From Islapedia
"A catch of Yellowtail, Santa Catalina Island, Ca"
original in SCIF archives
Yellowtail, Northern Channel Islands
"Hmschi Roll", Santa Cruz Island
Photo by Morgan Ball

YELLOWTAIL (Seriola dorsalis) [California yellowtail] is one of ten members of the jack family that are known to inhabit Pacific waters off California from Monterey Bay south to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur. Only two of these ten, the California yellowtail and jack mackerel, are found in great numbers. Older fish occur only seasonally around the Channel Islands. They are most common in waters of from 80 to 200 feet in depth, particularly around kelp paddies. Yellowtail have a horizontal dark streak that runs through the eye and along the side of the body, a low yellowish first dorsal fin, and relatively short pectoral fins.

The largest recorded California yellowtail is an 80 pound fish that was caught at Guadalupe Island, Mexico. The California angling record is a 62 pound fish caught June 6, 1953 at La Jolla, and the sport-diving record is a 65 pound fish taken by a free-diver on October 11, 1988. They are fished primarily with live bait.

Yellowtail Record Catches

  • 1898. F. V. Rider, 41 pounds
  • 1899. F. S. Gerrish, 37 pounds
  • 1900. R. F. Stocking, 48 pounds
  • 1901. T. S. Manning, 33 pounds
  • 1902. Dr. Trowbridge, 47-½ pounds
  • 1903. F. P. Newport, 46 pounds
  • 1904. H. Meyst, 44 pounds
  • 1905. J. E. Pflueger, 43 pounds
  • 1906. A. A. Carraher, 38-½ pounds
  • 1907. Edward E. Sacks, 41-¼ pounds
  • 1908. W. W. Simpson, 60-½ pounds
  • 1909. C. E. Ellis, 48-¼ pounds
  • 1909-1910. C. G. Conn, 40-½
  • 1910. B. F. Alden, 45-½ pounds
  • 1910-1911. E. Garrett, 45 pounds
  • 1911. Morris S. Phillips, 42 pounds
  • 1911-1912. W. H. Sears, 44-¼ pounds
  • 1912. Strotz. 51-½ pounds
  • 1912-1913. James G. Garth, 42-¼ pounds
  • 1913. G. Twist, 49-¼ pounds

In the News~

July 16, 1882 [LAT]: “Col. Banbury, Mr. Woodbury, Mr. Washburn and Mr. Giddings, of Pasadena, and Mr. G. A. Brandis of Los Angeles, returned yesterday from a very enjoyable trip to Catalina Island. They caught 1225 barracudas, three jewfish and a large number of yellowtails in about three days…”

September 19, 1884 [SBDI]: “Col. Whittington chartered the Ocean King yesterday and took a number of his friends out on a fishing tour. The party caught several fine specimens of yellowtail and a good time was generally indulged in.”

October 24, 1897 [LAT/SCat]: “T. V. Hardwick and Jim Gardner returned from San Clemente Island yesterday morning in the sloop Violet. They brought back several goat skins and report Mosquito Harbor as being filled with yellowtail in the mornings in quantities unlike anything they had ever seen.”

August 11, 1900 [SBMP]: “Mr. Higgins of Carpinteria, while out in his launch Bumblebee, off the Sexton Ranch in Goleta, caught 57 barracuda and yellowtail. This beats the sailboat record of the season.”

August 24, 1900 [SBMP]: “The biggest fish stories of the season are related by the Van Denbergh-Hixenbaugh party who have been spending their vacation on Santa Cruz Island... They landed 954 mackerel, 40 halibut, 20 yellowtail, and 3 each sea bass, rock fish and bonita...”

August 3, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “J. M. Williams, with his wife and ten year old son, Hayes, of Pleasant Hill, Nev., who are now tenting on the island, went out with Mexican Joe for a bit of fishing this morning. The three caught twenty-one yellowtail, aggregating 400 pounds' weight, in four hours. Master Hayes, notwithstanding his tender years, is something of a sportsman, having broken all records of fishing about his home by catching 437 fish in one day—bass, cropple and catfish, and he didn't do a thing to the yellowtail record here, but smash it all to flinders by taking one weighing 47-3/4 pounds. Unfortunately he was fishing with a hand line and his catch will not be recognized by the Tuna Club, but Mexican Joe, who has fished on Catalina for nearly fifty years now, says he never saw as large ayellowtail before. It measures five feet and ten inches in length. Mr. Williams is having it mounted.”

June 27, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. A. W. Barrett had the greatest sport of the season crowded into two hours this forenoon. With the Nestella he was cruising about the ocean some eight or ten miles out, looking for tuna when they neared a big bunch of floating kelp, underneath which was a school of yellowtail and albacore…”

August 18, 1904 [SBMP]: “The guests at Pelican Bay Inn were treated to a rare sight early yesterday morning. A great school of yellowtail drove the bay full of sardines, and in an effort to escape the big fish, the small fry actually leaped out of the water onto the rocks at East Point. Their splashing could plainly be heard by the cottagers in the pines above the inn.”

