How To Catch Skipjack Tuna (And What Fishing Gear To Use)


How to catch skipjack tuna

Skipjack is a medium-sized fish in the tuna family. It is also known as ballaya, arctic bonito, victor fish, or vector fish. Skipjack is the most abundant commercial tuna species. They have a smooth body that in most cases is without scales.

They have dark purple-blue backs and their underside and belly are silver in color with four to six dark bands. They are found mostly in the tropical areas of the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans, with the greatest abundance, found close to the equator.

They are one of the smaller species of Tuna, and 20lbs is considered a good size fish.

Catching Skipjack Tuna requires a medium to heavy action 6ft rod paired with a reel that has a smooth and strong drag of more than 15lbs. Locating fish by watching for sea birds feeding on surface bait fish and then trolling past or casting onto the surface should be effective when targeting Skipjack Tuna.  

How To Catch Skipjack Tuna                

Skipjack are social species and fast swimmers, they are mostly caught by trolling; but they can also be caught through casting baits. Trolling is the most popular method of catching skipjack, trolling 2 to 4 lures behind a boat is the best way to target this fish.

They feed near the surface, so watch out for working birds as they indicate predator interaction, troll your lures around these environments and if you have one a fishfinder can mark where the shoals are. The best way to set up the lures is to do it in a way that will targets the larger of the shoal. We discuss lures that work below. If you re trying this from a kayak then this article may help.

Why Trolling Is The Best Method To Catch Skipjack

The great thing about this fishing technique is that you can do it anywhere and for almost any species. You can troll the sea for skipjack. In fact, all predatory fish will bite the lure. I have witnessed a wide species of fish caught under a bait ball, species like yellowfin, skipjack, and flathead can all be hooked into and its why your gear should be ready for that.

Trolling is a universally popular fishing method. It enables you to effectively cover a large amount of water. The more fish you reach, the more fish you catch. Where there are bait fish there will be predators, so be aware of your set up and go a little stronger even if you are targeting Skipjack.

Best Rods For Fishing Skipjack Tuna

Choosing the right fishing rod for skipjack fishing can be a bit challenging. To help you make the right decision we have put together the following recommendations for fishing rods that can handle a skipjack Tuna and that can cope with anything a little larger that you may hook into!

1. Shimano Speedmaster Surf Spinning Saltwater Tuna Rod:

This is the perfect rod choice for fishing skipjack. Shimano Speedmaster Surf Spinning Saltwater is constructed with a high carbon butt that related to the TC4 tip. The pioneering design provides a lightweight finish with improved sensitivity. The rod’s quick recovery rate and response improves the general fishing experience.

And the following are other great features that make this rod a perfect choice for Skipjack Tuna fishing.

  • Great to drift or troll next to a bait ball and cast a lure into the middle.
  • It comes with EVA handles that enhance better grip and comfort.
  • It comes with reinforced aluminum oxide and diamond polished
  • It has high line capacity
  • Lightweight carbon frame

2. Santiam Tuna Rod:

The Santiam tuna rod is designed for use in saltwater fishing and comes with all the weather-resistant elements. It is solidly built to deliver great performance. For easy transport and storage, the rod comes with a disassembled design that allows it to be compact enough for storage and travel. The following are other great features that make this rod one of the best fishing rods for Skipjack Tuna fishing.

  • 2-Pice package
  •  It meets air travel requirements
  • Front and rear EVA grip

3. Jigging World Ghost Hunter Tuna Rod:

This fishing rod is sturdy and powerfully builds to make it worth the investment. It is available in a range of different lengths and capacities, which is useful because you can customize the choice that suits your need and target species whether you want to use topwater poppers or light bait. The following features also contribute to what makes this rod one of the better rods for skipjack Tuna Fishing both trolling and casting.

  • It comes with 2 years manufacturer’s warranty
  • It features high-quality Fuji guides and reel seats
  • It has a faster recovery time and improved catch rate

Best Reels For Fishing Skipjack Tuna

There are different types and sizes of fishing reels in the market, and it can be a bit tough choosing the right one for your kind of fishing. Purpose built saltwater reels will suffice, with a good solid drag for the initial bite when trolling, and a decent retrieve when casting and lure fishing.

1. Penn SQL50LW Squall LevelWind:

Penn offers some fantastic reels, this is one of the best for targeting skipjack. The steel frame of this reel guarantees durable construction and the high-end drag can deal with the initial bite. The reel is designed to for larger fish and will handle the small but energetic skipjack well.

