Offshore fishing in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, call some of the most notable tuna species home. Tuna fishing can be done in various ways in the gulf stream waters that extend far beyond the shoreline. Large vessels and heavy equipment are necessary to land these three types of tuna. For some, the question always remains, what is the difference between blackfin vs Bluefin vs yellowfin tuna?

Blackfin Tuna

The blackfin is the smallest of the three types of tuna that we are comparing. They are often found in schools, which means that multiple hookups can occur at one time. 

What is the range of a Blackfin Tuna?

In the waters off of the United States, the Blackfin Tuna can be found from down in South Florida all the way up to Cape Cod. 

How to identify a Blackfin Tuna?

For some, distinguishing a Blackfin Tuna from a Yellowfin Tuna can be a challenge. The blackfin has very dark coloration, particularly on the top of the fish. Just below the black upper portion is a bronze stripe that runs from the head to the tail. One of the easiest ways to identify the difference between the yellowfin and blackfin is the bronze stripe. A yellowfin will have a yellow-colored line. Lastly, the fins of the blackfin are dark. 

How big do Blackfin Tuna grow?

Although they are the smallest, they put up a big fight. Most often, blackfin is caught between two and twenty pounds but can exceed 40 pounds. 

How is Blackfin Tuna Caught?

Most blackfin is caught by trolling small lures at the surface. Trolling lures with feathers are particularly good in addition to rigging strips and ballyhoo. Some anglers prefer to chum them up to the boat and use live bait or cast lures. 

Yellowfin Tuna

Most who prefer seafood on a restaurant menu or visit the local seafood market have heard of Ahi tuna. The fish you’re ordering at the restaurant or purchasing at the market is from a Yellowfin Tuna. Needles to say, the fillets or tuna steaks are of top quality. 

What is the range of a Yellowfin Tuna?

When it comes to the range of a yellowfin tuna, it is similar to that of a blackfin. This type of tuna is found from New England to South Florida. 

How to identify a Yellowfin Tuna?

The coloration of the main body of the fish near the dorsal fin is bluish in appearance. Just below is a yellow stripe that extends from one end to the other end of the tuna. One of the most notable features of a yellowfin tuna is the anal fins and second dorsal fin. These fins are very long and half-moon shaped. 

How big do Yellowfin Tuna grow?

A yellowfin tuna is the second largest of the three compared. The “schoolies,” which are the fish that form large groups, are most often between five pounds but also gather in clusters up to 100 pounds. They do grow much larger. They are frequently encountered weighing in at over 300 pounds. 

How is Yellowfin Tuna Caught?

The best approach to catching yellowfin tuna is one of two ways. The first is trolling in offshore waters with rigged baits or lures. The second is by anchoring near a deep reef and throwing live bait into the water to attract yellowfin. Once they have arrived, rig a live bait or cast a lure into the feeding tuna school. 

Bluefin Tuna

The bluefin tuna is often referred to as the giant tuna because it grows so large. Anglers must be prepared to fight this fish if a large bluefin is hooked and be prepared to handle it boat side. However, they are also abundant in smaller sizes. 

What is the range of a Bluefin Tuna?

This type of tuna can be caught between Newfoundland through South Florida but has a higher population off of the North Carolina coastline. 

How to identify a Bluefin Tuna?

When it comes to coloration, the fins of a bluefin tuna are based on the name each of the fins are blue. The upper parts of the body are dark blue, while the lower areas are silver in color. 

How big do Bluefin Tuna grow?

Like the yellowfin, the schooling sized bluefin are in the five to one hundred pound range therefore the range varies significantly. The larger Bluefin exceeds 500 pounds and has been caught at well over 1,000 pounds. 

How is Bluefin Tuna Caught?

The smaller schooling bluefin is also caught by trolling small lures or rigged baits. If you’re targeting larger tuna, troll the same style of lure but larger. For rigged baits when in search of giant tuna, rig a large mackerel. The second method is by chumming with cut-up fish to draw them close to the boat. Add a piece of cut fish on the hook and hang on. 

So what is the most sought-after tuna out of the three?

The question is difficult to answer because of the challenges and benefits of each. If you’re looking for a battle, they are all tough fighters, but the bluefin will top them all. Keep in mind that the bluefin can be the most difficult to find. The yellowfin and bluefin would be very close regarding eating quality, with the bluefin slightly edging the other out. One of the easiest to locate when fishing offshore is the blackfin. The blackfin meat is not as high in quality but also not far off. Pick a location and fishing charter that will seek out the type of tuna you are after but remember you may have to select certain southern states depending on what you want to catch.