Alternate Names: Yellowtail, amberjack, forktail, mossback, and white salmon.
Identification: Typical jack shape with the body olive-brown to brown above with yellow stripes along the side. Fins are yellowish.
Size: To 80 pounds and over 5 feet long. Most caught off piers are fish under 10 pounds in weight.
Range: From Chile to southern Washington; common south of Point Conception.
Habitat: Usually found around offshore islands, rocky reefs or kelp beds.
Piers: Most southern California piers located near reefs or kelp will see a few yellowtail caught during the year. However, they are always a bonus fish and rarely caught in large numbers off of piers. Best bets: Ocean Beach Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, Hermosa Beach Pier and the Goleta Pier.
Bait and Tackle: If an angler wants to try for yellowtail he should have tackle heavy enough to insure a fair chance of landing the fish. Yellowtail like to head for rocks or kelp as soon as they're hooked so line should test 20-30 pounds, hooks should be small (size 6 or 4) but strong, and the angler must make sure the fish is played out before it nears the pier and the pilings. Although lures work well out on boats, almost all of the pier-caught yellowtail are taken on live bait -- especially on small jack mackerel, Pacific mackerel or Pacific sardines.
Food Value: A fairly good tasting fish that is usually broiled or bar-b-qued.
Comments: One of the favorite southern California sport fish but much more common out in deeper water.