Home > Saltwater Fishing > The Best Bait for Yellowtail Fishing

The Best Bait for Yellowtail Fishing

The California Yellowtail is one of the most popular fish for anglers on the West Coast. The Yellowtail lives in any water near California. Anglers fish for Yellowtail near Catalina Island, San Clemente Island, and Santa Monica Bay. Areas in Mexico, like the Baja California peninsula, are also popular destinations to hook a Yellowtail.

Yellowtail Kingfish

Yellowtails can weigh up to 50 pounds. They are intelligent and put up a good fight. Fishermen love how challenging they are. 


Another reason sport fishers like fishing for Yellowtail is that they make a tasty meal. California Yellowtail is great for grilling, broiling, baking, and poaching. 


Live Sardines

Fishermen love to use live sardines as bait for Yellowtail. Live sardines need to be strong, fresh, and swim quickly. They must be alive to be effective. Live sardines can be caught wild or bought at bait shops. 


The hook and line you choose will depend on the size of the sardine. Better to go with a smaller fishing hook if you are unsure. The best practice is to ask advice from the deckhand if you are uncertain.

Massive School Of Sardines


Mackerel is another popular bait for Yellowtail. Typically it is used fresh, although you can buy it frozen. Often, anglers use mackerel to top off another bait on the hook, usually worms. The smell of the mackerel draws the Yellowtail to the worm and hook.


You can catch Mackerel using a float, spinning, or feathering. Mackerel is usually fileted or chopped when used as bait. Also, it is sold fresh or frozen at bait shops.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Aaron J Britto (@slopro25)



Sport fishers often use squid when fishing Yellowtail. Yellowtail love to eat squid when they are spawning. Squid is in season in fall and winter, so that is the best time to fish with it. 


You can catch squid in the wild by visiting squid spawning areas at night. You can attain fresh squid by purchasing them from a live-bait fisherman. Live squid is best, but dead fresh or frozen squid can also be used. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Süleyman Dilsiz (@suleymandilsiz)



Red Crabs

Red crabs, or “tuna crabs” often arrive in swarms when the waters are warm. Yellowtails, as well as other fish, love eating them. Red crabs can be caught wild and are best fresh when used as live bait. Some red crab imitation lures are popular with fishermen.


The size of the crab will determine the size of the hook needed. It is important not to crack the carapace when hooking the crab. 


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Abe Rolick (@aberolick)



Cut Bait

Cut bait is fish that is cut into smaller pieces. You can use almost any kind of fish as cut bait. Wild-caught fish or store-bought fish make great cut bait. Soft, oily fish make the best cut bait. 


Pre-cut cut bait can be purchased at bait shops. Frozen cut bait can also be used, buying fresh fish that is still smelly works the best. You can use it by itself or with other bait like worms.

cut mackerel chunks



Anchovies are tiny fish that make great bait for California Yellowtail. Like sardines, anchovies work best as bait when they are life, fresh, and healthy. They can be purchased from bait shops as live bait or frozen. You can catch anchovies living in the wild as well. 


Anchovies will need a small-sized hook. Fishermen often use anchovies for flylineing. Anchovies are also great for trolling to attract Yellowtails.

anchovies for bait


Final Thoughts

There are many options when it comes to bait for catching Yellowtail. They are all baits that Yellowtails are attracted to and love eating.


You can’t go wrong with any of these suggested baits, whether you choose sardines or anchovies, crabs or squid, cut or whole. You need to use the correct hook size and baiting method for each kind of bait, so ask a deckhand if you are unsure. 


For more information about the best baits to use for Yellowtail and other fish, check out this article.

Add comment