Bluefin Tuna fishing

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This size bluefin tuna sometimes takes over one hour to get on the boat, and not surprisingly, many fish are lost in the battle. Hooking a giant bluefin tuna and landing a giant bluefin tuna are not the same! Most losses occur when the Tuna gets close to the back of the boat. Bring your A Game and take the advice of the Captain, and you win.

The Pacific Bluefin is among, if not the most, prized sport fish that can be caught by any angler. Many new anglers struggle to even get one on the line, but even if you do hook one, you have to have perfect execution to get it on the deck. They put up one hell of a fight, often lasting hours. I have seen them wear through very thick fishing line by just pure brute strength and a strong will to live. All that being said, there is no more of an exhilarating battle to be found between a man and a fish. Remember, 40 to 300lbs!

Generally speaking, when you are fishing for Bluefin, you need to come well prepared. The trip out to the tuna grounds, depending on the time of the year, is between a two and five hour ride each way. The minimum time need for a bluefin trip is 12 hours. This short trip is ONLY viable in the peak of the season.

Even in the peak of the season, the overnight and multiday trips are still the best overall choice. Bluefin are sometimes hard to find, and even when you do find a school they may be shy or just dive away. I cant tell you how many times the last few hours of an extended charter have yielded the results!

The most popular trip, the 1.5 day trip the perfect balance between time and cost. If you really want to go deep, we even have 2.5, 3.5, and longer trips! 

Because overnight and multiday charters always depart at night, it is a good idea to always get the ".5" on the end of your trip. That extra half day means that on the day of your return, instead of heading home at 2pm, you will instead stay until the sun sets, and travel home at night.

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The good news is that Bluefin Tuna are caught year round, but it makes the most since to go when the fishing is good! Bluefin Tuna fishing in San Diego changes slightly each year, depending on when the migration starts. This is based on water temps and weather. Usually however, high season is July to September. Low season is January to March. Remember though, Blufin don't know what a calendar is and sometimes they just show up early or stay late. 

The graph below shows approximately, which much are best for bluefin tuna.

Bluefin Tuna (aka BFT) Characteristics

Bluefin tuna are known to be the ficklest of the West Coast tuna species in Southern California waters. They often show up in May or June, but their behavior has been impacted by warmer water temperatures due to El Niño. Bluefin in this region can be found exhibiting unique behaviors such as "breezing" on the surface with their tails out of the water or creating "shiners" where the school swims just below the surface, creating a shimmer effect underwater. Anglers targeting bluefin in Southern California waters need to adopt a strategic approach, using lighter lines and a stealthy approach when approaching schools of fish. Tactics such as fishing upwind and up swell of the spots on the surface, casting surface irons and small jigs, or slow-trolling live sardines in areas with bird activity or scattered breaking fish can prove effective. Finding good water with the right temperature, around 63 degrees, is crucial for a successful early-season bluefin strike. Bluefin tend to gather where warm water meets a slight temperature break, where baitfish are stacked up and bluefin are actively feeding. While early season bluefin fishing can present challenges such as long runs to offshore high spots and the need to hunt for them without the assistance of a fleet, the opportunities to target these elusive fish in Southern California waters are unique and worth pursuing when weather conditions permit.

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Here we see the Nautilus launching a kite/balloon.

KITE and helium balloon fishing

Kite fishing is the method of using a kite to fly your bait up and away from the boat. Frozen Flying Fish are the weapon of choice. This accomplishes 2 things. 

Firstly, it moves your bait far away from your noisy boat.

Secondly, it takes the fishing line out of the water so that the Bluefin can not see the line. The kite just dips the bait in the water occasionally. Putting frozen flying fish as bait is irresistible to them. 

When the wind is calm a Helium Ballon is used with or in place of a kite to lift the bait away from your boat, and out of the water. Good for a calm day.

Using the kite to position the bait over the foaming bluefin provides the ability to place bait in the water without spooking the fish with visible fishing lines, boat sights or sounds, and effectively will double your chances of getting the hookup. Also, being able to land a flying fish on their head is also the way to go. Flying fish have been THE ticket last season and we will be planning on using them again this year.

Using Frozen Flying Fish

Caught on the kite!

This is how you rig a bait.

This big tuna was caught by casting on foamers!


