California Yellowtail —

Yellowtail caught at the Crystal Pier in San Diego by Angel Hernandez in September 2015

35-Pound yellowtail taken from the Balboa Pier by “Aaron”on November 1, 2003

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

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

Yellowtail from Crystal Pier, August 2016

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

Yellowtail caught at Crystal Pier on September 21, 2006 by Montre Somsukcharean; reported at 55 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Peggi Straker)

Size: To 80 pounds and over 5 feet long. Most caught from piers are less than 10 pounds, the small fish called “rats” or “firecrackers.” The California record fish weighed 63 lb 1 oz and was caught at Santa Barbara Island in 2000.

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 Conception.

48.5-pound yellowtail caught at the Crystal Pier in August 2012 by Tony Troncale

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

40 Pound yellowtail taken by Angel Hernandez at the Crystal Pier on June 14, 2017

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, Crystal, Oceanside Pier, San Clemente Pier, Redondo Beach Pier, and the Hermosa Beach Pier. Cryastal Pier in San Diego is by far the best pier in the state for yellowtail and many fish in the 30-50 pound range have been taken.

42-pound yellowtail caught at Crystal Pier— October 2004

Shoreline: Rarely taken by shore anglers.

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

34-Pound yellowtail caught at Crystal Pier in August of 2012 by “Hallman”

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.

A small “firecracker-size” yellowtail taken from the Redondo Sportfishing Pier in 2011

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

34 Pound Yellowtail caught by Angel Hernandez at Crystal Pier, August 2016

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

What remains of a 54″, guesstimated 40-pound yellowtail that was hooked and then hit by a sea lion at the Redondo Beach Pier in October 2008

Yellowtail taken at the Manhattan Beach Pier in 2012

46-Pound yellowtail taken at the Crystal Pier by Thomas Shinsato in August 2015


A small “rat-sized” yellowtail caught by Rita Magdamo during the James Liu Memorial Derby at the Cabrillo Mole in Avalon in September 2014

Another small “rat-sized” yellowtail caught in Avalon. The fish was caught at the Green Pleasure Pier in September 2014 although the picture is at the Cabrillo Mole.

A pretty-colored yellowtail taken at the Crystal Pier in August 2016

Tony Troncale’s 48.5-pound yellowtail from Crystal Pier, August 2012

Hard to believe, but a yellowtail taken from Monterey’s Wharf #2 in 2012.

36-Pound yellowtail caught at Crystal Pier in August 2016

My very first yellowtail. Taken in San Diego many, many years ago.

Aaron leaving the Balboa Pier with a 35-pound yellowtail in 2003

Some large yellowtai caught from piers

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

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

40 Lb. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Angel Hernandez, June 14, 1917 —  Source: Personal communication

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. — Avalon wharf, Mrs. Boyce, June 9, 1897—Source: Los Angeles Herald, June 10, 1897

≈ 40 Lbs. — Redondo Beach Pier, October 2008—Source: bloodydecks.com

≈ 40 Lbs. — Hotel del Coronado Pier, September 21, 1899—Source: Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1899

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

34 Lbs. — Crystal Pier (San Diego), Hallman, August 2012 —Source: James Barrick, Crystal Pier Bait Shop

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

33 ½ Lbs. — Wharf #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, 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

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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