September 2, 1904 [SBMP]: “Troll fishing for the large fish in the channel continues good... Henry Short took out one party Wednesday morning and another in the afternoon, each catching a number of barracuda, besides yellowtail and bonito.”

May 14, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain George Gourley in company with a prominent resident of this city, made a successful fishing trip in the channel yesterday in the sailboat Belvedere, and brought back two of the largest yellowtail caught this year. They weighed 24 and 27 pounds. They also caught 9 bonita.”

January 2, 1906 [SBMP]: “Mr. & Mrs. H. C. Graf of Tarytown, N. Y., who are stopping at Montecito for the winter, went out fishing on Sunday in the Nina, and made a big catch of yellowtail and bonito.”

January 5, 1906 [SBMP]: “...yesterday afternoon the launch Nina made a good catch of yellowtail and bonito. Dr. Johnson will go out in the Nina this morning...”

January 7, 1906 [SBMP]: “The winter run of bonito in the channel is on, and the amateur fishermen are finding great luck. Yesterday Colonel W. D. Witman was out with his two sons for an all day trip, and returned in the afternoon with between 45 and 50 yellowtail and bonito, the catch nestling about 500 pounds.”

April 20, 1906 [SBMP]: “S.P. Sullivan was out fishing in the launch Nina yesterday morning and caught four unusually large yellowtail.”

April 24, 1906 [SBMP]: “J. Sullivan, a Colorado mining man who has been at the Potter for several weeks, was out in the launch Nina yesterday morning and caught over 400 pounds of yellowtail, barracuda, rock bass and bonito.”

April 26, 1906 [SBMP]: “W.A. Amburg and daughter and Judge and Mrs. C.W. McIlhon, residents of Chicago, made a large catch of fish in the channel yesterday morning while out in the launch Nina. They landed about 700 pounds of yellowtail in three hours.”

May 4, 1906 [SBMP]: “Yesterday a fishing party in the Nina caught twelve large fish in two hours time. Six of them were yellowtail, the others being bonita and barracuda.”

May 8, 1906 [SBMP]: “J. Hoyt Smith, a resident of Milwaukee who is spending a few weeks at the Potter Hotel, was out in the launch Nina yesterday and made a large catch of fish in the channel. He landed thirty big ones within three hours time. Eighteen of them were yellowtail.”

June 8, 1906 [SBMP]: “After a few days of comparatively light fishing, the yellowtail began biting again yesterday, and a party including Mr. Duncan and three friends on the Nina made a catch of eleven of these fish.”

June 15, 1906 [SBMP]: “Fishing in the channel is again reported to be above the average. The Schauer party succeeded in making the largest catch of yellowtail for a week past.”

June 16, 1906 [SBMP]: “Judge W. H. Aiken had a successful fishing trip on the channel yesterday in the Nina, returning with a catch of nine yellowtail, fourteen rock bass and three bonita.”

July 5, 1906 [SBMP]: “George F. Trenwith made a fishing excursion in the channel yesterday on the Nina, Captain Gourley, and had good success of yellowtail, barracuda and bonito.”

October 6, 1906 [SBMP]: “Henry Short, who has been at the island in the Point Firmin with several friends, returned Thursday evening with seven hundred pounds of fish, making the best catch of yellowtail this year.”

October 21, 1906 [SBMP]: “Reports brought in from the channel by Captain Henry Short of the Point Firmin state that the barracuda are running again, and yellowtail are biting well.”

October 23, 1906 [SBMP]: “Captain George Gourley and Arthur C. Greenwell gather in 170 fish in two hours. Captain George Gourley and Arthur C. Greenwell on the launch Nina yesterday smashed all fishing records to a thousand pieces. In two hours trolling they brought in 132 barracuda, 28 bonito, and 18 yellowtail. This was on a run between More's Landing and the lighthouse.”

November 14, 1906 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The largest yellowtail of which there is any authentic record was captured by Johnnie Robarts a few days since on the San Clemente Island grouper banks. Robarts is fishing for the market, and ran over to the Clemente banks, with which he is familiar, having lived on that island for almost twenty years, and among his catch was a huge yellowtail, but he did not realize that he had made a record catch, but ‘cleaned’ the big fish with the others preparatory to shipment. The yellowtail was so large, however, that it excited the curiosity of the fishers, and although the intestined had been removed, they and the fish were weighed, and cleaned the fish weighing forty-six pounds, and the intestines, among which were two sheepsheads, weighed twenty pounds, making the weight of the fish sixty-six pounds. Had the fish been weighed as it was taken from the water, without any shrinkage, it is thought its weight would have been seventy pounds. As it is, this is the largest of its kind ever taken, so far as known, the next largest being one fifty-seven pounds taken three years ago by ‘Yellowtail Johnnie’ Kassar.”

November 22, 1906 [SBMP]: “Captain Gourley made a single-handed record yesterday afternoon while fishing on the Nina. He was the only person aboard, and he tended engine, steered the boat, watched four lines, and in less than two hours landed twenty-one yellowtail and ten bonita.”

