The Outer Banks are known for its offshore fishing and yellowfin tuna are one of the most sought after species. Yellowfin tuna landed on the Outer Banks are smaller than their cousins the bluefin tuna. They are highly prized for their flesh which is wonderful grilled, sashimi or sushi.

Yellowfin are mid-sized tuna and are named by their yellow fins. They are highly migratory and roam the world’s ocean in tropical and sub tropical waters. They have a metallic, dark blue back with yellow to silver bellies. They, like all tunas, are extremely streamed line to aide them in their continuous travels.

April, May and June are prime times for yellowfin tuna, but yellowfin are caught all summer long into the fall. The standard method for catching yellowfin is trolling a rigged small bait fish like ballyhoo. Boats will troll 8 to 10 lines at a time trying to imitate a small school of bait fish and as yellowfin are schooling fish it is not uncommon to hook more than one fish at a time. Landing one of these hard-fighting fish will test any anglers skill and stamina. Current regulations also require anglers to keep three per person, per day.

All the offshore charter boats in Dare County are excellent at targeting yellowfin tuna. Before booking a trip, do your research, and make sure the vessel you are chartering is an offshore specialist.

The side bar below has a few suggestions on proper handling of your catch. Also check with your marina, and see if they can recommend a vacuum bag service — or a service that can vacuum pack your catch. This is the best way for long term storage of your catch.

If fishing is not your game and you want to enjoy some fresh yellowfin tuna, almost every restaurant serves tuna. Make sure it’s fresh, local caught, as it is the best. Local seafood markets carry fresh local, as well. Most grocery stores do not carry fresh local so beside to ask — insist on fresh local. When grilling at home or ordering in a restaurant, the best way to enjoy yellowfin is cooked medium-rare or no more than medium. Steaks cooked more than that will lose their wonderful flavor.

Fishing Licenses

North Carolina requires a Coastal Recreational Fishing License for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Most charter boats have blanket fishing licenses that cover all of their anglers, but check in advance to be sure. Annual or 10-day licenses are available at, at many local tackle shops (see the list online) or by calling (888) 248-6834 (Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Size, bag limits

To see the most recent size and bag limits go to On the right side, under Hot Topics, click on “Recreational Size and Creel Limits.”

Tackle shops and marinas are super resources for information. They have the current scoop and are more than happy to help you get rigged up or plan a charter fishing trip.

Get outside and enjoy the fishing, and remember that the supply is not endless — so only harvest what you need.

Capt. Brian Horsley is recognized as pioneer of salt water fly fishing in the Mid-Atlantic region. A published author and photographer, he and his wife, Capt. Sarah Gardner, own and operate Outer Banks Fly Fishing and Light Tackle Charters (


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