  • It is made of steel construction
  •  It is suitable for saltwater conditions
  • It has a high-strength drag
  • A brand you can trust

2. Daiwa Seagate Star Drag Reel:

If you are looking for one of the best reels for medium sized target fish like Skipjack, then this reel by Daiwa is an excellent choice. It has been designed for a lightweight setup making it easier on the arms to use on prolonged fishing trips

  • It comes with a machined aluminum spool
  • Offset power handle for better grip
  • Smooth winding

3. Shimano TLD 2-Speed Conventional Reel

This is another powerful fishing reel from Shimano, and despite the 300 dollar price tag it is cheaper than most of the trolling reels from this brand. The reel provides enough power to handle large saltwater species.

It is equipped with strong and smooth drag with a high-quality bearing that can endure long hours of fights. Shimano reels are top-notch fishing reels and are usually well worth the price if you can extend to it. The following are other great features of this reel.

  • It can handle heavy loads and intense pressure
  • It has a high level of water-resistant
  • It has a high drag system
What flies to use pike fishing

Best Lures For Catching Skipjack Tuna

Sometimes skipjack target very small baitfish and it can be difficult to attract them with larger baits. Other times they will bite everything you offer them, sardines, anchovies, or anything in the area should work well. But if you are trolling artificial lure, then the following are the 5 best trolling lures for catching skipjack. Having a selection on the rods and trialing them will let you see which are popular on any given day.

  1. Tuna Feather Baits: These tuna feathers are 6 inches long and 1-1 / 2 ounces in weight. The colors include blue-white, green-yellow, Mexican flag, purple-black, red-white, and pink-white.
  2. Billy Bait Tuna Trolling Lure: Color selections include pink-silver red-black, Purple-blue mylar. The red and black color is the best lure for skipjack.
  3. Goture jigs: These jigs are 4 inches long and weigh ,07 ounces. The color selections include silver-black, red-white, glitter, gold-glitter, blue-silver glitter, and double hundred. These lures work well for catching skipjack in the top 100 feet of water.
  4. Chugger / Squid Tuna Lures: These lures generate commotion as it spit and leave trails on the surface. The color pattern looks like baitfish, the noise and action produce reactionary strikes.
  5. Metal Jet Head Trolling Lures: Just like the green machine, a metal jet leaves a long tempting smoke trail. The lure is also inexpensive and easy to rigged, brands include Bost and IIander.

How Big Do Skipjack Tuna Grow

Skipjack can grow to lengths of 100 cm, and a weight of 34 Kilos (76 Lb) however it is more common to see them at 80 cm and between 18-22 lbs. The largest Skipjack Tuna caught on tackle was 46lb and caught in Spain. Though this is rare.

What To Be Aware Of When They Fight

Skipjack Tuna don’t usually grow much more than 20 pounds, though when they take the bait you will recognize it immediately. They are one of the fastest and the hardest fighting tuna species in their weight class. They make incredibly long runs when they first take the baits and multiple hookups are very common.

They fight harder than bigger fish, and the machine gun like sound of their tail on the deck is both addictive and unmistakable. There is a case for using them as bait for larger species like Marlin and Bluefin, but personally I am overjoyed with the catch and not usually a good enough fisherman to rig them up and throw them back!!

Finally

There is nothing quite like the scream of the reel when a Skipjack hits your lure. The initial run is impressive. They are small enough that you don’t have to start going crazy with large scale gear and the options we gave above are going to handle most things that you hook into. Start targeting bigger species and your equipment and gear costs start matching the cost of the boat!

Skipjack fishing will provide both sport and a meal and once you find a school yuo shoudl be in for a good few hours of sport. They are commercially fished and plentiful. So bringing some back for the freezer and the table is perfectly acceptable. Make sure you bleed and clean them quickly though, they fight hard and you will need to get the lactic acid out of them to reduce flesh burn.

Tight lines! With this fish that’s a guarantee.

Marc

Hi I am Marc, when I am not in a classroom teaching you will find me, or more likely not find me, on a boat, trekking through the woods, sitting by a river or pier hoping for tight lines or a straight shot. I have been teaching Outdoor skills, fishing, archery, shooting, Kayaking, Climbing and more for over 30 years. Its about time I shared some of that with you all.

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