California Yellowtail
Seriola lalandi

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.

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