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The dogtooth tuna is a large, fast-swimming fish in the family Scombridae. It has large sharp teeth, a long muscular body and a straight-edged first dorsal fin, reaching weights of over 330lb. It’s found from the Marshall Islands to the western Indian Ocean and as far north as southern Japan and South Korea, where the world record of 288lb was caught.
Dogtooth tuna love reefs, with the smaller fish more commonly found in shallower reef areas and larger ones preferring deeper reef drop-off areas, seamounts and steep underwater walls. The dogtooth tuna is an apex non-pelagic predator, sharing that position with Giant Trevally and large groupers, as well as reef, bull and tiger sharks.
Not only is the dogtooth tuna a fine food fish but also a much hunted game fish. It is often taken as an incidental catch by anglers while trolling for other game fish - with natural baits for black marlin, for instance, or with lures for wahoo and Spanish mackerel. In the last 10 to 15 years there has been more dedicated effort specifically aimed at this species because of its rarity and sporting qualities.
Dogtooth tuna are a highly coveted prize by many European sport anglers. Large specimens are seldom found where there is significant fishing pressure and indeed they can be one of the most difficult game fish to catch. As they make incredibly high-speed downward runs when hooked, even on heavy tackle, they manage to cut line on deep bottom structure. Sharks frequently hit hooked-up fish during the later stages of the fight, which makes landing them even more of a challenge.
The majority of dogtooth tuna used to be caught by trolling with natural baits or with lures, particularly deep-diving plugs. These techniques are still often used, and one way is to use live bait such as rainbow runners to tease dogtooth tuna within range of light tackle and fly-casting anglers. High speed jigging with a variety of heavy metal and butterfly jigs and lures has increased tremendously in popularity in the last several years as advancements in tackle technology have resulted in lightweight rods and reels that are capable of handling heavy braided lines.
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An aggressive predator, the dogtooth tuna is an opportunistic feeder that will take a wide variety of prey items. In most areas the mainstay of its diet probably consists of pelagic schooling fish found near reef habitat, including fusiliers, rainbow runners and mackerel etc.