Tuna Fishing 2024!


When it comes to tuna fishing in Southern California, there are three main species to keep an eye out for – bluefin, yellowfin, and albacore tuna. Generally speaking, these magnificent creatures begin showing up in local waters starting in June, although the exact timing varies slightly every year depending on temperature patterns and food sources. Interestingly, certain environmental conditions might lead to sightings of additional species like skipjack or bigeye tuna.

One key factor connecting the capture of all tuna species lies in the choice of tackle and strategy. Although slight variations exist for targeting particular species, the fundamental concepts behind

 locating, attracting, and fighting these powerful swimmers share strong commonalities. Over the decades, experienced anglers have developed a range of foolproof techniques designed to maximize encounters with desirable targets while minimizing frustration and wasted effort.

Albacore tuna tend to be the earliest arrivals amongst their pelagic brethren, frequently detected anywhere from 40 to 70 miles off the coastline. Birdwatching serves as a simple yet reliable way to pinpoint potential hotspots, particularly when combined with careful observation of other marine wildlife activities. More technologically inclined individuals rely on sophisticated electronic devices, such as depth sounders and GPS plotters, to assist in narrowing down promising zones worthy of investigation.

Once prospective hunting grounds are identified, it's time to initiate contact! One highly effective method involves deploying a spread of lures, consisting primarily of colorful skirts and feathers attached to heavy-duty hooks. Known collectively as "trolling," this approach mimics the movement of injured baitfish, thereby triggering predatory instincts embedded deep within tuna DNA. Additionally, moving the vessel slowly against the current adds an extra layer of intrigue, effectively broadcasting irresistible dinner invitations to lurking predators below.

While underway, always stay alert for subtle signs indicating nearby tuna activity. For instance, flocks of diving birds frantically attacking the surface could signal the presence of active feeding aggregations beneath. Similarly, splashes visible far ahead may indicate tuna breaking the surface while chasing fleeing prey. Quickly reacting to such observations by altering course and increasing speed puts you right in the thick of action, dramatically improving odds of success.

Bluefin and yellowfin tuna require somewhat different strategies compared to albacores. Both species favor ambush positions close to floating debris fields, weedlines, or abrupt changes in bottom topography. Therefore, dedicating time to exploring these structures pays dividends in terms of increased sightings and subsequent catches. Keep in mind that bluefin tuna possess incredible strength and endurance, making them a prized catch amongst hardcore sportfishermen seeking ultimate bragging rights. Yellowfin tuna, on the other hand, display exceptional agility and acrobatics once hooked, providing thrilling battles best suited for those craving heart-pumping excitement.

Regardless of the targeted tuna species, investing in quality equipment makes all the difference between memorable triumphs and frustrating disappointments. Here are some critical components worth considering:

1. Rods & Reels: High-quality graphite or composite rods paired with durable lever-drag reels ensure solid hooksets, precise control, and efficient fights. Look for models rated for minimum 30-pound test lines and featuring smooth multi-disk drag systems capable of handling high-speed runs and sustained struggles without overheating or failing prematurely.

2. Terminal Tackle: Upgrade to chemically sharpened circle hooks made from corrosion-resistant metals like titanium or vanadium steel. Match appropriately sized leaders ranging from 60 to 80-pound test strengths depending on expected fight durations and anticipated maximum drag settings.

3. Lures & Baits: Select brightly colored skirts and soft plastic swimbaits known to entice vicious strikes from curious tuna. Supplement these with live or dead whole baitfish like anchovies, sardines, or mackerel secured via stainless steel wire rigs to prevent losses due to toothy critters.

Finally, never overlook the importance of mental preparation and emotional resilience when embarking on challenging tuna excursions. Patience, determination, and perseverance separate casual weekend warriors from dedicated trophy seekers committed to conquering these majestic denizens of the deep. So grab your gear, summon your courage, and prepare yourself for unforgettable adventures alongside Mother Nature's most impressive aquatic athletes.

Typical Tuna Fishing Trip: What to Expect

Now that you've got your gear sorted, you're ready to start fishing. Usually, the day begins with trolling. You'll know you've got a bite when the captain or a crew member shouts "fish on!" This means a tuna has taken one of the troll rods. The boat will then slow down, and the crew will start chumming (throwing bait fish into the water) to attract more tuna.