August 9, 1908 [LAH]: “Avalon, August 8. At the east end of San Clemente Island early today Smith Warren of Los Angeles captured a world’s record yellowtail on ‘Three-Six’ tackle. The fish weighed forty-five pounds. This beats the record made by B. M. Rapherhans by three and one-half pounds, and gives the angler the third degree in the Three-Six club. The fish was brought to gaff in 38 minutes.”

October 6, 1908 [SBMP]: “The accompanying illustration gives a fair idea of an average catch of barracuda, bonita and yellowtail taken with rod and reel from the Santa Barbara channel in four hours.”

October 8, 1908 [SBMP]: “Jack McLeod, David E. Jacobs of Ocean Park, and Casey Maher, who were out in the channel yesterday as the guests of Captain George W. Gourley in the launch Vamoose, made a splendid catch bringing in barracuda, yellowtail and bonita. They presented a large number of friends with piscatorial trophies and entertained some friends at a fish luncheon.”

July 7, 1909 [LAH]: “Ben Williams’ yellowtail taken out of the waters of San Clemente Island last Friday was one of the largest ever captured at the island. A hard fight was put up by the fish, which was brought to gaff. It weighed 42 pounds on the Light Tackle club scales at Avalon.”

July 12, 1909 [LAH]: “Avalon, July 11. A. W. Hopper of Boston today caught a gold button yellowtail while fishing off the west end of San Clemente Island. The fish weighed forty-three pounds and was brought to gaff in thirty-one minutes. With Mr. Hooper, who fished in the launch Swastika, was the veteran angler, L. G. Murphy of Converse, Indiana. Both anglers are members of the Catalina Tuna Club…”

May 15, 1910 [LAT]: “Yellowtail in biting form. Big schools visit island fishing grounds. Yellowtail and white sea bass are running in midsummer form off the Channel Islands…”

September 14, 1910 [SBI]: “Albacore are declared to be running well in the channel just now, and yellowtail and barracuda are augmenting the sport with their great schools…”

September 22, 1910 [SBMP]: “A party of Montecito people, out yesterday with Ira Eaton for a fishing excursion on the channel, had very good luck, yellowtail running quite freely. One of the fishermen landed a 16-pound yellowtail with a 6 ounce rod after a battle lasting 46 minutes.”

November 23, 1910 [SBMP]: “Yesterday’s catch by the San Pedro fisher fleet with headquarters here was mostly yellowtail, several tons being landed at the wharf for shipment by express to San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

July 12, 1914 [SBMP]: “Big fish are running at the island now—barracuda, bonita, sea bass and yellowtail — in large schools that area frequently seen on top of the water…”

August 1, 1914 [SBMP]: “Reports from the island bring news of excellent sport with the trolling lines. Yellowtail, cabrillo, bonita and albacore are running in great schools and the fishermen are having revel in the way of hauling finny beauties.”

June 18, 1915 [SBMP]: “Fishing at the islands is said to be very good now. Captain Ira Eaton reports that last Wednesday he caught four fine yellowtail opposite Pelican Bay after a few minutes of trolling. This variety is one of the gamiest fish in these waters, and is the delight of the deep sea angler. It is, moreover, of the finest quality for the table. These fish, it is reported, are running strong in the island waters.”

June 20, 1915 [SBMP]: “A company of twenty-five men, mostly employees of the Hunt Mercantile Company, left at midnight in the Sea Wolf for Pelican Bay, the Mecca of deep-sea anglers, on a fishing trip. Lured by the report that yellowtail are running in great force along the island shores, these fishermen are counting on bringing home a large catch of these prized game fish. The party will return to the mainland some time tonight.”

August 19, 1915 [SBMP]: “Fishermen in from the islands yesterday reported yellowtail running in big schools, a condition for which a number of local deep-sea anglers have been eagerly waiting for a long time.”

September 2, 1915 [SBMP]: “Reports from the islands are to the effect that yellowtail are plentiful there now. One fishing party, a couple of days ago, is said to have caught twenty-five of these splendid game fish within two hours.”

April 8, 1916 [SBDN]: “Ventura. Game Warden Jack Barnett is urging forward another of Ventura’s undeveloped resources—the tuna and yellowtail fishing in the channel here. ‘The fishing for tuna, yellowtail and such fish is just as good here as in the Catalina district,’ said Game Warden Barrett, ‘the only difference being one of the period when they are running. If Ventura sportsmen would get together and have the necessary boating facilities the sport here in July would be found to be just as good as that in the waters about Catalina. Tuna and yellowtail abound in the waters of the channel here.’”

August 26, 1917 [SBDN]: “Drying fish on Santa Cruz is real industry. Fishermen unite efforts to conserve all kinds of seafood. A dried fish industry has developed on Santa Cruz Island among the fishermen. This morning the supply boat and tender California, from San Pedro, put in from the island with a large amount of dried fish, some being for local buyers. The fish, mostly big yellowtail, are salted down by the fishermen, and then dried on the rocks and on poles. They are sacked and shipped to the mainland. Quite a large quantity has already been sent to San Pedro, where the market is said to be eager to secure every pound obtainable. Formerly surplus fish were dumped into the sea, but now, say the fishermen, every fish caught is either shipped fresh to the markets or pickled in brine or dried.”