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Fishing for Yellowtail in California


Yellowtail! When the first yellowtail schools show up off Southern California in the early spring, fishing blood starts to boil. We share the excitement of yellowtail fever and we have everything you need to connect with big forktailed beauties that know how to make a mockery of those who enter battle unprepared.

California yellowtail are a coastal pelagic that can migrate hundreds of miles and once they appear in local waters the action lasts well into the fall.

yellowtail kingfish

Yellowtail Fishing Tips

While yellowtail push bait to the surface and can be caught up top, often the schools are mainly deep and show best on the sonar. That’s the time to toss out those painted 3- to 8-ounce elongated spheres of heavy metal known as the yo-yo iron. The name comes from the method used to fish the jigs and it is a simple way for any angler to deck their share of yellowtail.


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The technique starts by letting the jig drop to the bottom (if there is any bottom, at least a 100 count if not) before winding the lure back to the boat as fast as you can. You can even throw in some Baja-style rod action if you like. The pangeros south of the border will wind the tip of the rod down to the water and then rip the rod up to eye level in order to impart more speed and action to the lure. Wind down and repeat.


You might feel like your arm is going to wear out, but a good high-speed reel does most of the work these days. Just relax and keep the lure moving like a baitfish or squid fleeing pursuit. There’s a payoff when a yellowtail catches its prey – no matter how many times you’ve experienced it, there’s nothing like the pure surprise and joy the moment a yellowtail stops the jig colder than a crash car dummy hitting a brick wall.


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You can find online a complete selection of strong, high speed reels and and medium-heavy rods perfect for yo-yo fishing and can easily get you set up. (The bonus is the same outfit can be used for a heavy live bait setup for yellows.

Jigging for Yellowtail

Another yellowtail jigging technique brought over from Japan (where fishing for yellowtail is very popular) in recent years uses a different lure design and a specialize, softer rod. The technique is based on a jig with a counterweighted, asymmetrical design that creates an exaggerated flutter as the rod tip is lifted and dropped during the retrieve.

The flash and action of both techniques attract lots of bites from top to bottom, although most of the bites on the yo-yo and flutter jigs come in the the lower two-thirds of the water column. So spare yourself some grinding through empty water and let the lure drop back down before you reel it all the way back to the boat.

Lures for Yellowtail

The colors, sizes and styles of jigs that work the best during any given season can change depending on what kind of forage the yellowtail are locked onto. For instance, brown,yellow and white jigs (scrambled egg) are usually very good any time squid is the main feed. Our experts here at fishmasters have the latest information on the bite and can point you to the hot lures and colors.

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