How to Catch Tuna: 14 Tuna Fishing Tips for Beginners [2022 Update]


Updated on September 19, 2022 by

At over 3 feet in length, big game tuna are one of my favorite fish to target. They give a big fight, are active to look for, and are great to eat. These tuna fishing tips will give you the best information to have a successful adventure and get more big fish into your boat.

Schools of tuna can be hundreds of individual fish so you won’t be looking for individuals in the wide blue sea.

I don’t know if it is the power they exhibit as they take your bait or the sight they make when they jump out of the water, but big tuna would have to be one of the funnest fish to catch. While some prefer the calm of bass fishing or the wilderness of salmon fishing, it is hard to beat the feeling when you hook a 200 lb tuna.

Big yellowfin tuna can exceed 300 pounds, so make sure your gear is big enough for that monster you may be lucky to hook.

Tuna Fishing Tips

Species of Tuna

There are 8 ‘true’ species of tuna, which include:

  1. Albacore
  2. Southern Bluefin
  3. Bigeye
  4. Pacific Bluefin
  5. Atlantic Bluefin
  6. Blackfin
  7. Longtail
  8. Yellowfin

17 Tuna Fishing Tips
Beginner Saltwater Fishing Tips [2...
Beginner Saltwater Fishing Tips [2022 Update]

1. Look for Birds

This often highlights a bait ball that tuna feeding under the water has created. This is a great place to try your luck to hook some big tuna. Find the birds and the fish won’t be far away.

birds diving can indicate tuna are chasing a bait ball

2. Plan for Multiple Hookups

Tuna have large schools, and you can often get multiple people hooking up simultaneously. Make sure you plan for what to do when this happens, so you don’t lose both fish.

3. Move with the School

Tuna schools are very mobile and can often disappear at a moment’s notice, so be ready to move as soon as they vanish – they won’t be far away, so keep your eyes open.

4. Crank Fast

Retrieve your lure as fast as possible – you won’t be able to retrieve it faster than a tuna can swim!

5. Look for Bait Balls

Keep one eye on your fish finder – the bait ball might not be visible on the surface.

bait ball being chased by schools of una

6. Use Heavy Gear

Tuna can grow over 300 pounds in size (a lot over!), so make sure you have heavy gear ready to go.

You will need a serious offshore reel with 35-60 pounds of drag. We recommend 60-80 pound braid fishing line with 6 feet of 80-pound flourocarbon leader. Fluoro blends in with the water and gives the fish less chance of being scared by the line.

7. Match the Bait

Match the bait – try a lure that mimics the size and color of the bait the tuna are chasing or the fish might ignore you.

multiple tuna trolling lures lined up

8. Trolling Speed

Trolling over and around bait balls can be very successful, particularly for big tuna. The ideal speed is 6 to 8 knots, but it’s best to slow down to 5½ to 6½ knots for deeper water

9. Follow the Migration

Tuna are a migratory species, so make sure you are fishing at the right time of year for your particular location. The best time to catch tuna around the United States seaboard is:

  • Atlantic bluefin tuna – June to November
  • Pacific bluefin tuna – May to October
  • Yellowfin tuna – June to September

10. Mix Up Your Lures

Artificial squid-like lures with colorful skirts are a tuna favorite, but mix it up until you find something they are looking for – so keep various colors and sizes in your tackle box.

11. Try Fresh Bait

Fresh bait is also a good option. The best fresh bait for tuna is squid, mackerel, herring, butterfish, sardines, or skipjack. The key is to hide the hook.

If the area looks like tuna territory, but you can’t see any bait balls, then chum with cut-up butterfish – this is called chunking for tuna

12. Avoid Windy Days

High wind and rough seas can scare off the fish as much as they scare off the angler.

13. Hide Your Leader

Tuna have great eyesight and can be scared off by thick metal leaders, so adjust accordingly.

14. Release Quickly

Tuna do not survive for long outside of the water, so if you aren’t intending to keep your catch, then get it back into the water as quickly as possible.

Tuna Fishing Tips Video

The video below gives some good tuna fishing advice for Northern Bluefin:

Recommended Tuna Big Game Lures

These lures have a variety of colorful skirts that will catch the tuna’s attention. Change the colors frequently until you find something the fish are hunting for – a big idea is to try and match the bait the tuna are chasing.

These lures are particularly effective for big game fish. You might want to scale down your bait if you are chasing smaller tuna.

We have put together a full post dedicated to tuna lures that you might like here.

An example of a laser pro lure I have used for tuna
An example of a laser pro lure I have used for tuna

Conclusion

In conclusion, Tuna is one of the world’s favorite fish to eat and catch. They can grow to massive sizes and put up a huge fight, giving them a reputation as big game fish.

I have caught a lot of tuna in my time and love the excitement of spotting a bait ball and the birds diving and knowing that I will have a fight on my hands and fish in the boat in a few minutes.

There are plenty of other tips, so read as much as possible to give yourself enough knowledge to make the best decisions when you are out on the boat.

If you have any tips to share with the fishing community, please leave a comment below. I hope we can make all tuna fishermen more successful.

Finally, I have written a guide on other saltwater fish species in the USA that you might find interesting.

Happy fishing!


Photo of author

Captain Russ Egan

Captain Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.