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Blackfin Tuna Basics

Despite being smaller than bluefin and yellowfin, blackfin tuna are hard fighting fish for their size. (Photo courtesy of FloridaSportsman.com)
Despite being smaller than bluefin and yellowfin, blackfin tuna are hard fighting fish for their size. (Photo courtesy of FloridaSportsman.com)

Dark fins indicate a blackfin tuna, not the similar – and potentially much larger – yellowfin

Over the years, Florida Sportsman has covered the ins and outs of the blackfin tuna fishery around the Florida coastline: places these fish are historically abundant, such as the famous Humps in the Florida Keys; the shrimp fleet in the Gulf of Mexico; bluewater ledges off Northeast Florida. We’ve researched baits that are productive – from live sardines to ballyhoo, small trolling plugs to streamer flies. We’ve covered the advent of fluorocarbon leader material, its low refractive index apparently conducive to fooling the sharp-eyed blackfins.

And yet, like many of the anglers and captains we’ve spoken with, we’ve always wondered about the basic biology of our feisty little blackfin. What conditions do they favor? How fast do they grow? When do they spawn? What means might be used to study them, to discern their migratory or foraging cycles?

It’s the brutally ironic thing about fisheries science. The fish that we know the most of, tend to be those which have been most heavily exploited for the commercial market. It’s only when a fish, such as the red drum, bluefin tuna or swordfish, reaches a crisis point that effort and funding align to document critical details of life history, range and reproduction. In the case of blackfin tuna, it has taken basic curiosity and academic initiative to spur this kind of attention.

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