Ahi (Yellowfin Tuna)



You can expect to catch 4-5 separate species of tuna off Maui, but the only one that consistently gets bigger than 30 or so pounds is the Yellowfin Tuna or Ahi. Ahi means fire in Hawaiian, in reference to what happened to Hawaiians in olden times when fishing from outrigger canoes. The line would go out so fast over the side, it would smoke the sides of the canoe. Ahi are as prized a food fish as it is a sport fish. A hundred and fifty-pound Ahi can spool 775 yards of line off your reel on its initial run if you aren't careful. Spring and summer is generally Ahi time in Hawaii, but like all our game fish can be caught year-round. Ahi are caught trolling lures and with live bait.

Family: Scombridae (Mackerel and Tunas)

Genus and Species: Thunnus albacares

Description: The body of the Yellowfin tuna tapers at both ends (cigar-shaped), and the head is conical. The color is dark brownish blue to dark yellow on the back becoming gray or whitish below. Identifying tunas can be difficult, especially when Yellowfin and bigeye tuna are involved. In most cases, the length of the pectoral fins can distinguish each species. The Yellowfin has pectoral fins which do not extend past the anal fin; while in bigeye, the pectoral fins extend well past the anal fin. Tuna which cannot be distinguished by external characteristics can be positively identified by liver characteristics. The surface of a Yellowfin's liver is smooth while the liver of the bigeye is striated, containing many with small blood vessels along the trailing edge.

Range: Widely distributed in the Pacific Ocean. In the eastern Pacific, Yellowfin tuna occur from Chile to Point Buchon, California. They occasionally enter California waters when ocean temperatures are warm. They usually are not taken in waters less than 70° F with best catches occurring in waters above 74° F.

Natural History: The diet of the Yellowfin tuna includes juvenile fishes, crustaceans, and squid. They are opportunistic feeders taking whatever is most available in the area. Yellowfin tuna do not spawn off the coast of California; however, they do spawn further south in the eastern Pacific. Some spawning takes place during every month of the year, but off Central America it peaks during January and February. Young fish grow very rapidly and by the time they are 1.5 years old they weigh around 7.5 pounds. At 4 years old they weigh approximately 150 pounds. The largest Yellowfin tuna taken are 10 or more years old. These larger fish sometimes have an elongated second dorsal fin.

Fishing Information: Yellowfin tuna are fished in much the same manner as our other gamefish. Most Yellowfin tuna taken in Hawaii weigh 30 to 150 pounds, fish over 200 pounds are occasionally landed. The smaller fish are 1 to 2 years old while the larger ones may be over 10 years of age.

Other Common Names: Allison tuna, Ahi, Pacific Yellowfin and Bigeye Yellowfin Tuna.

Largest recorded: Weight to 450 pounds.

Source: Marine Sportfish Identification, California Department of Fish and Game, 1987

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