Types Of Yellowtail Fish Explained


If you wonder what a yellowtail is, or which fish species the name refers to, make sure to stay tuned. There are different kinds of yellowtail fish, however, the one most people refer to is the Yellowtail Amberjack.

So which other fish do in fact carry this “yellowtail” name as well? And what about that famous Japanese “sushi” yellowtail? Let’s break everything down for you.

Yellowtail Amberjack

Like we already mentioned, the name “yellowtail” is most commonly used for the Yellowtail Amberjack. It’s what people call them when they go fishing for example. They don’t say “Let’s go catch a yellowtail amberjack today”. Instead, they say “Let’s catch a yellowtail”.

However, since these fish can sometimes grow pretty large, some prefer to call them “Great Amberjack” or sometimes even “Yellowtail Kingfish”. Yes, they’re all the same. We don’t want to confuse you, but let’s also mention that the official name for this fish is “Seriola lalandi”. Just so you know.

Now that we got all the names out of the way, let’s check this fish out.

How Big Are They?

Even though a good amount grow up to about 3 feet, it’s not uncommon to spot some that are 6 feet or more in length. A few even reach more than 8 inches. They are extremely fast swimmers.

Where Do They Swim?

The majority adores the waters within the Southern Hemisphere. You could find them in the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Occasionally they migrate towards the Northern Hemisphere for a certain amount of time. Rocky reefs, especially near offshore islands, is where they usually hang out. They prefer warm water.

Yellowtail Amberjack

Japanese Amberjack

Yes, this fish is also called “yellowtail”. If you order sushi in a Japanese restaurant, it might say the fish is yellowtail. Sure, they look pretty much the same, and they can both grow extremely large, in the end it’s not the same fish.

Some restaurants call it “yellowtail tuna”, even though it doesn’t belong to the tuna family. Not that this should change your appetite, it’s just a (funny) fact.

In the (let’s call it) “fish dictionary”, the Japanese lookalike is named “Seriola quinqueradiata”. Infants can be distinguished by their “number 8” mark in the middle of their face.

Where Do They Live?

These fish live in the North Pacific Ocean, which lies east of Japan. They can be found near Hawaii as well, or anywhere in between.

How About That Sushi?

Even though the Japanese do catch these fish in the wild, most of them are farmed. As they grow older, and increase in size, some are used for consumption. Others are allowed to grow older and bigger before they are caught for food. Depending on their age, their size, whether or not they are caught in the wild or by farming, different names are given to the fish. Maybe you recognize “Hamachi” or “Buri” from the menu card? Well, those are 2 examples.

Japanese Amberjack

So Which Other Fish Do People Call Yellowtail?

Now that we know which fish is the “real” yellowtail, and that Japan has a similar version swimming in their coast, we’re not there yet. There are a couple of other fish species that people like to give the same name.

For example. If you go snorkeling in Key Largo, Florida, there are large schools of the so called “Yellowtail Snapper”. It’s so much easier to say “Hey honey, did you see that big group of yellowtail?”. Therefore, in order to complete our list, we mention 5 more “misunderstandings” if that’s how we should call it.

Yellowtail Snapper

Besides Florida, these fish can be found throughout the western parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Since they like to stay close to the reefs they are a lovely sight for snorkelers. However, they enjoy the deeper waters as well.

Their size differs, some are small and some are big. Usually they’re around 16 inches in length. The biggest ones can grow up to 34 inches. They usually live in schools, just as if a yellow cloud passes you by underwater.

Yellowtail Snapper

Yellowtail Flounder

This is an “Atlantic flatfish”. You’ll find them in the east coast of North America. Since their tail is yellow, like it’s name should already tell, this species is sometimes called a “yellowtail” as well.

They grow about 15-20 inches in length and average an age of around 10 years. They prefer the deeper waters, so when snorkeling they’re usually not nearby. But well, you never know.

Their main color is brownish, with red spots across their entire body. Both of their eyes are positioned on one side of their face. They taste very fine and contain low calories. Maybe you tried one in the past.

More information and pictures can be found here.

Yellowtail Horse Mackerel

Also known as yellowtail scad, or simply “yellowtail, this is a jack that lives in Australia and New Zealand. The picture below shows it’s appealing yellow tail, which is why it still receives the name this discussion is all about.

On average they grow up to 20 inches in length. They prefer to live in schools and usually stay close to the rocky reefs. Some of them live up to 15 years, which is quite long compared to similar fish.

As a meal they are often cooked, fried, smoked or baked. Their official name is “Trachurus novaezelandiae”.

Yellowtail Horse Mackerel

Any Others?

Yes, there are a few other fish that are sometimes called yellowtail as well. The ones we mentioned above all have this “nickname” included in their official name. However, some fish don’t but still receive the title.

Two good examples would be the Atlantic Bumper and the Whitespotted Devil. They both have a yellow colored tail, however, some of them are more pronounced than others. Even though their names don’t give away any hints, somehow they manage to simply be called yellowtail.


Yellowtail usually refers to the Amberjack Yellowtail that lives in the Southern Hemisphere oceans. It’s lookalike that swims in the Japanese coast of the North Pacific Ocean receives the same name as well. A couple of other fish also earn this label, however, that’s just a nickname deriving from their original name.

Final Thoughts

If you are a snorkeler like us, you probably met some yellow tailed snappers. They are pretty common in some famous snorkel locations, like Florida for example. They can steal the show when they pass you in a big group.

As we enjoy snorkeling more and more, we start to also gain some interest in different fish species. We recently wrote an article about black and white fish and where to find them. Furthermore, if you’re interested, check out our list of 10 blue and yellow fish.

If you’d like to learn more about all the 20.000 different species that live in our oceans, check out this article

Can’t get enough of these lovely animals? If you’re interested, go ahead and check out our Top 25 surprising facts about fish.

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