Bluefin Tuna Fishing Guide: How to Catch Thunnus thynnus

How to Catch BLUEFIN Tuna (Recommended Gear)

Bluefin tuna fishing has a special place in the hearts of all Southern California anglers.

This torpedo of muscle puts up a powerful fight both on rod and reel and spearfishing.

Considered to be the one of the best tuna fish by veteran anglers, this powerful fish will give you one heck of a fight if you manage to hook it.

Let’s learn how you can catch it too!

Recommended Bluefin Tuna Gear:

For smaller tuna up to 70 pounds

For larger tuna

Listen to more tuna fishing tips on the Cast & Spear Podcast


Also known as the northern bluefin tuna, tunny, and giant bluefin tuna, this fish has a conical head and a rather largemouth. This species of tuna is made for speed and can live up to 40 years hunting and feeding on schools of herring, mackerel, and even eels.

Considered by some as the best tuna, this fish hunts by sight and is known for having the sharpest vision of any bony fish.

bluefin tuna fishing japanese tuna auction
Bluefin tuna at the Japanese tuna auction. Source: Nate Gray

The back of the fish is dark blue or black and it has silvery sides. The second dorsal fin is larger than the first one and is usually reddish-brown in color. The best tuna of them all, the meat of the bluefin is dark red and is known for being fatty but flavorful.

Bluefin Tuna Facts

Scientific NameThunnus thynnus
Common Name(s)Bluefin Tuna
Identifying CharacteristicsThe back of the fish is dark blue or black and it has silvery low sides
Depth RangeSurface to 1000 m
HabitatCan be found in the Pacific, Mediterranean and Western Atlantic ocean.
LimitsCheck your local regulations
Largest Recorded1,496 pounds

Bluefin Tuna Habitat

Giant bluefin tuna are usually found swimming 100 feet below the surface of the ocean. They spend most of their time on the outer banks where they hunt for bluefish and other small baitfish.

How to Catch Bluefin Tuna

Before going on a bluefin tuna fishing trip, make sure you have the right bluefin tuna gear to overcome this gorgeous monster fish. Use a short and heavy action rod that has a heavy-duty spinning reel that can withstand 50 lb of drag.

how to catch bluefin tuna from boat
Imagine pulling up this giant’s tail. Source: Bill Brine

If you are topwater fishing, rig the reel with a 65 lb to 80 lb braided line depending on the weight of the fish. Use a 40 lb to 100+ lb fluorocarbon bite leaders. The bluefin will find any weak link and snap it like a twig so double-check everything before your lines go into the water.

Plus, stock custom big game lures such as 9” plugs and 12 oz jigs. Use 3/0 to 5/0 circle hooks instead of treble ones when fishing live bait.

Bluefin Tuna Fishing Tactics

  • When you get a hit, wait for your rod to bend before setting the hook and prepare to lose over 300 yards of line before you can start to reel it in.
  • Don’t allow the bluefin to run for too long. If you do, it will get water in its gills and come back fighting stronger than ever. Keep the pressure on to increase your chances of a faster catch.

Bluefin Tuna Fishing Tips

  1. Figure out the type of bait you should use by checking the contents of the stomach of the first bluefin you catch. Maximize your chances of success by customizing your lure according to the color and size of the bait.
  2. Once you hook a bluefin, don’t panic! Settle into the battle and let the fish run if it wants to and tire itself out before you reel it in.

Bluefin Tuna Season

The first bluefin starts appearing in around November depending on water temperatures and can stick around until May. During tuna season, the tuna can be found inshore and as near as 10 miles from the beach. You can also take the tuna in over 100 feet of water between November and December.

Yet, the late tuna fishing season is the best time to catch these beauties i.e. between February and April. That is when the giant bluefin appears offshore and you may have to travel about 50 miles to find some.

How to Clean Bluefin Tuna

Fish Filleting- Bluefin Tuna
  1. Cut behind the head at a 45° angle to save as much meat as you can.
  2. Make a cut about 2 inches deep along the backbone.
  3. Cut across the body of the tuna near the tail and then make a 2 inches deep cut in the center of the belly.
  4. Enlarge the cuts made in the back and the belly to the backbone and repeat on the other side.
  5. Make another cut down the length to the backbone and just above the lateral line on the side.
  6. Free the top loin by cutting off the flesh from the body.
  7. Make another cut down below the lateral line down the side of the fish. Take off the lower loin from the body and make a finger hole through the flesh and skin and hold it while you cut.
  8. Flip the loin on the cutting surface skin down and remove it by running your knife between the skin and the flesh.
  9. Remove and discard blood lined meat and cut each loin into steaks.

How to Cook Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin Tuna Recipe

  • Mix 2 handfuls of fresh cilantro, grated ginger, garlic, the juice of 2 limes, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl.
  • Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Season the tuna with salt and pepper and lay it in the hot oil.
  • Sear for 1 minute on each side till it forms a crust.
  • Pour the cilantro mixture on top and serve with sliced avocado.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do bluefin tuna eat?

A: Bluefins are predators and usually hunt for smaller fish such as sardines, herring, and mackerel. It has also been known to eat invertebrates such as crustaceans and fish.

Q: What gives the bluefin tuna its strength?

A: The bluefin has a lot of muscular strength which it channels through a pair of tendons to its caudal fins that it uses to propel itself forward.

Q: Why are bluefin tuna endangered?

A: The Atlantic bluefin tuna is the largest tuna species that is endangered because of massive overfishing.

Insider Advice

These bluefin tuna techniques should help you to locate and hook this elusive and powerful fish. Just don’t expect to land whoppers right away. They are a powerful fish and take practice to actually land them.

They are also hard to find, so make sure you have deep pockets for gas!

If you have some tips and strategies that worked well for you to share them in the comment section and do share this guide if you liked it.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

Johanes Godoy

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Articles » Fish Guides » Saltwater Fish » Bluefin Tuna Fishing Guide: How to Catch Thunnus thynnus