The crucial tactic at this point is speed; get your bait in the water and away from the boat ASAP. Tuna are incredibly fast swimmers, so cast beyond where the trolling fish is located. Use lively bait, and let it swim naturally while maintaining contact and avoiding any resistance. Even if others on the boat are already reeling in fish, keep your bait out there, as tuna tend to move back and forth while feeding in the chum.

During slower bites, tuna often establish a pattern, boiling in the corner where the chum is being cast. In this situation, position your bait in the chum zone by casting to that corner or beyond. Fluorocarbon line can be advantageous in this scenario. When you feel a bite, let the tuna take the bait and allow the line to peel off the reel for a count of three (keep a thumb on the spool to prevent a backlash), then engage the reel. With tuna, you typically don't need to set the hook; they'll do it themselves when they bite down.

Once your tuna is hooked, maintain constant tension on the line. All tuna species are powerful fighters, especially yellowfin and bluefin. They'll make blistering runs that test your drag system to its limits, and they may even go slack, making you think they've escaped. But don't be fooled—they often turn and head back toward the boat, so reel as fast as you can to keep up. After the initial runs, the fun part begins. The tuna will start circling slowly and deeply under the boat. When fighting larger tuna or using lighter line, gaining line during this phase can be a grueling, slow process. The key is to lift your rod slowly and then lower it widely. Your drag may kick in, releasing line as you pull up without gaining any ground, but don't be discouraged. Keep the pressure on, and eventually, you'll start to gain line. This persistent pressure will tire the fish out. Hopefully!

Bringing in the Catch: The Final Stages of the Battle

As your fish comes into view, maintain that constant pressure and be prepared for another run, especially when the tuna sights the boat. Guide the fish by pulling continuously in a direction away from the boat to prevent it from getting caught in the prop or the underside of the vessel, a common trick tuna use to escape. Keep steady pressure on and try to angle the fish slightly sideways as you draw it closer; this will give the crew member the best angle for a successful gaff shot.

When the gaff makes contact, watch carefully to ensure a secure connection. If it looks good, the crew member will swiftly bring the tuna over the rail. During this time, it's essential to put your reel in free spool with your finger on the spool to prevent any accidental launches of the hook or damage to your rod. Should the gaff accidentally release during the lift, your fish won't break off, and you can try again.

Once the tuna is on deck, remove the hook if it's visible; if the fish has swallowed it, it's best to cut the line and sacrifice the hook. You'll likely need to retie after such an intense battle anyway.

These fundamental techniques will enhance your fishing trips, whether targeting albacore, yellowfin, or bluefin tuna, making them more productive and enjoyable adventures.

Helpful Hints for Successful Tuna Fishing

When using fin baits, selecting healthy, lively bait is crucial. Carefully hook your bait in the nose, sideways, the collar area, or the belly, depending on how you want it to swim. Nose hooking sideways will make your bait swim at an angle to the boat; hooking through the collar achieves a similar effect but with a slightly downward trajectory. If you want your bait to swim deep, hook it in the belly, causing it to dive away from the boat. If you're unsure, go with the nose hook sideways; it's the easiest method and prolongs the life of your bait.

Unlike stationary fishing, tuna fishing involves drifting and keeping your line and bait in front of you. This may require you to move around the boat, a maneuver known as the "tuna shuffle." If there are too many lines in one area, consider reeling in and repositioning to avoid tangles or losing a fish to another angler's line.

Once you've cast your fin bait, let it swim naturally. This means allowing it to take line and avoiding any resistance. If your bait isn't moving much, give it a gentle twitch to stimulate action. If that doesn't work, it's time for fresh bait. Change your bait frequently, almost every cast if possible. Strong, lively bait attracts the most bites. The only exception is when you have limited bait or a specific type you want to conserve; in those cases, make the most of each cast.

Iron jigs, including deep-running and medium-weighted varieties, as well as surface iron, can be highly effective for tuna. This technique demands endurance and confidence. When there are no visible fish, vary your retrieval times and depths to cover different angles and presentations. You can also cast ahead of moving tuna schools, as they travel swiftly and may intersect with your lure. Regardless, the golden rule with jig fishing is to keep it moving, often the faster, the better. Surface iron may be an exception where a slower presentation can sometimes entice a strike. Most bites occur while reeling in, so maintain tension and keep cranking; the fish will usually set the hook itself. Ensure your hooks are razor-sharp before you begin. Always be mindful of your surroundings when casting, as iron jigs are a common cause of accidents onboard.

Above all, remember to have fun! Tuna fishing is an exhilarating experience, and with these tips, you'll be well on your way to memorable encounters with these incredible fish.