Creature Feature: Albacore Tuna

albacore tunaAlbacore tuna range worldwide in temperate seas, and may be found coastwide off California at different times of the year. It is most frequently found in the upper layers of ocean waters, but will occasionally explore deeper, colder water in search of prey.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Dark gray to metallic blue to almost black on the back, becoming white to gray below.
  • Body tapers at both ends.
  • Head long, mouth fairly large.
  • Pectoral fin extends well beyond anal fin.
  • Can be distinguished from bigeye or yellowfin tuna by comparing livers upon cleaning; albacore tuna liver is heavily striated (covered with blood vessels).
  • Only tuna with both very long pectoral fins and a heavily striated liver.

Life History & Other Notes
Albacore tuna seek out various prey depending upon where the fish are located and what is available. They seem to prefer small fishes, but will also take octopus, squid, and invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs.

This tuna most likely spawns in the mid-Pacific during late summer. Off central and southern California, they are usually found 20 to 100 miles offshore, when water temperatures reach 60° to 64° F. They are rarely taken near shore.

Albacore tuna travel in loosely knit schools that can be located by trolling or observing surface signs (such as feeding birds). Once located, they are fished with hook and line using live anchovies for bait, or by trolling feathered jigs.

 Albacore Tuna Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Thunnus alalunga

Other Common Names: longfin tuna, albie

Range & Habitat: Statewide, but usually off central and southern California 20-100 miles offshore

Length & Weight: To 5 ft. and 90 lb.

Life Span: To ~10 years

Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on fishes, squid, octopus, shrimp, crab. Try live anchovies or sauries for bait, or troll a feathered jig

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book. Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to