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California yellowtail

Seriola lalandi

What do they look like?

California yellowtail have a blue-indigo spindle-shaped body, with a silver belly and sides. These fish have a narrow bronze stripe down their back, which becomes yellow as it nears their tail. Most if their fins, including their tail fin, are yellow. California yellowtail may grow up to 2.5 meters in length and may weigh up to 36.3 kilograms. The largest recorded individual was caught off Baja California and weighed 41.3 kilograms. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    70 kg
    154.19 lb
  • Average length
    2.5 m
    8.20 ft

Where do they live?

California yellowtail are found along the Eastern Pacific coast, from Southern California to the Baja California Peninsula. ("Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960)

What kind of habitat do they need?

California yellowtail are usually found over rocky reefs, within kelp beds, and around offshore islands. During the summer, California yellowtail can also be found beneath floating kelp paddies off the coast of Southern California and Baja California. These fish may be found at up to 228 m in depth in water temperatures ranging from 18º to 24º Celsius. (Luna and Ortañez, 2008)

  • Range depth
    3 to 825 m
    9.84 to 2706.69 ft

How do they grow?

Fertilized eggs develop into a larval stage that eats plankton and eventually grow into juvenile fish. Older fish may only grow 0.5 to 1 kilograms per year, while younger fish tend to grow 1.5 to 2 kilograms per year. During their first year, California yellowtail average 50.8 centimeters in length and 1.75 kilograms; while at 5 years old, they average 83.82 centimeters in length and 7.25 kilograms; and at 10 years old, they average 111.76 centimeters in length and 16 kilograms. (Baxter, 1960)

How do they reproduce?

California yellowtail are a broadcast spawning species, this means males fertilize eggs after the female releases them. About 30 to 90 minutes before this occurs, males and females have a brief courtship. During the courtship, a male swims beneath a female. The pair swim with sudden bursts of speed and sudden mid-water stalls with their snouts or bodies touching. Ten to fifteen minutes before spawning, the male begins to nip at the female's abdomen, while the female turns on her side and begins to swim in a circular fashion. As the female begins to release eggs, the male follows and releases sperm. Spawning lasts approximately 20 seconds. (Moran, et al., 2007)

California yellowtail spawn every year between December and January, when the water temperature is above 17° Celsius. Females may release up to 150 eggs while spawning, although only about 100 eggs are fertilized at a time. The number of eggs they produce depends on their body size, smaller fish produce about 458,000 eggs each year, while larger fish produce up to 3,914,000 eggs. The eggs begin to hatch about 103 to 108 hours after being fertilized. Directly after hatching, the larvae lack eyes and a fully developed digestive system. Their eyes and digestive system develop about 4 days after hatching, after which, they begin to feed on planktonic organisms. Both males and females are ready to spawn when they are between 2 to 3 years old. Females are mature when they are about 75 centimeters in total length. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; Moran, et al., 2007; Poortennar, et al., 2001)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    California yellowtail spawn once a year.
  • Breeding season
    These fish spawn during the winter, from December to January.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average time to hatching
    105 hours
  • Average time to independence
    4 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 (low) years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 (low) years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years

California yellowtail are broadcast spawners so they show no parental investment in their offspring. (Moran, et al., 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement

How long do they live?

In the wild, California yellowtail likely have a have maximum lifespan of 12 years. Although a longer lifespan is possible, these fish are a prized game species, so many members of this species will not reach an advanced age in the wild. Their average lifespan is 5 to 6 years. ("The status of the California yellowtail resource and its management", 1973; Baxter, 1960)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    unknown years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    12 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    5 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    unknown years

How do they behave?

Schools of California yellowtail migrate along the coastlines of California and Mexico. During the summer, schools migrate south along the coast of the Baja California peninsula. During the winter, they move northwards. California yellowtail are well known around the Channel Islands, but they have been seen farther north near Washington. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010)

Home Range

This species has neither a home range nor a specific territory. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010)

How do they communicate with each other?

