Perhaps no other fish in the ocean highlights the conflict between the sport fishing industry and the commercial fishing industry more than the yellow-fin tuna. An incredibly popular game fish, yellow-fin tuna also have a very high commercial value as they are one of the best tasting fish in the sea. Unfortunately harder to find than they used to be, lucky anglers who spot a school of them will stop what they are doing and head directly towards them with poppers and plugs ready on the spinning reels.
Most yellow-fin tuna caught in Central America are ‘footballs’ in the 15-30 lb range, although larger 100 lb tuna are caught every year. To fish for the massive ‘cow’ tuna, which range in the 200-300 lb range, there may be no better spot in the world than Panama. They can be found year round, but the giant cow tuna can be caught on the Hannibal Bank every year between March and August.
They are easily recognizable with their dark blue backs that fade into a silvery white belly. Their namesake is the yellow stripe along their sides, fins, and finlets. Adults have two dorsal fins, the second being very long reaching back towards the tail. The crescent shaped tail is designed for speed and power as any angler who has fought one of these muscular fish can attest to.
WHAT THEY EAT : Yellow-fin tuna are opportunistic feeders and seem to eat whatever is available to them. In Central American waters they are often found with large pods of spinner dolphins as they chase the same bait schools. As they roam all the oceans in the world their diet is varied and includes small dorado, mackerel, flying fish, squid, octopus, crustaceans, and even other smaller tuna.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Yellow-fin tuna are found all over the world in warm temperate waters. Typically found in deep offshore water, they have also been known to roam close to shore at times. Yellow-fins are both pelagic and migratory so they do have on and off seasons. Typically found in the top 300 feet of the water column above the thermo-cline, yellow-fin tuna prefer warmer temperatures between 70-88 degrees. When a school of tuna is spotted the captain will get in front of it and while trolling with rigged baits and lures works, nothing beats the fun of casting poppers and plugs into a frenzied school of yellow-fins.