Last modified: August 24, 2018

Fish Mackerel, Tuna & Jacks

California Yellowtail

Jacks, Amberjacks and Pompanos: Family Carangidae

Species: Seriola dorsalis (Valenciennes, 1833); from the Italian word seriola (for amberjack) and dorsalis (the long dorsal fin). Some sources now use Seriola lalandi.

Yellowtail reported at 46-pounds caught at the Crystal Pier by Thomas Shinsato in 2015

Alternate Names: Forktail, tail, rat (little fish), firecracker (small fish), mossback (large fish), amberjack, white salmon, amber fish and cavasina. In Mexico typically called esmedregal or medregal de rabo amarillo.

35-pound yellowtail taken from the Balboa Pier in 2003

Identification: Typical jack shape with metallic blue to green above, a brassy horizontal band along the sides from eye to tail; silvery below; some fish are olive-brown to brown. Fins and tail are yellowish

Small, firecracker-size yellowtail caught by Rita at the Cabrillo Mole in 2015

Size: To 80 pounds and over 5 feet long. Most caught off piers are less than 10 pounds. The California record fish weighed 63 lb 1 oz and was caught at Santa Barbara Island in 2000.

48.5-pound yellowtail taken  by Tony Troncale at the Crystal Pier — 2012

Range: Circumglobal in warmer waters and some temperate waters. In the eastern Pacific from Chile to northern British Columbia. Unverified reports from Gulf of Alaska off Kodiak Island and Cordova. Uncommon north of Point Conceptin.

Habitat: Usually found around offshore islands, rocky reefs, or kelp beds. Primarily feeds on squid and fish.

Yellowtail hooked and fought at the Redondo Beach Pier before being hit by a sea lion — 2010

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. In addition most of the yellows taken are the small firecracker-size fish. Best bets: Ocean Beach Pier, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, and the Hermosa Beach Pier. Crystal Pier in San Diego is by far the best pier in the state for yellowtail and many fish in the 30-40+ pound range have been taken.

Yellowtail reported at 55 pounds from the Crystal Pier in 2006

Shoreline: Rarely taken by shore anglers.

Small yellowtail caught at the Green Pleasure Pier in Avalon in 2015 (although picture is at the Cabrillo Mole)

Boats: One of the most prized species for boaters in southern California. The traditional “yellowtail grounds” have been at Catalina and the Coronado Islands.

Yellowtail from the Redondo Sportfishing Pier in 2011

Bait and Tackle: If an angler wants to try for yellowtail he should have heavy enough tackle 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 on boats, almost all of the pier-caught yellowtail are taken on live bait—especially on small jack mackerel, Pacific mackerel or Pacific sardines.

Yellowtail reported at 42 pounds, Crystal; Pier — 2004

Food Value: A fairly good tasting fish that is usually broiled or bar-b-cued.

Yellowtail captured at the Monterey Wharf #2 in 2012

Comments: One of the favorite southern California sport fish but much more common out in deeper water.

My first yellowtail many, many years ago

My son Mike’s first yellowtail along with a bonito — San Diego, 1983

Yellowtail reported at 34 pounds caught at the Crystal Pier by Hallman in 2012

Yellowtail reported at 48 pounds  at the Crystal Pier by Angel Hernandez in 2016

Yellowtail reported at 36 pounds taken at the Crystal Pier by Studman in 2016

Yellowtail reported at 40 pounds. Taken by Angel Hernandez at the Crystal Pier in 2017

A list of large “unofficial” yellowtail caught from piers. Unlike most species, the majority of the largest, pier-caught yellowtail have been landed in the past twenty years. While literally thousands of yellowtail were caught in the early years of the piers, mostly at the Redondo Beach wharves/piers or the McFadden Wharf in Newport Beach, most were small fish under 10-12 pounds in size. The last few years has seen the records smashed and primarily at one pier—Crystal Pier in San Diego.

55 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Montre Somsukcharean, September 21, 2006

Source: Source: James Barrick, Crystal Pier Bait Shop & Peggi Straker

52 ½ Lbs. — Pine Ave. Pier (Long Beach), D. W. Fletcher, September 19, 1896

Source: Los Angeles Herald, September 19, 1896

50 Lbs. — Pine Ave. Pier (Long Beach), Al Decker, July 1894

Source: Los Angeles Herald, July 3, 1894

≈ 50 Lbs. — Avalon Long Wharf, December 1896

Source: Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1897

48.5 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Tony Troncale, August 6, 2012

Source: James Barrick, Crystal Pier Bait Shop & Tony Troncale

46 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Thomas Shinsato, August 2015

Source: Source: Crystal Pier Bait Shop & Thomas Shinsato

42 Lb. 1 oz. — Oceanside Pier, Elmo Nealoff, July 1955

Source: Oceanside Pier Bait Shop

42 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), October 2004

Source: James Barrick, Crystal Pier Bait Shop

42 Lbs. — Avalon wharf, Lee Wilson, June 9, 1897

Source: Los Angeles Herald, June 10, 1897

40 Lb. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Angel Hernandez, June 14, 2017

Source: Personal communication

≈ 40 Lbs. — Redondo Beach Pier, October 2008

Source: bloodydecks.com

40 Lbs. — Avalon wharf, W. M. LeFavor, May 21, 1908

Source: Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1908

40 Lbs. — Wharf No. 3 (Redondo Beach), Japanese fisherman, August 1907

Source: Los Angeles Times, August 18, 1907

40 Lbs. — Wharf No. 1 (Redondo Beach), Seth Owens, August 22, 1897

Source: Los Angeles Herald, August 22, 1897

40 Lbs. — Avalon wharf, Mrs. Boyce, June 9, 1897

Source: Los Angeles Herald, June 10, 1897

≈ 40 Lbs. — Hotel del Coronado Pier, September 21, 1899

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1899

≈ 40 Lbs. — Avalon Long Wharf, December 1896

Source: Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1897

36 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), August 2016

Source: Crystal Pier Bait Shop

35 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), August 2012

Source: James Barrick, Crystal Pier Bait Shop

35 Lbs. — Balboa Pier, Aaron, November 1, 2003

Source: PFIC

35 Lbs. — Avalon Wharf, November 1899

Source: Los Angeles Times, November 8, 1899

34 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Angel Hernandez, August 2016

Source: Angel Hernandez

34 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Hallman, August 2012

Source: James Barrick, Crystal Pier Bait Shop

34 Lbs. — Wharf No. 3 (Redondo Beach), William Codie, September 26, 1910

Source: The Redondo Reflex, September 29, 1910

34 Lbs. — Avalon Wharf, Al Delaney, August 17, 1908

Source: Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1908

33 ½ Lbs. — Wharf No. 3 (Redondo Beach), August 24, 1910

Source: Santa Ana Register, August 25, 1910

33 Lbs. — Newport Wharf, E. P. Deffley, May 1909

Source: Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1909

32 ½ Lbs. — Redondo Wharf (Wharf No. 1), August 23, 1891

Source: Los Angeles Herald, August 24, 1891

32 ½ Lbs. — Avalon Wharf, W. M. LeFavor, May 20, 1908

Source: Los Angeles Herald, May 22, 1908

31 Lbs. — Ocean Park Pier, Mrs. J. O. Jaquess, September 25, 1902

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 25, 1902

30 Lbs. — Huntington Beach Pier, Earl Nelson, May 7, 1934

Source: Santa Ana Register, May 8, 1934

30 Lbs.— Hotel del Coronado Pier, Joe Larnel, August 31, 1898

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 1, 1898

 

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