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Eat Your Ahi!

During dinner out on a recent trip to San Diego to visit my uncle George, the two of us shared an appetizer of tuna tartare made with fresh Ahi, the Hawaiian name of Yellowfin tuna. George, an avid sport fisherman, told me that he often chartered boats to fish for Yellowfin and suggested that we do so the following weekend. We made plans over dinner and went out the next Saturday. After a long day out on the water and a tough man vs. fish struggle, we ended up catching a big one! We took our prize home, George seared it on the grill, and I was introduced to the unparalleled taste of Ahi caught only hours before. 

Though I love Ahi and have had it in restaurants, I have never prepared it at home and have certainly never caught it myself. So when George offered to introduce me to sport fishing for Yellowfin, I was on board immediately. Though I was admittedly grossed out by the idea of baiting hooks and gutting fish, the adventurer in me was incredibly excited by the thought of catching my own dinner. And George explained that the thrill of catch would make the gross parts totally worth it.

The night before we were to set out, we checked out the sport fishing report and George told me about sport fishing for Yellowfin, one of his favorite game fish. He said that sport anglers love Yellowfin for a lot of reasons, like their high culinary value and the fact that they are fast and strong. In other words, Yellowfin make for tough competition. He told me that they have been prized as game fish since shortly after sport fishing was invented, when anglers took notice of Yellowfin off of Catalina Island, CA. And sport fishing for Ahi happens to be very popular in his hometown of San Diego, he said. The report said that Yellowfin were being caught in deep water from Santa Barbara to the Baja Peninsula (we were in between), so we readied our rods and reels and went our separate ways to get a good night’s sleep.

We rose very early the next day, rented our boat and got out on the open sea. The San Diego sun shone on the water as we baited our hooks with sardines. As we threw out our lines, George told me a bit about how Yellowfin are caught. He said that purse seining (using nets) is a common way for industrial fisheries to catch tuna. In fact, he said, Yellowfin is the tuna used in “light” canned tuna. The Ahi tartare that we had eaten most likely had been caught by large longline ships or smaller ships for artisanal fisheries, as these two methods were often used for high grade (called “sashimi grade”) Yellowfin. “And then there’s good old pole and line fishing,” he said, “which people still rely on to catch Yellowfin in Ghana and the Maldives.” In fact, he added, pole and line fishing was the most common way to catch Yellowfin many years ago. “It began when ships sailed from right here in San Diego down to Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Galapagos Islands.” And of course, there is sport fishing.

Suddenly, there was a huge yank on my line and then it began flying from the reel, jerking me forward. George grabbed my fishing rod before it was pulled from my hands and began drawing in the line. He braced himself and pulled back, struggling with what we hoped was a Yellowfin. After quite a fight, he managed to pull in our catch. It was indeed a Yellowfin, which ended up weighing in at 30 pounds! 

We took our prize back home and George cleaned and gutted it (I wasn’t adventurous enough to help with that part!). Finally, he showed me how to simply season and grill the fish and we enjoyed perfectly seared, rare in the center, incomparably fresh Ahi steaks.

Check out our Recipes section to find out how to make it yourself!

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