Boiling and Foaming Tuna will make any bluefin tuna fisherman start to sweat. This is because if you see them boiling on the top, they are on the hunt, or are already feeding. That means that if you can sneak up on them, fly a kite on them, or land a live bait or a popper on their head... you are gonna be hooked up almost instantly. 

The key for this to work is to come in SLOW and QUIET and have the best casting rod and angler parked on the bow, iron or popper in hand. At the furthest possible point away from the school of tuna, throw on them!

If you are loud or come in fast , the tuna will dive and you will never ever see them again. You have one chance so be patient as the captain maneuvers the boat so that it will eventually drift, or be blown by the wind, right at them.

Once the first bluefin is on the line, then the boat can come in closer. If your captain planned it right your are up current or up wind of the school, and are now drifting right toward the school of tuna , with one on the line attracting the other tuna towards the boat.

At this point, everybody should now have bait in the water, and before you know it the entire boat is hooked up. That is how you sight fish bluefin.

Trolling is the most widely used method of Tuna fishing!

on the troll

The oldest and some argue, still the best, method of catching bluefin is to lay out four to six swimming baits behind your boat and proceed to troll them at 7-10 knots. On the hookup, throw a ton of bait, and switch to a free line live bait if your not hooked up. The speed of the crew and passengers in switching over to free line after the troll hook up is key. This method does offer more precision, as you can do drive bys on kelp patties that are known to hold fish. The downside, is that the larger and older bluefin have seen this trick many times, and will likely not fall for it. They see the line, and they are gone. Once the blue fin dive, your chances of picking them up are slim.

When you are on the troll, your Captain will usually be running between 3 and 6 trolling rigs. They will have heavy line, so that if you hook a fish, that one can be brought to the boat quickly. The other bluefin in the school will sometimes follow the hooked tuna to the boat. Likewise, once a hookup occurs your Captain will immediately order the deckhands to dump live bait off the side of the boat.  Make sure that you have your free line set ups rigged and ready to go before the troll, and once the trolling lines are in, immediately get a nice live bait, and get it into the water before the boat even stops. Between the live bait, and following the hooked tuna, often times you will have an open bite below your boat.

A good Free Line set up is a standard 20-25 pound test rig (depending on the size of the tuna) with a size 1 to 2/0 hook depending on bait size and the size of the tuna. Fluorocarbon leader can be super effective if the fish are touchy (biting infrequently). This set up will be the primary bait fishing set up. A good drag system and fresh line are a must when fishing for tuna. Also a longer rod will come in handy for casting away from the boat. Our rental gear will definitely get the job done. If possible, also have a heavier setup just in case you run into a wide open bite, or a school of larger specimens. 40-50lb test.

See that big one at the bottom, caught on a popper!

poppers, jigs, irons

Artificial baits work VERY WELL for catching Tuna. They are an excellent "First Strike" weapon in your tuna fishing arsenal. There is no faster way to get hooked up on a Tuna then to park yourself on the anchor pulpit of the boat, as it quickly approaches a school of foaming bluefin. You usually only have one shot. Your goal is to cast your bait into the school from as far away as possible. Once the fish detect the boat, they will dive, and you will never see them again. This is why its important to make sure you cast from range.

Even after the carnage starts, casting an iron or popper far over the heads of the other anglers who are free lining bait, can often yield a hook up!

When using irons, cast past and over the foaming fish and then draw your iron right through the middle as fast as you can reel. A two speed reel designed for this purpose is the ideal setup.

When using poppers, cast right into the middle of the school and violently yank the line. Be sure to keep the popper in the water, while at the same time creating as much surface splash as possible with your popper.  As soon as you have cleared the main body of fish , reel in and start again. Often times you will get hit as you land, or right after, so be ready.


Flat Fall fishing is very effective and is a great strategy to fish in low light conditions or when the Tuna are marking on the Sonar at depths 50-250 feet. Here is the scenarios where this method works well. 

While everybody else is sleeping grab your rod and reel and throw a GLOW IN THE DARK flat fall on it. The captain will alert you when and if a sonar mark shows up on the sonar. The Captain will call out the depth, so make sure that you give time to get down there. It takes several minutes to get to 200 feet. Once you have arrived at the desired depth then real up as fast as you can. You can imagine what that must look like to the Tuna in the clear depths. A glow in the dark light rising quickly against the dark background. The Tuna believe this is a squid headed to the surface, and this is one of their favorite foods. They can not resist it. Even if there is no marks sometimes you can get lucky.

