Yellowtail, also known as amberjack (Seriola lalandi), are a species of fish that are commonly found off the coast of San Diego. They are typically caught between late spring and early fall, but the best time of year can vary depending on water temperature and the presence of baitfish.
The best techniques for catching yellowtail off the coast of San Diego include trolling with live or artificial bait, casting jigs or iron, and using a yo-yo or dropper loop rig. Live bait such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel are often considered the most effective, but artificial lures such as feathers and plugs can also be productive.
One of the secrets to catching yellowtail is to fish near structure such as kelp beds, rocky outcroppings, and underwater canyons. These areas often attract baitfish, which in turn attract yellowtail. Another tip to remember is to use braided fishing line, as it has less stretch, which makes it easier to detect the subtle bites of yellowtail.
The most productive areas to find yellowtail off the coast of San Diego include the Coronado Islands, the La Jolla kelp beds, and areas around the Nine-Mile Bank. These areas are known to hold large concentrations of baitfish, which attract yellowtail.
It is important to note that commercial and sport fishing for yellowtail may be subject to specific regulations, seasons, quotas and size restrictions. It is important to check with the relevant authorities and be aware of the current rules and regulations.
Yellowtail are known to be a hard fighting fish, they are relatively large and are known to put up a strong fight when hooked. They are considered a delicacy in the culinary world and have a firm white meat that has a mild flavor and a moderate fat content.
In addition to the methods and areas mentioned earlier, another technique that can be productive for catching yellowtail is using a technique called "yo-yo jigging". This involves using a slow-pitch jigging rod and reel to drop a jig to the bottom, then slowly reeling it back up while intermittently jerking the rod to mimic the movement of a wounded baitfish. This can be effective when fishing in deeper waters, or when yellowtail are not responding to live bait or other lures.
Another technique that can be effective is using a kite to fly live bait or a lure above the water's surface. Yellowtail are known to be attracted to movement and flashing, and the kite can create a commotion that can draw their attention from a distance.
When fishing for yellowtail, it is also important to pay attention to the weather and sea conditions. Yellowtail are known to be more active on sunny days with calm seas, and are less likely to bite when the weather is overcast or windy.
To increase the chances of catching yellowtail, it is also recommended to use high-quality fishing gear such as a rod and reel with a fast action and a high drag setting, and to use a leader with a high test strength, as yellowtail have sharp teeth that can easily cut through lighter lines.
Lastly, it is also important to practice conservation when fishing for yellowtail. They are a popular game fish, but also they are part of the ecosystem so it is necessary to release the fish back to the water if they are too small or if you caught your daily limit. Check with your Captain or crew if you have any questions. The bag limits change so please make sure you know before you go.
WHEN AND WHERE IS THE BEST TIME TO FISH FOR YELLOWTAIL?
Yellowtail can be fished year-round. Summer time is the best time to go, From June until October. When the water gets 60 degrees or warner, Yellowtail start to arrive in San Diego from down south. They come in search of squid and bait fish. By October, they begin heading back Southward. However, some always stay behind and form the "home guard", scattered fish around the Coronado Islands, San Clemente, and Catalina islands. They can also be found on patties and local kelp beds off of Point Loma and La Jolla, in the summer and into fall, basically as long as the water stays warm. Yellowtail roam around rocky areas, as well as patrol kelp beds and kelp patties, typically in depths of 120 feet or less.
It is not uncommon to limit out on yellowtail, sometimes it takes just one stop on a golden patty.
Best eating fish!
Sushi, Sashimi, or seared, this is the most delicious fish. Have you ever tried a fresh tuna fish sandwich?
Fun to Catch!
On 20lb test, you will have your work cut out for you. These fish bite light line, and fight light line.
Yellowtail have stamina and are very well known to provide a calculated fight. After chasing down schools of squid, mackerel, or anchovies into tight bait balls, they often team up and devastate the bait. There is no mistaking a Yellowtail bite, as you will instantly feel your drag let loose. But beware, they often dive strait down attempting to free themselves. If there is shallow enough water or kelp forest, they will often head strait for it, and get tangled there. We always provide fishing tackle, rods and reels, and bait on every six pack or four pack charter we offer, but you are always welcome to bring your own. That being said, you need to bring your A game to catch this fish.
KELP PATTIES ARE KING!
