Catching Tuna in California: Where to Go for Saltwater Fishing

California may be known for the Central Valley farmland, Mojave Desert, Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Hollywood, but its beaches and coastal terrains will undoubtedly attract summer vacationers and fishing enthusiasts. Southern California waters, in particular, have been the getaway for a variety of tunas that provide excellent challenges to all visiting fishermen.

Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin Tuna

Despite being typically seen further south in Mexican territory, Pacific bluefin tuna have swam their way to California seas. Breaking fish have been seen all the way from San Diego to Santa Catalina Island. Fishermen have been capturing this 100-pound sportfish at least eight miles off the coast.

Bluefins are said to swim 60 to 100 feet beneath the ocean's surface, and in some cases, even further. Because of this, it's critical to keep an eye on your fishfinder. Some people prefer catching them yo-yo style, which means they instantly drop their jig through marks and recover as fast as possible. Of course, playing around with different techniques is encouraged, but safety first comes first.

The largest recorded bluefin in California weighed 363.5 pounds. They are usually found from May to October.

a yellowfin tuna

Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin tunas, meanwhile, are often found in warmer waters. They are easily spotted swimming off the coast of California through Baja and around the northern part of the Channel Islands. Their distinguishing features are their conical head and the length of their pectoral fins, which stretch beyond the second dorsal. Anglers can catch as much as 400 pounds of this saltwater game fish. Harvests are limited to 10 per day, but fishing from 3 AM to 8 AM is said to be a fantastic time for more catches.

California's yellowfin tuna can weigh up to 200 pounds. It is captured in other seas, such as the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. They do not reproduce on the coast of California; instead, they thrive further south in the eastern Pacific.

a school of Bigeye Tuna

Bigeye Tuna

Bigeye tunas are also found worldwide in warmer areas. With a lifespan of seven or eight years, they usually visit California from June to November. Because they swim far below the surface in the daytime, they are fairly difficult to spot, with a good number of them taken by accident. Most taken in Southern California weigh 50 to 100 pounds.

boats in a port

A Tuna Haven in San Diego

San Diego is generally a good saltwater fishing spot. The Royal Polaris charter, for instance, is able to catch fish of more than 300 pounds. Skipper Capt. Frank LoPreste says that for every boat, they “usually catch between five and 15 fish over 300 pounds each trip.”

So how does a charter trip go? The boats leave from San Diego, heading to southern banks and islands. “We fish off the Lusitania Bank off Magdalena Bay, which is about 600 miles from San Diego; or in another area with even bigger success, Hurricane Bank, which is 980 miles south of San Diego. We also hit Clarion Island, which is about 850 miles away,” LoPreste adds.

Fishing for tuna in California will be a great new adventure for tourists as it is a staple activity for local anglers. It is therefore important to have the right gear and accessories to complement a good saltwater fishing experience. offers a good array of items functional in a variety of settings, sufficient to meet your fishing needs.

a saltwater fishing rod casted off a boat

Saltwater Fishing Equipment You'll Need for Tuna Fishing in California

There is a certain level of preparation and research that tuna fishing requires, as it does with any other type of fishing. The most important part is to have the proper tuna fishing gear so you're ready for when a big one takes the bait. Here are some saltwater fishing equipment basics:

  • A good quality tuna rod and reel combo is key for tuna fishing. You'll want something that can handle a lot of weight and pressure, while still being sensitive enough to feel the bite.
  • Saltwater fishing tackle, such as a variety of lures and baitfish, will come in handy when trying to catch tuna. It's often helpful to bring a few different options so you can see what works best on any given day.
  • A tuna fishing gaff is a must-have if you're planning on keeping your tuna. This will help you get a good grip on the fish so you can reel it in and then safely remove it from the water.
  • A tuna fishing harness will take some of the strain off your arms and back when you're fighting a big tuna. This is especially helpful if you plan on doing a lot of tuna fishing.
  • A set of scale weights will come in handy for weighing your tuna once you've caught it. You'll want to make sure you have an accurate weight so you can properly document your catch.

These are just a few of the basics that you'll need for tuna fishing. Of course, there are many other saltwater fishing equipment options available, so be sure to do your research and check out selections at Eat My Tackle before heading out on your tuna fishing adventure.

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