Without the light of day, it's easier to increase the weight of your tackle without the sharp eyes of a tuna becoming wise to the situation. Heavier tackle can greatly improve your chances of landing one of these intensely hard fighting fish. Use a 50 to 80-pound class conventional reel and 6 to 7-foot heavy rod for trolling. Two speed reels are ideally suited to this endeavor.

One of our favorite destinations is the backside of San Clemente, North side of the island. This is a good starting point for a number of different destinations. This method is especially effective behind the island before sun up.

The second scenario when Flat Fall fishing is when you find tuna on the sonar but they are at a depth below 50 feet. To deep for live bait, and not well suited to iron. Drop a flat fall on the sonar mark and you have a good chance of nailing a big bluefin.


The Bluefin Tuna is widely regarded as the pinnacle species of sport fishing. There are bigger fish, like the Marlin, but NOTHING will prepare you for the pull a 300lb tuna can put out. Where the Marlin may win in overall size, the tuna definitely will out pull it.  It can take an experienced angler several hours to boat a big tuna, and many an inexperienced fisherman has lost there first hook up on bluefin, because they have never fought a fish like this one. You need to pace yourself, and present only the very best rod, reel, line, knot, and hook to the fish. If any one of these aspects is lacking, you will surely loose your fish. Also, technique will play a large part in your success. Make sure that the drag is just right, keep the rod tip up, and dont be ashamed to tag team the fish, by taking turns to get the fish on the boat.

Bluefin fishing is the pinnacle of Southern California sportfishing (and arguably the world) for its pure brute strength and incredibly tasty table fare. Favoring water temps around 60-72 degrees, this broader spectrum of temperature flexibility allows this fish to bite nearly year round.  However, the general season usually starts in March and goes through October. 

Rest assured, we take Blue Fin Sport Fishing very seriously! All of the gear provided on a bluefin trip is our best, heaviest, and newest tackle. We run 50 wides for when the big blues are out! If you do hook one of these monsters, be prepared for a long and hard fight. Our captain will maneuver the boat to put you in the best position to land the fish, all the while our deckhands will be standing by with multiple gafs. As soon as you see the fish under the water, yell "COLOR" and one of our deckhands will quickly come over and land your fish.

TOP bluefin sport fishing spots

How do anglers prepare and set out for early-season bluefin tuna fishing in Southern California?

Anglers preparing for early-season bluefin tuna fishing in Southern California typically monitor weather conditions closely before setting out. Favorable weather forecasts play a crucial role in determining if boats can safely venture out to the fishing grounds. In Southern California, fishing for bluefin tuna often requires traveling long distances offshore, so it is essential for anglers to ensure that wind and swell conditions are suitable for their particular type of vessel. When it comes to fishing for bluefin tuna, anglers often opt for lighter fishing lines and employ a stealthy approach to increase their chances of success. This involves carefully approaching schools of bluefin tuna that may be feeding near the surface. Anglers aim to position themselves strategically by getting upwind and upswell of the fish, allowing them to cast surface irons and small jigs effectively. Another effective strategy for early-season bluefin fishing is slow-trolling live bait, such as sardines, in areas teeming with baitfish and other signs of fish activity, like birds or breaking fish. This method is particularly popular among anglers fishing from smaller boats, as it can yield consistent results. Finding the right water temperature is critical to locating bluefin tuna during the early season. Anglers typically look for warm water hovering around 63 degrees Fahrenheit, as this temperature range tends to attract bluefin tuna. Additionally, identifying subtle temperature breaks in the water can help concentrate baitfish and bluefin tuna in specific areas, increasing the likelihood of a successful fishing expedition.

What factors indicate the potential for another epic year of tuna fishing in Southern California?

The potential for another exceptional year of tuna fishing in Southern California is indicated by several key factors. One such factor is the debate surrounding the nature of the bluefin tuna population in the region, with some speculating on whether they are migratory visitors or fish that have overwintered due to optimal water temperatures. Furthermore, the consistently positive reports of fishing experiences being described as 'the best ever' over the past two seasons suggest a trend that is likely to continue. The current presence of a significant volume of fish, the ease of catching limits, as well as observations that the fish are more responsive to lighter fishing lines, all point towards the likelihood of another successful year for tuna fishing in the region. Additionally, the influence of El Niño conditions is believed to play a significant role in the abundance of fish, further raising expectations for an epic fishing season ahead.

