Tuna fishing is popular all over the world, supplying grocery stores with canned and pouched tuna, providing sushi chefs with high quality sashimi and sushi ingredients, and presenting a unique challenges to anglers who aspire to catch them. One place where fishing for tuna is popular and highly successful is Venice, LA where the Mississippi River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Just 15 miles out of the mouth of the river, the continental shelf begins reaching depths of over 5,000 feet. This area is known as the Mississippi Canyon, and is home to many pelagic species which attract fish and make catching tuna in the Mississippi River not only possible, but probable!
There are, remarkably, a variety of types of tuna in the Mississippi. These members of the family Scombridae, including both tunas and mackerels, are incredibly large and provide excellent fishing for sport and game.
Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus)
Of all the types of tuna in the Mississippi River, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is the most commonly found. These large, streamlined fish are popular for sushi, sashimi, and steaks and have been heavily overfished. They can live for up to 20 years and grow to lengths of nine feet and weights of 1,500 pounds. Bluefin tuna are aptly named, given their bluish-back coloring on their dorsal sides and silver coloration on their ventral sides.
Albacore Tuna (Thunnus alalunga)
Found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean Albacore tuna are commonly caught and sold as canned tuna, usually called “white” tuna. Albacore can grow to about four feet and 88 pounds and share coloring similar to the Atlantic Bluefin. They are easily identified by their extremely long pectoral fins. Albacore are often caught by trollers towing jigs and lures.
Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares)
Yellowfin are also often used for canned tuna and are usually called “chunk light tuna.” They are identified by the yellow stripe that runs on their sides as well as their long, yellow second dorsal and anal fins. Yellowfin grow to about 7.8 feet and 440 pounds and live only six or seven years. In the past, anglers used purse seine nets to catch Yellowfin, but faced public outcry over the effects on dolphins. Recent improvements in this method have reduced dolphin bycatch.
Bigeye Tuna (Thunnus obesus)
Bearing a resemblance to Yellowfin, Bigeye tuna are often identified by their large eyes. Bigeye tuna grow up to six feet in length and 400 pounds in weight and have been subject to overfishing.
Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)
Skipjacks are small tunas who grow only to about three feet and 41 pounds and are identified by the four to six strips running the length of their bodies. Their tendency to school under floating objects like debris, marine mammals, and boats make them easier to find and therefore, easier to catch than other types of tuna in the Mississippi River.
The plethora of types of tuna in the Mississippi River make for a fantastic experience for any visiting angler. Tuna fishing charters are widely available and can provide a once-in-a-lifetime fishing excursion. To see more, read this.