The Little Tunny is the most common tuna in the Atlantic Ocean. Occurring in large schools and weighing up to 36 pounds, it is the smallest member of the tuna Scombridae family, and is one of the finest small game-fish in the Atlantic.
The Little Tunny is small in body size compared to other tuna species. It has a compact and stream-lined body built to facilitate bursts of speed as well as endurance while swimming. Its torpedo-shaped, robust body is made for powerful swimming.It has a large mouth with rigid jaws and a slightly protruding lower jaw, with a single row of small, inwardly curved, cone-shaped teeth on the palatines. Teeth are absent on the vomer, the small bone in the roof of the mouth, and the tongue has two longitudinal ridges.
The snout is shorter than the rest of the head. The little tunny has a dorsal fin with 10 to 15 tall, descending spines, as well as a much smaller second dorsal fin followed by 8 finlets. At the base, the two dorsal fins are separated by a small interspace. The anal fin has 11 to 15 slightly defined rays, and is followed by 7 finlets. The pectoral fins are short and do not reach the end of the first dorsal fin and are joined to the pelvic fins by interpelvic processes. There are 37-45 gill rakers, bony projections off the gills, on the first arch. There are no scales on the body of the Little Tunny except along the lateral line and on the corselet: a thick band of scales circling the body.
The coloration of the Little Tunny is typically metallic blue or blue-green with dark wavy stripes above the lateral line. These "worm-like" lines are within a well marked border that never extends farther forward than the middle of the first dorsal fin. The belly is bright white with 3–7 dark, fingerprint-like spots around the pectoral and pelvic fins. The Little Tunny is commonly confused with the Atlantic bonito because of coloration, but the two fish differ in their color patterns and overall body size.
Fishermen targeting them often troll bait, cast lures, and float fish. When trolling for Little Tunny, fishermen often use small lures baited with either mullet or ballyhoo or lures dressed with colored feathers. When float fishing, popular baits are Spot, Bluefish, or Pinfish. Popular lures include deadly dicks, maria jigs, and other slender-profiled, brightly colored metal lures that can be cast far and retrieved quickly that imitate the small baitfish the Little Tunny are often feeding on.
It is found in warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; in the western Atlantic, it ranges from Brazil to the New England states. It is found regularly in offshore and inshore waters.