods when fishing for Tuna  include trolling with feathered jigs, spoons and lures; live bait fishing with sardines, squid, anchovies, sardines and other small fishes.

Line Test Is The Backbone Of Success in Tuna Fishing

The Blue Fin, Yellow Fin, Albacore and the Yellow Tail are considered by anglers to be an excellent light tackle game fish. Light tackle is reasonable with fish under 40lbs.  Dock counts can suggest the tackle required but anything higher than 40lbs should push you to a heavier tackle approach.  The sound most often heard on deck is “Pop”, the line just broke and the angler is left speechless.  A minimum of 40lb test is considered light tackle.  Heavier line test is required for the giants.

What Are The Preferred Lure Colors

Prefered Lures and ColorsAt “gray light” or “dawn’s early light”, or during clouded or overcast conditions, trolling jigs or feathers or deep diving crank type baits i.e. Rapala Magnum 18 or 20’ are essential. Stay with the combination of dark purple with black strips, dark blue & black.

In swim baits, use purple or dark blue belly and a black back, the most common denominator is using dark colors in dark or low light conditions. As the light becomes more bright and or the cloud cover burns off, transfer to lighter colors, pale greens, blues, silver or gray. The preference is something along the lines of a white bellied swim bait with pale green sides and a brown back, the basic anchovy pattern. If your lure has eyes, great.  If they don’t, then purchase the 3D clear silver with black pupil.   Eyes come in various sizes but don’t depend on the self adhesive kind.  Use Super Glue!

It is not recommended to use red eyes.  When fishing with live bait, anchovy, sardines, mackerel and the like, you need to keep fresh bait in the water for not more than a minute, two at the max. If that bait has a bloody nose or red eyes, pop it off and hook up a new one. Lures that look like their already wounded are ignored.  Live bait is preferred and yields more results but you’re changing out bait often.  Less hassle is required when using artificial baits and the preference is a triangular jig with factory 3D silver/black eyes from the factory, ¾ to1.5 ounces.

The Right Rod And Tips For Tuna Fishing

Saltwater Baitcasting ReelFor light tackle situations in ~in the region area~, trolling rigs on the sport charters are adequate with preference on the spoon or jig rod 6’6’- 7’-6” med-hvy action with a fast tip for jig casting and retrieval. Spool up with 40 lbs test. Jig color of choice in chrome and blue, blue and white with heavy wire hooks. This technique is affecting fishing in and around islands, rock piles and ledges.

“Paddy Hopping” it probably one of the more techniques using the soft plastic replaceable swim bait bodies on ¾” oz triangular jig head with 3D eyes. The bodies in the brown back, green and white belly in an anchovy pattern is always first choice bait, black back transparent green or blue with silver flake or a black back and purple body are also productive. Charter boats ~in the region area~ almost always will pass a kelp paddy on the port side. Paying attention to the boat position and listen to the deck hands and captain will yield bounty. Be sure to communicate with deck hands on what to anticipate.

If you’re in to really having fun, use your Bass Rod with 20 lbs test. This is an excellent choice when pounding the “Paddy’s”. The Bass Rod lends itself to more surgical casts and plenty of fighting ability; you’ll fight the fish instead of horsing to the boat gaff. Play the fish since you’re not being charged by the hour. Keep their noses up, if they drop the nose you’re losing control of your fish. And when you first “color” your fish coming to the boat, control your excitement and hang on for one more run away from boat, then when you see it the second time, yell “Color or Gaff” to get your deck hand involved. Remember with all species, the bigger the fish the more runs away from the boat they’ll make. With a 50-60 pound Blue Fin count on at least four runs, if you get in on the third great. Now this doesn’t apply to trolling fish caught on heavy jigs on feathers with 80-100 test line ~in region~. Horse the fish to the boat, get them on deck and bait or lure back in the water.

Saltwater RodsAnother favorite lure fishing technique is called fishing the “Slide”. This technique replaces the 5 ½ inch replaceable swim bait with a 1.5 ounce lead jig head with silver/black 3D eyes. Fish with 60 pound test braid and a heavy stainless steel swivel to let the bait swim and when it’s really tough a fluorocarbon 3 foot leader. So while the boat is in trolling rotation, have your rod in hand and when “Hook Up” is hollered out on the trollers.  Then quickly take your spot in the Port corner of the fantail and free spool the swim bait to meet the incoming school of fish that are coming to the boat while the boat has throttled back. Your swim bait will get bit while the bait guys are elbow deep in the live well trying to catch a lively bait, which should be sport all its own. This method works well because you can put the first lure in the water column to meet the school.

