Yellowfin tuna are a popular sport fish in many parts of their range and are prized for their speed and strength when fought on rod and reel. Many anglers believe that large yellowfin are, pound for pound, the fastest and strongest of all big game tunas: renowned American author S. Kip Farrington, who fished the classic giant bluefin tuna fisheries of Bimini and Cat Cay in the Bahamas, as well as Wedgeport in Nova Scotia, in their heyday, rated the yellowfin tuna of Hawaii as equal to a bluefin “twice his weight”. Sport fishermen also prize the yellowfin tuna for its culinary qualities.
Yellowfin tuna probably first came to the attention of sports fishermen when they appeared on the tuna grounds of Catalina Island, California, only a few years after pioneering fishermen invented the sport, targeting the Pacific bluefin tuna. These tuna were of the same species caught by commercial fishermen in Japan and the western Pacific, but the reason for their appearance was not known at the time. Later, warmer water species such as yellowfin tuna, dorado and striped marlin were found to enter southern California waters in seasons having favorable ocean conditions, particularly during the El Niño phenomenon, which brings warmer water up North America’s western coast.
Yellowfin tuna were subsequently discovered by sport fishermen in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Hawaii, and many other parts of their range. Larger adult fish which had developed distinctively long sickle fins were initially thought to be a different species and were known as Allison tuna (a name first given by the then curator of the Bermuda Aquarium, Louis Mowbray, in 1920). Such destinations as Hawaii and Bermuda became famed for their catches of these beautiful fish. In Hawaii, various styles of feather lures served as bait, but in Bermuda, chumming techniques from boats anchored on productive banks were evolved to target not only Allison tuna, but also wahoo and the smaller blackfin tuna. Bermudian experts developed techniques to take all these fish on light tackle, and for many years the International Game Fish Association records for yellowfin tuna were dominated by entries from Bermuda in the lighter line classes, with fish in the 200 lb (91 kg) and larger class from Hawaii taking most of the heavier line-class records.
Today, yellowfin tuna are a major sport fish pursued by sport fishermen in many parts of the world. Thousands of anglers fish for yellowfin tuna along the eastern seaboard of the United States, particularly in North Carolina and New England. Yellowfin are also a popular game fish among anglers fishing from US Gulf Coast ports, San Diego, and other ports of southern California. Larger “long-range” boats in the San Diego fleet also fish in Mexican waters, searching for yellowfin tuna in many of the grounds that the San Diego pole-and-line tuna clippers used to fish. The yellowfin tuna is also a highly prized catch in the offshore sport fisheries of South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Sport fishing for yellowfin tuna exists on a smaller scale in many other parts of the world.