California Yellowtail Fishing Tips

Yellowtail Fishing Tips

YellowtailYellowtail fishing is one of the greatest past times of the entire Southern California sportfishing fleet as well as the recreational fisherman. Very few can legitimately lay claim to the title Master of California Yellowtail Fishing. So in order to help you aim for that title, I want to offer up a little help here in this article.

First and foremost try befriending those that truly know what Yellowtail Fishing is, the message board over at Bloodydecks (now BDOutdoors) can be a great place start. The California Yellowtail is considered an elite fish for local Southern California Sportfishing, the education in catching them is never ending. Ask any old salt and he’ll let you know that once you’ve mastered it, the yellowtail has figured out how to beat you.

Typically yellowtail weigh in somewhere between 10 to 20 pounds but the world record Yellowtail was caught off Isla Guadalupe in 2004 by by Kevin Pfeif while fishing aboard the Shogun out of San Diego, CA. This beast of a fish weighed in at a whopping 92.1 pounds.

Fishing for yellowtail is very tricky and you must be ready for an unpredictable and powerful fish that will put up a great fight. When fishing for them around rocks or just about any structure you better hope you were lucky enough to have hook it on heavier line.. They’re one of the smartest fish in Southern California Sportfishing know how to use the structure around them to saw your line right in half. However, according to Frank Lo Preste of the Royal Polaris, the Yellowtail off Baja California is not only larger but dumber. That’s great news!

California Yellowtail can be found in the Pacific Ocean from the tip (or even further) of Baja California up to Southern Washington but for this article we’ll primarily focus on the fish found from San Diego up to Point Conception.

Southern California fish are more seasonal ranging from April to September and/or October and require technique and finesse to land them. Yellowtail here are primarily caught on fly lined bait (squid is best but sardine is great as well) near a kelp paddy or around structure near an island or coastline.

California Yellowtail – Fishing Conditions

In Southern California, yellowtail fishing around an island or some sort of structure is always optimal and finding current is essential. Fishing for California yellowtail is typically best when water temps are in the mid 60s to low 70s with good clarity. Catalina Island YellowtailCurrent ranks at the top of the list as a major consideration. California Yellowtail have a reputation of being very picky eaters, a successful yellowtail fisherman must have a good understanding of the species’ environment and know what to look for when fishing for these epic species of fish. One of the best ways is to constantly scan the water surface for signs of working birds feeding on bait being pushed up to the surface, many times this is a sign of other sealife feeding from below the surface. As they circle the bait, the bait crowds together forming a “bait ball”. As the fish attack from below the bait has only one place to go and that’s up. As they get closer to the surface the birds spot them and start diving on them.

Yellowtail Tackle and Techniques

Big Yellowtail From Santa Barbara IslandAny time a non-angler friend visit my house they ask why do you need so many fishing rods?”. The answer is quite simple, different conditions means using different rods. When fishing for yellowtail you need to be prepared for anything to happen. Some days they may eat anything you throw in front of them, some days they may only eat squid on light line. Always have rods that range from 12lb. to 40lb available. Big Yellowtail From Santa Barbara IslandIf live squid is available use that and nothing else, squid is like the ocean’s candy and Yellowtail love candy. On a slow bite it’s safe to assume the fish are line shy, go as light as 12lb. to 15lb. line. Throw some chum (chopped squid) to attempt to pull the fish up and help get the bite going. As the bite turns on a little more aggressively, move up to a heavier line and reel. Don’t move up too far though, try using a 20lb set up next. When using baits as big as mackerel or large sardines, go to 25lb., 40lb. possibly even 50lb. line, of course this all depends on fishing conditions. You may want to use a jig stick or rod of at least 8 feet to throw surface iron or for yoyo-ing the beast from deep water, a standard reel size is a 4/0-size reel on a 7- to 7 1/2-foot rod with a fast taper. If you are up against an island or some other structure like a reef or rocks 30lb. line is a minimum you need, maybe 40 to 50lb. line for abrasion resistance. This heavier gear is critical because you need to quickly pull yellowtail from the bottom away from the structure that can cut you off.

Bait and Lures For California Yellowtail

I prefer a light surface jig when fish are under diving birds or under a kelp paddy. Although many fishermen put a lot of thought into into it, color isn’t a major factor in my decision making. For me the action of the lure means the most. Use a fast retrieve with a little kick here and there is a very effective method of enticing a monster California Yellowtail when the surface bite is on. The deep-jigging or yoyo technique with heavy lures especially farther south along the Baja Coast. I tend to favor the tried and true Salas 6x Junior, Ironman 3 and 5′s and Tady AA or 9, when jigging deep fish. Still when there is live bait available you just can’t beat that. First choice is squid then a medium sixed mackerel. The the last tried and true live bait is a sardine. With the Yellowtail season quickly approaching I want to write an article on Yellowtail recipes. It can be any yellowtail recipe whether it’s cooked or Yellowtail sushi. A great Yellowtail Ceviche would be great as well.

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