California yellowtail have senses similar to most bony fish species such as eyes, nares, lateral line, and ear bones, however, very little specific information is known about how California yellowtail communicate and perceive their environment. Although during courtship these fish communicate their intention to mate by swimming quickly and touching the bodies of other California yellowtail. (Baxter, 1960)

What do they eat?

Larval California yellowtail feed on plankton, while adults are carnivorous predators, known to hunt round herring, sardines, squids, northern anchovies, and California flyingfish. (Baxter, 1960)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

The bluish back and silver-white belly of California yellowtail helps them blend in to avoid predators. Their eggs and larvae are eaten by mollusks, echinoderms, crabs, and fish. Younger fish can be eaten by any animal larger than themselves. Although adults have few predators due to their speed, great white sharks and California sea lions are able to catch and eat them. In addition, humans catch a large number of California yellowtail for recreational and commercial fishing. ("Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960)

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

California yellowtail are predators to many species and act as prey to many larger marine carnivores. These fish may also have over 40 species of parasites on and inside their bodies. (Hutson, 2007; Moran, et al., 2007)

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • Mongenean flatworms (Monogea)
  • trematodes (Trematoda)
  • tapeworms (Cestoda)
  • copepods: Caligus spinosus, Caligus epidemicus

Do they cause problems?

There are no known negative impacts on humans from California yellowtail. They are non-aggressive towards humans.

How do they interact with us?

California yellowtail migrate to the Southern California coast during their spawning season. This creates sport fishing tourism to Baja California to catch this highly prized fish. This species is also raised commercially in Australia. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; Tanner and Fernandes, 2010)

Are they endangered?

California yellowtail may be vulnerable to overfishing. Marine protected areas (MPAs) created in southern California waters protects critical habitat and spawning areas for yellowtail. California Fish and Game regulations have banned gill nets along coastal waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles offshore. However, while it is regulated in California waters, it is not monitored closely in Mexican waters. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012)

Some more information...

California yellowtail have two subspecies: Seriola lalandi dorsalis and Seriola lalandi lalandi. ("California Yellowtail Full Species Report", 2012; "Seriola lalandi", 2010; Baxter, 1960; Poortennar, et al., 2001)


Jose Sandoval (author), San Diego Mesa College, Paul Detwiler (editor), San Diego Mesa College, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


2012. "California Yellowtail Full Species Report" (On-line pdf). Blue Ocean. Accessed October 01, 2013 at

2010. "Seriola lalandi" (On-line). Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed September 11, 2013 at

California Department of Fish and Game. The status of the California yellowtail resource and its management. 16. Long Beach, CA: California Department of Fish and Game. 1973. Accessed September 09, 2013 at

Baxter, J. 1960. "A study of the Yellowtail, Seriola lalandi (Gill)" (On-line). Calisphere. Accessed November 13, 2013 at;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&

Hutson, K. 2007. Parasite interactions between wild and farmed Yellowtail Kingfish (Seriola lalandi) in southern Australia. Adelaide: The University of South Australia. Accessed December 12, 2013 at

Luna, S., A. Ortañez. 2008. "Seriola lalandi" (On-line). Accessed September 10, 2013 at

McGrouther, M. 2012. "Yellowtail Kingfish, Seriola lalandi Valenciennes in Cuvier & Valenciennes, 1833" (On-line). Australian Museum. Accessed September 11, 2013 at

Moran, D., C. Smith, B. Gara, C. Poortennar. 2007. Reproductive behaviour and early development in yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi Valenciennes 1833). Aquaculture, 262(1): 95-104.

Poortennar, C., S. Hooker, N. Sharp. 2001. Assessment of yellowtail kingfish (Seriola lalandi lalandi) reproductive physiology, as a basis for aquaculture development. Aquaculture, 201(3-4): 271-286.

Tanner, J., M. Fernandes. 2010. Environmental effects of yellowtail kingfish aquaculture in South Australia. Aquaculture Environment Interactions, Vol. 1: 155-165. Accessed September 10, 2013 at

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Sandoval, J. 2014. "Seriola lalandi" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 18, 2024 at

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