SURFACE FISHING YELLOWTAIL WITH LIVE BAIT
The most common way of fishing for "Yellows" is live bait. Although you can rarely get it, live squid is like candy to them. Alternatively, Anchovy, Sardine or even small Mackerel with little or no sinker, using small hooks and light line, is your best bet. To get your live bait further from the boat, or if you are casting on patties, try adding a small cramp-on split shot, rubber core or sliding egg lead. After Yellowtail have been confirmed in the area, a crew member will cut small chunks or throw live bait into the water so that chum bait is constantly streaming behind the boat. Chumming is a great way to catch California yellowtail. If you see one of our deckhands chumming bait in this manner, be on the ready with iron and a good casting rod. Keep your eyes open, as they will often surface and be within sight. Drop an iron right on top of his head, and you will probably get a bite.
By scanning the water behind the boat, you can sometimes eyeball yellowtail coming in close to inhale chunks. Get a hooked bait in front of one of these brazen yellowtails as quickly as possible.
WHAT IF THE YELLOWTAIL ARE NOT BITING ON THE SURFACE?
When you know they are below 20 feet, or if you are fishing along structure or kelp forest, use a San Diego knot with the weight on the bottom and hook loop about 1 foot above your weight. Be generous with your slip knot so that the bait is at least six inches away from the center line. See the illustration to the right.
Be careful with your bait selection. Your choice should be healthy. Stay away from bloody or red-nose bait. If the bite is deep, also try a small or medium size mackerel. When targeting yellowtail with this rig, avoid fishing too close to the bottom, especially over structure, because you are likely to inadvertently catch lingcod or rockfish. It’s best to reel the sinker six to eight cranks off the bottom. You can also check with our deckhands for advice on what to use. If you are getting hit on the surface by Skipjack or Barracuda, try using a heavier weight to sink past them to the Yellowtail just below. Yellowtail are not very line shy so you can use mono instead of braided line. Use flurocarbon as a leader if available. Again, ask your deckhand to tie you up, that is what they are there for.
HOW TO USE ARTIFICIAL LURES FOR YELLOWTAIL
For artificial lures, you can use the "yo-yo" technique with any high ratio reel. Just try cranking in line fast for best results. To choose the proper color match the lure against water color in the area being fished. California yellowtail often prefer metal jigs to live bait, but choosing the right jig for the situation is key. When fishing schools in deep water, drop a heavy jig such as a Tady 4/0 or Salas 6X Jr all the way to the bottom, and wind it as fast as you can, while occasionally pausing the retrieve.
TROLLING FOR YELLOWTAIL
When the yellowtail are scattered, the best strategy is to fast-troll lipped plugs, such as a Rapala. Often times, it is best to stick relatively close to the shoreline, and structure or kelp patties that they hide out in. Yellowtail occasionally venture out into deeper water, but they are almost impossible to find because they are too deep and to spread out. Troll at about 7 knots along the shoreline in 30- to 100-foot depths while scouting for birds, and signs of bait and fish on the sonar. We will also be using side scan sonar to look on out both sides of the boat. When we hook a fish, we circle back to slow-troll or drift the same area with live bait, as it’s common to find more where you hooked the first fish. Our crew will always be ready to put the right rod and reel in your hand for the moment, but if you have a question, just ask. If a yellowtail is hooked up on the troll, and your are not reeling it in, pick up an empty rod and start reeling. Often times, they hunt in packs and a second and even third hook up is not uncommon while bringing in the other trolling rods. Once you have the trolling rod in hand it to a deckhand and pick up an iron or freeline rig and let it rip. The first yellowtail hooked is usually not the last, and this may be your best chance for the day, so be ready.
Here is a guide to visually identifying yellowtail:
Body Shape: Yellowtail have a streamlined body shape that tapers towards the tail, giving them a sleek and athletic appearance. They have a relatively elongated body with a deep and compressed shape.
Coloration: They are named for their yellow dorsal fin, but they also have a silvery-blue color on their sides with a white belly. They also have a dark horizontal stripe that runs along the length of their body, which is often visible when they are swimming near the surface.
Fins: Yellowtail have a distinctively yellow dorsal fin, which is tall and curved and runs along the length of their back. They also have a tall and pointed anal fin, which is located near the tail.
Size: Yellowtail can grow up to 2 meters in length and weigh up to 90 kilograms, but most caught off the coast of San Diego are typically around 60 centimeters to 1 meter in length.
Head: They have a relatively large head with a pointed snout and a wide mouth that is equipped with sharp teeth. Their eyes are large and located on the sides of the head.
Tail: The tail is forked, with two lobes, and it's the most distinctive feature of the yellowtail. The tail is yellow and it's the reason why the fish is called yellowtail.
It's important to remember that yellowtail can be easily confused with other species of fish, such as amberjack, which also have a similar body shape, coloration, and yellow dorsal fin. Check with your Captain or crew if you are not sure!