Skipjack Tuna

Skipjack Tuna are a saltwater gamefish found in oceans all over the world. They are probably best known as a food staple in many areas and are the type of Tuna commonly canned (and labelled as “fresh light” Tuna). One of the most commercially fished species on the planet, their numbers a re heavily monitored and regulated in an effort to maintain sustainability. For recreational fishers however, they make for a great day out on the boat with a trolling lure in tow.

Also known as Balaya (Sri Lanka), Bakulan/kayu (North Borneo), Tongkol/aya (Malay peninsula),  Cakalang (Indonesia),  Katsuo, Arctic Bonito, Mushmouth, Oceanic Bonito, Striped Tuna or Victor Fish, they are the smallest member of the Tuna family and cousin of the Blue fin, Yellow Fin and Albacore.


Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Skipjack Tuna - Tuna with lemon

Where are Skipjack Tuna found?

 Skipjack Tuna are found all over the world in the warmer waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. They are a migratory species that travel large distances in schools of up to 50,000 and located both on the surface and up to 250 meters deep as well.

As they are a predatory fish, they feed on baitfish, squid, shrimp (prawns) and are also well known to cannibalize within their schools as well.

What do Skipjack Tuna Look Like?

As you would expect from a fast moving and migratory species, Skipjack Tuna have elongated, hard looking bodies with dark blue or purple backs (darker in older species) and silver bellies. They also have 3 – 5 dark stripes or bands running down the sides of their bodies (hence the name Striped Tuna) as well.

Skipjack Tuna generally around 8-12 years depending on their habitat and can reach sizes of up to 1.1 meters (3.6 feet) in length.


 As above, Skipjack Tuna can live up to 12 years with females starting to reproduce from 1 to 2 years.

In tropical waters, females spawn throughout the year however this is restricted to Summer and early Autumn in cooler areas. In the warmer waters around the Equator, they are also known to spawn almost daily which is one reason why they are so sustainable as a commercial table fish.

What do Skipjack Tuna Eat?

Skipjack Tuna share a diet with most faster moving saltwater species (such as Striped Bass) and prey on a large array of food sources including:

  • Baitfish
  • Crustaceans
  • Mollusks
  • Squid

And as above, mature adults are also known to feed in juveniles and ‘slower’ members of the school as well. On the other side of the fence however, Skipjack are the prey of choice for larger predator such as sharks, Billfish, Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel and even Whales.

Skipjack Tuna - Skipjack in Water

Skipjack Seasons

 Unlike most freshwater species, Skipjack can be caught all year round in the warmer waters around the equator and into sub-tropical waters as well. That being said, where I live on the East Coast of Australia (and south of the Tropic of Capricorn), we only get them closer to shore in late Summer and early Autumn.

For recreational fishers, it should be noted here that many jurisdictions implement licensing and bag limit regulations in an effort to maintain sustainability. They are of course however fished commercially all year round too.

Best Gear for Catching Skipjack Tuna

 In terms of commercial fishing boats catch Skipjack in huge quantities using options such as purse seine nets or even pole-and-line in big schools. For recreational fishers however, to catch Skipjack Tuna you will need a good deep sea trolling rod and reel setup as follows:

Trolling reel – 800 – 1000 – lined with mono or braid

Spinning reel – 8000 – 10000 – lined with mono or braid

Rod – around 7ft and matching of reel size

Striped Bass with take both bait and lures.

Check out these: Deep Sea Trolling Rod and Reel Combos

Can You Eat Skipjack Tuna?

Of course and again as mentioned above, it is the tuna most commonly found in cans. Alternatively however it is the fish of choice in Japanese cuisine and can be eaten cooked or raw. Raw Skipjack fillets are a deep red in color and a grayish pink when cooked.

As with most fish of this type, the flesh is lean with a little oil and what I would describe as a medium ‘fishiness’ in taste. It can be cleaned and cooked a number of ways including:

  • Pan frying – as a fillet or a ‘steak’
  • Deep fried
  • Oven baked
  • Grilling
  • Smoked
  • Raw as sushi

It is recommended that you stick to smaller catches as larger ones can be susceptible to higher mercury levels. And of course there are millions (and I am not exaggerating) of recipe ideas for canned Tuna as well.

Check out these: Skipjack Tuna recipes

Skipjack Tuna - sliced Skipjack