And one more thing you need to know, in the summer months the tuna will hit top water poppers, how fun is that? 7-10” poppers, throw them on 80lb braid. You’ll be amazed at what will surface to strike.

What Do I Need On A Charter Boat

Hire A Reputable CharterAfter more than three decades as a fisherman, charter master and crew member, here are a few suggestions of gear you may want to consider for your own comfort and safety on board.  The gear will not include any of your fishing rods, reels, lures or terminal tackle, just the stuff you’ll need.  Now, you may not need it every time, however, if you do and you don’t have it, you’ll wish you had.  It’s called suffering.

The Warnings of Tuna Fishing Off The Southwestern Coast

Be Advised: Valid Photo I.D. is REQUIRED for all passenger including minors at the landing office for vessel check. Verify where your fishing, today Passports are required for fishing outside US Coastal inshore water.

Check-In: For day trips be at your charter service on time and have your I.D. and passport ready, if traveling with a group, he’ll do the check make sure he has your credentials. If you’re not taking your our gear, proceed to the Tackle Shop, take the advice of the Tackle Master on what you’ll be required for the trip and the current bite.

On Board: When you step on the boat, be pleasant and introduce yourself to the deck hand greeting you and at the appropriate time, the Captain. Stow you gear and proceed to the Galley, sign the Manifest and get your bag and galley number that will stay with for the during to keep track of your fish being tagged and you galley food and drink tab. Then make sure you attend the safety briefing and other pertinent information the deck master will have for you, the bite, where you’ll be fishing etc. All good information to have regardless of how seasoned you may think you are. Things change and boat are different.

Warning:  Under no circumstances should you take firearms, alcohol or other illegal substances ~from the region area~. All vessels are subject to USCG and Mexican Navy in Mexican waters, stops and searches. These boys DON’T play, zero tolerance!

What Should You Carry On Board The Charter Boat

1.    Your bag needs to be waterproof or have a water proof plastic liner.  Plano has several soft tackle bags with plenty of room and side pockets to keep you organized. Yeah, my bag is old, has seen service for more than a decade, still has one more trip in it.

2.    Your shaving or overnight bag with personal hygiene items as well as your medication. Include a bar of anti-bacterial soap for after the fun. Include a medium sized hand towel.

3.    Notify the Captain immediately upon boarding of any medical condition or special needs you may have.

4.    If you are prone to or concerned about sea sickness, consult with your doctor about the “Patch” or other over the counter medication.

5.    UV sun glasses and lanyard with carry case.

6.    Travel sewing kit, one needle, thread and a button the same size on your old fishing shorts.

7.    Small first aid kit, nothing fancy, a few band aids and anti-bacterial cream, Neosporin works well.  Any more than that you’ll need to see the Captain to test his medical skills. I always take my “Therapik” for bug bites, small and very effective for disrupting the molecular structure of the venom of a sting or insect bite.

8.    Head cover, cap or visor with adjustable band for when the wind’s blowing or the vessel is underway.

9.    Bandana for your neck, two reasons, keeps you warm and the wind out of your collar and will keep you from getting a “Red Neck”, from the sun.

10.    Sun block or screen in the 50 SPF range and SPF 30 lip balm.

11.     Light rain gear for short rang, heavier hood gear for long range.  Always check local and offshore weather conditions, extended forecasts.  The two can vary greatly.

12.     Don’t take you best shorts and cool t-shirts for actually fishing in, old short and long sleeves t-shirts are best, when the decks start getting bloody so will your clothing and footwear.  Sandals are out, old sneakers work okay; however, I prefer deck boots for maximum deck grip and protection for your ankles and shins.  I’m carrying scares from a Wahoo and tuna to my grave because I was being cool in deck shoes. Long sweats or wind breaker type pant out wear are great over your fishing shorts being on deck in early morning bites. Light jacket preferably with waterproof fabric will do the job and then it’s always good to have a hooded sweat shirt if the weather turns. Layer clothing to stay in your comfort zone.

13.     Water proof camera or disposables work well; if you’re using your smart phone protect it with a zip lock bag.

14.     Fighting belt with a clip holder for needle nose pliers and diagonal side cutters with wrapped handles. Fighting harness for fish over 150lbs class.

15.    Fishing USA water and US Coast Guard inspected vessel, I’m good with the life safety equipment, fishing Mexico my Mustang inflatable PDF goes on the plane and in the boat.  Got any questions on that issue, Google the “ERIK”. Seven people will never be recovered

Trolling Lures
Trolling Dead Bait
Slow-Trolling Live Baits
Kite Fishing