Chasing Yellowfin Tuna

Thunnus Albacares or The Yellowfin Tuna as it is more commonly known is one of the world’s favourite sporting and eating fish. While it may not be the biggest and baddest of the tuna family, the beautiful colours of this fish make it a popular catch on any fishing day. There is nothing quite like seeing these yellow missiles breaching the water as you struggle to pull them in. Trying to get a read on these fish is almost impossible. Some of them will battle tooth and nail with the endurance of a marathon runner while others seem to give up before the fight has even begun.

Beautiful Yellowfin Tuna caught by Dan Nash

Beautiful Yellowfin Tuna caught by Dan Nash 


These beautiful fish are found Australia wide but are more commonly seen in Australian waters from Northern Territory to South Western Australia and from Torres Strait to eastern Tasmania. A variety of ocean factors such as oxygen distribution and salinity controls the distribution of these fish throughout Australian waters. Although younger fish (typically weighing less than 15KG) tend to form surface schools with the same species, adult tuna prefer to live solo and inhabit the deeper areas of the ocean on the border of the thermocline.


Yellowfin Tuna can grow up to 2 metres in length and weigh in at over 170 kilograms, however the tuna caught off the east coast rarely exceed 190cm in length and 100 kilograms in weight. Even so, if you catch a fish that big, you’re going to be eating yellowfin for a few weeks!

How to Catch Them

One of the best methods for catching yellowfin is trolling. Trolling works best with skirted lures and fishing live or dead baits whilst anchored or drifting. When using this technique, it is best to set a line of lures or baits at different lengths off the back of the boat. Lures should be trolled at no more than 5-7 knots. While you’re trolling, keep an eye out for places like tide lines, areas with high concentrations of seabirds, and bait schools. If you spot a school, ignore your gut instinct to drive straight at it and slowly pull the boat around the edges of the school as not to scare the fish.

Another popular method is cubing. All you have to do is distribute a solid mullet burley trail behind the boat at anchor and wait for these beautiful fish to turn up. Once you have established a solid burley trail, set your hooks amongst it with a selection of live bait like mackerel or even some pilchards drifting along the burley trail will work nicely.

Final Thoughts

Always remember to fish in moderation. Although the Commonwealth stock status reports the Yellowfin as sustainable, this type of tuna is historically overfished. Only take what you need and consider fishing for alternatives such as mackerel or other tuna species such as skipjack. As always make sure your boat is fully equipped with the necessary safety gear including flares, life jackets and a working two way radio. Don’t forget to test your marine two way radio before leaving shore and register your trip with marine patrol.