Game Fishing > Saltwater Fish > Yellow Tail fish

Yellow Tail fish

Yellow Tail fishThe Pacific Coast is rich in game fish, or rather rich in anglers who, at all times, prefer to catch their quarry by game methods, and no fish is more popular or more deserving of that name than the lively and powerful yellow tail, or amber fish.

Everybody takes a hand in the fun when the first great school comes up in the Bay of Avalon, about the first of April. Not all fish with rod and reel; hand lines are much in evidence, as the fish size is a large one, requiring great strength to hold, the average being twenty-five pounds, some running up to eighty pounds. The tyro will find he is soon to be engaged with a tackle smasher, in fact rod smashing is the rule unless they are wielded by old or experienced hands.

The beautiful bay may be as calm as a mirror, when, all at once, a big school appears chasing the smelts right on to the beach, breaking up the water into a mass of foam. Scores of boats put out among them, and excitement reigns supreme, for the yellow tail is a fighter, a veritable "blue-fish" in shape and pugnacity, the true type of a real game fish. Its most conspicuous feature is the powerful forked tail of a vivid yellow, which is carried out in a stripe along the middle of the body, the back and upper sides are a rich olive brown in the water, changing in the sunlight to a bright iridescent blue, the lower part being of a pearly silver. Yellow tails are voracious feeders, devouring immense numbers of smelts, flying fish, anchovies, and sardines.

They are often attracted and kept along­side the boat by "chumming" in both trolling and casting, or drifting. Like many other fish in this locality they arrive about the month of May in large schools, and then break up into small companies, of greater or less numbers, running North as far as Santa Barbara, and South as far as the shallow bays of lower California.

Many anglers make a visit to the Islands Santa Catalina and San Clemente, on purpose to get acquainted with larger game, but if the season permits they rarely go away without trying conclusions with the yellow tail and they are not disappointed in the result. For that reason a typical style of boat and boat­man has developed specially adapted for this fishing.

Gasoline launches from sixteen to twenty feet are run by the boatman who acts as engineer, guide, and gaffer; the boat has two chair seats at and facing the stern, though the angler may play the fish standing should he prefer or work better that way. The tackle used is similar to that suited to tuna fishing; the rod not longer than eight feet, weighing not over twenty-five ounces, the line being a No. 15, or in some instances a 12­strand Cuttyhunk from 300 to 400 feet long.

The bait is either a smelt or sardine from four to six inches in length. To bait it, the hook is entered at the mouth coming out at the gill; then turned it is embedded in the belly of the fish, so that the entire hook, except the shank, is hidden.

The mouth is then wound with a five-inch fine silver wire attached to the hook, which prevents the bait from whirling too rapidly. At times fish of exceptionally large size may be taken on a flying fish. The bait is then cast, and about fifty or sixty feet of line unreeled, and the launch kept moving slowly near the sea-weeds.

The fishing is best in the morning, from sunrise to midday, and on a flood tide. At the first sound of the reel, the boatman stops the engine, the fish at once turning the boat around, rushing here and there in frantic efforts to escape; so powerful are these lunges at times, that the angler is forced to give line, or the tackle goes. If the angler can withstand it, then the rod is too stiff for the code which holds and is most in favor with members of angling clubs.

The line is kept taut, reeled in when chance is given; if it is impossible to reel, a series of short "pumps" is tried. This ingenious device is used with effect in all game fishing. "Pumping" is done by raising the rod slowly; then it is suddenly dropped, and the slack line Pumping rapidly reeled; this method repeated, gradually gams the day, and the fish is brought up. The yellow tail makes many rushes, and "pumping" comes into play each time; it is gamy to the last, up to the time the gaff enters its throat, and even after it is lifted into the boat. At times the fish is a coy biter; then "chummirrg" is the order of fishing; but when it is once persuaded sport is assured.

Being one of the commonest fishes of the Pacific Coast the yellow tail is rarely eaten; those weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds, if properly cooked, are excellent eating, though the larger ones are somewhat tough. There is another genus called the amber jack, common on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and plentiful in the vicinity of Palm Beach; it is caught weighing from forty up to one hundred pounds, and is also a vigorous fighter; but the medium-sized fish are the hardest fighters; this may be said of all game fishes in fresh as well as salt water, naturally the heavy fish not having the activity and snap of the younger specimens.