AKA: false albacore, albacore, little tuna, bonito, Fat Alberts

Description: Little tunny is a tuna-shaped fish that is steel blue on top and silver below with wavy stripes along the posterior portion of the back. Several dark spots are scattered below the pectoral fin and small finlets behind the second dorsal and anal fins.

Size: Little tunny grow to 20 pounds.

Sometimes confused with: Atlantic bonito, bullet and frigate mackerel

Habitat: Little tunny school by size and migrate north through coastal waters in the spring and south in the fall and winter.

Eating habits: When a large school is actively feeding they are noisy, splashing and foaming the water. They feed on fishes such as herrings, sardines and scads but will also readily eat squid and crustaceans. Other tunas, dolphin, wahoo, Atlantic sailfish, swordfish and various sharks prey on the little tunny.

Life cycle: Little tunny are fast-growing and short-lived fish that seldom live longer than five years. Females reach sexual maturity at 14 inches and spawn offshore in waters deeper than 100 feet.

Fishing tips: Anglers catch little tunny by trolling, casting or float fishing with lures or live bait such as bluefish, pinfish or spot. When trolling, fishermen usually use small lures with mullet or ballyhoo or colored feathers to locate the fish. Once they find a school anglers cast metal spoons or silver jigs retrieved in a fast, jerky movement. Flyfishing is also a popular way to catch little tunny.

N.C. Saltwater Fishing Tournament

Award for live release of fish, 40 inches or longer.

Apply for a release citation online


Persons engaged in recreational fishing in North Carolina coastal waters are required to possess a Coastal Recreational Fishing License in accordance with G.S. 113-174.2.

Current Proclamations

Recreational Size and Bag Limits

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