Yellowtail Fishing: Where to Find them and How to Catch Them

April 4, 2023

Connor Merritt

Connor Merritt

One of the great things about fishing is that you can do it year-round, but let’s be honest, the best time of the year to cast a line is when you can kick back and relax in some warm weather at the same time. Fortunately, the cold months are well behind us and summer is right around the corner, meaning more time angling out in the sun. One feisty fish that’s perfect for the upcoming warm weather is the yellowtail. Learn all about the ins-and-outs of yellowtail fishing in this exclusive iSportsman guide.


Yellowtail can refer to many popular fish that can be found in warm waters around the world—in the United States, they typically live in the Gulf of Mexico (yellowtail snappers) and the southern waters of California (California yellowtail), though they can occasionally reach further north. California yellowtail can potentially be caught throughout the whole year, but they are far easier to find and catch during the warm months.


The beginning of California yellowtail season ranges typically starts in March and lasts through to November; however, the peak season for yellowtail is closer to the middle of the year, from May through September, with the absolute best months being July and August. If you want to catch some yellowtail, you’ll have to work up a sweat in the heat of the summer sun.

Summer months are the best because this is when the water is warmest, and yellowtail tend to hang around closer to the surface, making it much easier to catch them. The optimal temperature for them is somewhere between 62- and 66-degrees Fahrenheit, which makes the southern California coast prime real estate.


When you’re planning your fishing trip, there are a few key factors to take into consideration aside from the month. First, you want to try and get out there during the weekday when there’s less boat pressure. Second, you want to go in the morning or in the afternoon. This is true for many fish, but it’s always important to keep in mind; however, unlike some other fish, yellowtail will still bite in the afternoon when there’s less fishing competition. Even if you don’t get a bite first thing in the morning, don’t give up just yet! Finally, make sure you go when the weather is right. Yellowtail prefer clear water and calm conditions, so try and go on a clear, calm, sunny day (not that I have to convince you).


Now that you know when to fish for yellowtail, here are a few broad tips to keep in mind. Yellowtail can give some pretty good fights, so make sure you use a heavy rod with plenty of strong line. Also, keep an eye out for kelp beds, rocks, and reefs, which are all great feeding grounds for yellowtail. Speaking of feeding, make sure you bring the right bait: yellowtail are carnivorous and prefer live bait such as sardines or anchovies—make sure to keep it lively to attract the most fish.

If you’re looking for a powerful and worthwhile fish to keep you busy during the summer months, make sure to test your mettle against the California yellowtail. If you plan your trip at the right time, head out in optimal conditions, and follow these tips, you’ll hit your daily bag limit in no time.

Learn how to master bluegill fishing on iSportsmanUSA.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.


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