Black Gold

They may be one of the smallest members of the tuna clan, but blackfin tuna are among the tastiest, too. Like albacore, blackfin is "white meat" tuna, with flesh that's far whiter than the red or pink meat found on bluefin or yellowfin.

But the question of the day is: What makes the white meat white? For some answers, we went to Glenda Kelley, biologist for the International Game Fish Association.

"White muscle fibers are anaerobic, which means they're designed for short bursts of activity," says Kelley. "Red muscle fibers are highly vascularized and designed for lower-level sustained work. This difference demonstrates why bluefin tuna, which migrate thousands of miles, have such red meat."

Why is this information important to anglers? Because understanding the biology of blackfin-as well as their migratory habits-may help you increase your catch.

  • Search for blackfin where fish normally maintain holding patterns, not in spots dedicated to migration. Yellowfin tuna, for example, are likely to pass near the edge of the continental shelf. But you're more likely to find blackfin around typically stationary features, including offshore humps, shrimp trawlers, and wrecks.
  • Fish with white muscle fiber can't maintain the high speeds that ones with red muscle are capable of. What can you learn from this? That you should drag your lures at speeds up to 14 mph for red-fleshed tunas, but blackfin anglers should drop back a bit.
  • Stay closer to home. Although running 50 to 70 miles offshore in search of tuna is not unrealistic, blackfin stay closer to shore. In the southern expanse of their range (an area that includes Florida), where deep water is just a few miles offshore, blackfin congregate 3 to 30 miles out. In more northern areas, such as the Carolinas, they're most often found 20 to 40 miles out.