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Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

The yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) is one of the largest species of tuna, and can reach a weight of over 400 lb. Yellowfin tuna have muscular, torpedo-shaped bodies that are dark metallic blue on top and silver underneath. The power and stamina of this species are not to be underestimated, and amazingly, when hooked, they can maintain the intensity of a full-blown sprint for far longer than most other species. Although less well known than other species of top game fish around the world, pound-for-pound the yellowfin tuna is arguably one of the best-fighting fish on earth, and has the added bonus of being an excellent eating fish as well.

Behaviour: Yellowfin tuna have a preference for warm, clear water, and although they often venture close to the shore, they are generally most abundant where continental shelves drop off into areas of deeper ocean. They are powerful predators that usually hunt in groups of like-sized individuals of the same species in the surface waters (usually the top 100 m) on top of deep oceans. Interestingly they often school alongside other large fish species and are frequently seen swimming alongside large marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and whale sharks.

Feeding: They are opportunistic predators that prey on pelagic organisms like small fish and squid. Their torpedo-shaped bodies and large, powerful fins enable them to pursue and capture fast-moving prey fish like mackerel and flying fish, but schooling species like anchovy and sardine are also frequently consumed. Yellowfin themselves are in turn preyed upon by large marine predators like sharks and killer whales, but are often able out-swim their predators owing to their unparalleled swimming speed over short distances. Interestingly, unlike most fish which are cold-blooded, tuna are warm blooded and are thus capable of generating speeds of up to 80 kph, which is far quicker than the maximum for most species.

Other species of fish caught out here where we fish in the tuna grounds include Dorado, Skipjack and Yellowtail – These smaller fish are caught on lighter tackle. Occasionally, Marlin are caught in the same area.


During the months of October to July, we run deep sea fishing charters specifically targeting the large yellowfin and longfin tuna – these fish are regularly caught from the boat and the yellowfin tuna can exceed 100kgs in size, making for some good memories! These fish are highly sort after by serious fishermen all over the world and the Cape waters produce some of the biggest records!The smaller longfin tuna range in size from 10kgs to 30kgs.

For 9 months of the year Africa Expectations Boat Charters will take you out into the deep oceanic waters off Cape Point – As a result of the mixing of two large ocean currents (Benguela and Agulhas currents), as well as the prevailing winds, nutrient rich water is found at a place know to locals as the “Canyon” – this area is found close to the continental shelf, and it is here that we target the large Yellowfin tuna. These sought after fish reach sizes in excess of 100kgs and make for an unforgettable experience for any fisherman, beginners and experienced alike! One can expect to take anything from 1 to 4 hours  to land these incredibly strong fish. Africa Expectation's Boat Charters have just the right equipment needed to land these fish – this includes “Black magic”harnesses which are a necessary part of the equipment.


Fly Fishing for Yellowfin tuna: Although traditionally fished for by trolling large lures with conventional tackle, targeting yellowfin is fast becoming a popular pursuit among fly fishermen. Yellowfin tuna has now joined the ranks of species like tarpon, sailfish and giant trevally as one of the premier saltwater fly fishing targets in the planet. In fact, the fly fishermen well versed in fishing for top saltwater game fish the world over are consistently blown away by the tenacity and endurance of the yellowfin tuna.

  • Shoals of feeding fish can be located by following foraging seabirds, or long-line boats. Yellowfin are then attracted to the boat using lures, spinning and/or chumming.
  • Takes can be induced by casting large squid or baitfish imitations into the chum line and then stripping the fly back toward the boat in short, frantic jerks. The take of a yellowfin is nothing short of brutal, and once hooked, they frequently strip several hundreds of meters of line from the reel on the initial run, but the fun doesn’t stop there. These fish seem never to tire, with larger specimens taking in excess of four hours to land.
    • Single and double-handed rods in the 10-14 wt range, matched with shooting head floating or intermediate lines, and at least 400 m of backing loaded onto large, quality arbor reels are required.
    • Colourful baitfish or squid imitations tied on large, sharp 2-0 to 6-0 hooks, and joined to the fly line by 100 lb monofilament will do the job. It is absolutely essential that all tackle be kept in top working order, since even the smallest glitch will no doubt result in a lost fish.

Conventional Yellowfin tuna fishing: Yellowfin tuna can be effectively targeted with conventional tackle using lures and spinners, or by casting rigged baits directly into the chum line.

  • Rods should be 6-7ft in length and fitted with top quality reels loaded with 400 m of 20-30 lb monofilament and shock leaders of 60-80 lb breaking strain.

Distribution: They are found in tropical and subtropical seas the world over, but are absent from the Mediterranean Sea.
Recommended Yellowfin Tuna Fishing Destinations: Cape Town ǀ South Africa