Tips for the best tuna fishing experience in California

Southern California is known for Hollywood movie stars, the beach boys, and surfing, right? Sure, but it’s also California’s gateway to tuna fishing. Here’s what you need to know to have a great tuna fishing experience in Southern California!

1. Check out the best times for tuna fishing

Tuna fishing in Southern California begins in May and lasts through November. Summer weather patterns bring smooth sea and warm water. The main months for tuna fishing in California are July, August, and September.

2. Check what types of fish you can catch

For the past three years, tuna fishing in Southern California has been about the hot, Pacific bluefin tuna bite. Most of these species of fish weigh over 100 pounds, with the record standing at 363 pounds. Yellowfin tuna is another popular species of fish, largely because the limit is a generous 10 fish a day. Bigeye tuna in the 50-100 pound range is caught in deeper water with the help of tuna fishing reels, and if you are far offshore you can catch albacore tuna species.

3. Practice different methods of tuna fishing

Tuna fishing in California is usually a combination of studying sonar marks and water temperatures, looking for diving birds or porpoises, and trolling devices. Common tuna fishing tips include trolling tuna bait like cedar plugs, rock bait, or scuba diving until a fish is hit. Then the boats drift while the buddies put on buddy slicks. When the fish are focused, anglers throw plugs, flies, or live bait like sardines into the pod. Other methods include yo-yo fishing. When marking a school on your fish finder, drop your template through the markings and the vertical template at that depth.

4. Check your drag

If you’ve never caught a tuna before making sure you invest in a good reel, this is the way to go. One of the reasons we love tuna fishing so much is because they make long, sizzling runs that make the pulling reels sing. Tuna fishing reels should hold plenty of line, have strong, steady trolls, and good gear ratios so you can pick up a lot of line with each crank on your handle. After a couple of long runs, the tuna gets tired and begins to circle. That is the clue that comrades are looking for to get them on board.

This summer, find out about California fishing regulations in the state and take a serious California tuna fishing trip. You can swing past Hollywood after you catch up with them.

Tom Keer

Tom Keer is an award-winning writer living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He is a columnist for the Upland Almanac, a contributing writer for Covey Rise magazine, a contributing editor for Fly Rod and Reel and Fly Fish America, and a blogger for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation’s Take Me Fishing program. Keer is a regular contributor to over a dozen outdoor magazines on topics including fishing, hunting, boating, and other outdoor activities. When not fishing, Keer and his family hunt highland birds over their three English setters. His first book, A New England Coast Fly Fishing Guide, was published in January 2011. Visit him at or


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