Physical Description

  • Large fish, about 6 feet long and up to 90 pounds.
  • Blue upper body, silver belly, bronze lateral stripe. Blue and silver color helps them camouflage from predators.
  • Gets its name from its yellow tail. Also has yellow fins.


  • From southern Washington to Mazatlan, Mexico, including the Gulf of California.
  • Most commonly encountered from Point Conception, California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.


  • Live near rocky reefs, kelp beds, and offshore islands.


  • Females can spawn at 2-3 years old.
  • Younger females spawn once per spawning season (June to October), while older females can spawn multiple times per season.
  • Females release about 150 eggs at a time, but only 100 are fertilized.
  • Yellowtail reproduce by broadcast spawning, where the eggs and sperm are released into the water.


  • Mackerel, sardines, squid, anchovies, and California flying fish.


  • Yellowtail eggs are eaten by mollusks, echinoderms, crabs, and fish.
  • Subadults are eaten by striped marlin in drift kelp.
  • Yellowtail adults are eaten by mako sharks, California sea lions, and humans.

Interesting Facts

  • There are over 40 species of symbiotic parasites that live on the gills and in the guts of yellowtail.
  • You may have eaten raw yellowtail in sushi, where it is known instead as hamachi.

Sources: California Sea Grant; Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Photo: David R. Andrew

Scripps scientists Stuart Sandin and Noah Ben-Aderet embarked on a large cooperative project with yellowtail fishermen, where fish were tagged and tracked, and fishermen reported any fish caught wearing a tag. This ambitious tagging project helped determine that there is a yearlong resident population of California yellowtail in San Diego.