Southern Yellowtail: The Sleek and Swift Game Fish of the South

Kristian Ole


The world of game fish species is yours to explore. There is something inherently alluring about these creatures, whether you are an avid angler or fascinated by the underwater world.

Today, we’ll delve into the Southern Yellowtail, a well-liked game fish living off Mexico and California’s coasts. The Southern Yellowtail is a prized catch for many fishermen due to its sleek appearance and impressive fighting ability. But this species is more complex than it first appears.

Join us as we examine this fascinating game fish’s traits, habitat, food, threats, and conservation status, along with some interesting facts that will surely surprise you.


SpeciesS. lalandi

World Record

152.00 kg (114 lb 10 oz)David LugtonWhite Island, New Zealand09. Jan 1987
152.00 kg (114 lb 10 oz)Mike GodfreyTauranga, New Zealand05. Fab 1984

Characteristics & Appearance

The striking game fish, the Southern Yellowtail, also called the Yellowtail Amberjack, is easily recognized by its elongated body, sleek appearance, and vivid yellow coloration on its sides and belly. Its body starts out with a dark blue or greenish-blue hue up top, and as it moves toward the belly, the color changes to silver or white.

This species, with females, typically larger than males, can reach lengths of up to 98 inches (250 cm) and weights of up to 114 pounds (52 kg). Because of its streamlined body, pointed head, and short tail, it can swim at incredible speeds. The Southern Yellowtail is difficult for anglers to land because of its exceptional strength and agility.

Large eyes that are adapted to the Southern Yellowtail’s deep-water habitat are one of its distinguishing characteristics. As a result, the fish can see better in low light and locate their prey. Its razor-sharp teeth, which are used to catch and eat a variety of prey, including smaller fish and squid, are another distinguishing feature.

Fun Fact

The Southern Yellowtail has a fascinating hunting strategy that involves collaboration with other fish species. In order to corral and catch schools of small baitfish, Southern Yellowtail have been seen swimming in coordinated groups with other predatory fish like bonito and barracuda. “Bait balling,” a cooperative hunting technique, is a striking illustration of the Southern Yellowtail’s intelligence and adaptability.


Along the western coasts of North and South America, the Pacific Ocean is where the Southern Yellowtail is primarily found. Its range reaches south of Peru from central California in the United States to Baja California in Mexico.

Although it can occasionally be found in shallower waters close to the shore, this species is typically found in deep offshore waters between 60 and 500 feet deep. The Southern Yellowtail prefers rocky reefs and kelp beds because they offer an environment conducive to hunting and predator protection.

In search of food during the summer, Southern Yellowtail move to deeper, cooler waters, frequently gathering in large schools. They frequently remain nearer the shore in the winter because warmer waters are there.

Food & Diet

An opportunistic predator, the Southern Yellowtail consumes a variety of prey depending on availability and habitat. Smaller fish like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel, as well as squid and crustaceans, make up the majority of its diet.

This species can swim quickly and pursue its prey at a high rate of speed. It is designed to catch and eat a variety of prey thanks to its strong jaws and sharp teeth.

The abundance of food sources in the Southern Yellowtail’s habitat also impacts its feeding behaviors. Fish may feed in shallower waters and closer to the surface during the summer when the water is warmer. The Southern Yellowtail will migrate to deeper waters in search of prey during the winter when food sources are more limited.

Threats & Predators

In its natural environment, the southern yellowtail faces a variety of dangers and predators. Overfishing is one of the main threats to this species because it is a popular game fish and has economic value in some places. This has caused population sizes in some areas to decline.

The Southern Yellowtail faces natural predators like sharks and bigger fish in addition to human activities. The population size of the Southern Yellowtail can be significantly impacted by these predators, especially in regions where its numbers have already declined as a result of overfishing.

Changes in the Southern Yellowtail’s habitat brought on by climatic events like El Nio and La Nia are another potential threat. These occurrences may result in changes in water temperature and currents, which may impact the Southern Yellowtail’s ability to find food sources and its reproductive habits.

Related game fish: The Cobia


About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

Leave a Comment