How to cook your catch

If you're lucky enough to catch a bluefin tuna during the fishing season, congratulations! These beautiful and powerful fish are prized by anglers and chefs alike. Here's how to cook your catch so that you can enjoy it at its best.

To start, you'll need to clean and gut the fish. This can be done by cutting along the belly from the gills to the vent and then removing the entrails. Once the fish is cleaned, it's time to prepare it for cooking.

One popular way to cook bluefin tuna is to grill it. To do this, simply cut the fish into steaks or fillets and season them with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs or spices. Then, preheat your grill to high heat and cook the tuna for about 2 minutes per side.

Another great option is to pan-sear the tuna. This gives it a nice crispy exterior while keeping the inside nice and moist. To do this, simply heat some oil in a large skillet over high heat. Season your tuna steaks or fillets with salt, pepper, and any other desired seasonings, and then place them in the hot skillet. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through.

No matter how you decide to cook your bluefin tuna, be sure not to overcook it! These fish are best when they're still pink in the center, so err on the side of caution.


The bluefin tuna is a highly prized fish, and for good reason. They're massive, they're strong, and they put up one heck of a fight when caught. That's why sport fishing for bluefin tuna is such a popular pastime. However, there's more to bluefin tuna fishing than just the thrill of the catch. There's also the matter of conservation. Because bluefin tuna are so sought-after, they're in danger of being overfished. That's why it's important to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding bluefin tuna fishing before heading out on your next charter. In this blog post, we'll give you an overview of the bluefin tuna sport fishing season, including when it is and what the catch limit is. We'll also provide some tips on how to fish for bluefin tuna sustainably.

Currently, the bag limit for Bluefin Tuna is two per angler per day.

For up to date information, click this LINK directly to the California Fish and Game Regulations Booklet for the San Diego.

We know that it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to go after Giant Bluefin Tuna. We take your trust into consideration by providing you with the BEST chance. Our vessels are well equipped, seaworthy, and most importantly, they are captained by professionals that specifically know how to not only find, but boat the big blues that you are after. Having the right gear is only part of the equation. Only through years of experience and trial and error earned by many days spent on the water, can a captain repeatedly and consistently land tuna. When you go deep sea fishing with us, you can be assured we have the experience you want.


Bluefin tuna fishing in San Diego is not only a popular pastime but also a vital part of the local economy. The fishing industry provides jobs for many people and supports many local businesses. The fish are also an important food source for many people in the area.


Also check out the in depth full GUIDE TO TUNA SPECIES IDENTIFICATION.

Bluefin tuna are a highly sought-after species of fish due to their size and the quality of their meat. They are also a valuable resource for commercial and recreational fishing. However, due to their similarity in appearance to other tuna species, it is important to be able to accurately identify a bluefin tuna.

One of the most obvious characteristics of a bluefin tuna is its size. Adult bluefin tuna can grow up to 14 feet in length and weigh over 2000 pounds. Juvenile bluefin tuna, known as “school tuna”, can be as small as 20-30 pounds. This size difference is important to note because it can help distinguish bluefin tuna from other tuna species, such as yellowfin tuna, which typically only grow to around 8-10 feet in length.

Another key characteristic to look for when identifying a bluefin tuna is the shape of its body. Bluefin tuna have a very elongated and streamlined body shape, with a pointed head and a pronounced dorsal fin. They also have a very large tail fin, known as a “caudal fin”, which is also elongated and pointed. This body shape is unique to bluefin tuna and can help distinguish them from other tuna species that have more rounded or square-shaped bodies.

The coloration of a bluefin tuna can also be a useful identifier. Bluefin tuna are typically a deep blue color on their back, fading to a silver color on their sides and belly. They also have a number of dark spots on their sides, which can be used to help identify individual fish. These spots are unique to each fish and can be used to identify them in the same way that fingerprints are used to identify people.

Finally, another way to identify bluefin tuna is through their fins. Bluefin tuna have a number of fins that are relatively small compared to other tuna species. Their dorsal fin and pectoral fins are relatively short and their anal fin is also small. Their fins are also relatively round and their leading edge is curved.

In summary, bluefin tuna can be visually identified by their size, body shape, coloration, and fins. Adult bluefin tuna can grow up to 14 feet in length, have a elongated and streamlined body shape, deep blue on the back and silver on the sides, dark spots on the side, and small fins. By paying attention to these characteristics, one can accurately identify a bluefin tuna.