5 Tips For Catching Skipjack Tuna

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Hey there fellow fishers and welcome to my post where we will check out my 5 tips for catching Skipjack Tuna this year. Whether you are an experienced fisherman or just starting out, learning how to catch Skipjack Tuna can be a massive amount of fun and a rewarding experience.

Skipjack Tuna 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. They can grow quite large in size and are an extremely popular table fish as well making them a great target species for many anglers.

So, with that, let’s see what we can come up with to assist you in getting them onto the hook and into the net…

What are Skipjack Tuna?

Skipjack Tuna are found all over the world in the warmer waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. 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.

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 are heavily monitored and regulated in an effort to maintain sustainability. 

tips for catching skipjack tuna - Man holding skipjack tuna

Tips for catching Skipjack Tuna

Ok, so let’s get into some of my tips for catching Skipjack Tuna below…

1. Plan to troll

Ok, so let’s just get this out of the way first up. For recreational fishers such as yourselves, if you want to catch Skipjack then arguably they are best caught via trolling. I have seen instances of them being caught off of piers etc. and commercial boats often use nets but the reality is that each of my tips below will focus on varying aspects of trolling.

In short, trolling is where a hooked lure or bait is dragged at varying speeds through the water from a moving boat. It is the perfect method for catching fast moving ocean species such as Tuna, Mackerel, Wahoo and even Striped Bass. Also, since the boat is moving as it trolls, they can effectively cover large areas of water instead of being stationary.

2. Take more than one rod

As we are moving around when trolling, it pays to take the numbers game for a number of reasons:

  1. Skipjack travel in schools so why not get to a number of them at once
  2. The more different types of baits you can get into the water, the more chance you have of getting a bite

Tuna will take both live bait and lures so if one doesn’t work, then you can definitely try another. From there, the number of baits you have running behind your boat will depend on the size of the vessel itself.

And whilst we are talking about gear, make sure you use the proper gear for trolling as follows:

  • Rods – the ideal fishing rod for Skipjack has a minimum length of six feet with medium to heavy action. It must be lightweight with high sensitivity with non-slip handle providing the user with an excellent grip.
  • Reels – Trolling can take a lot of line so a trolling reel with good capacity is required to ensure that you don’t spool out at the fish runs. Use fishing reels that are adequately sealed to protect the internal gear and bearings with a drag system that is smooth and snag-free. Options with a release lever are usefull to effectively adjust the speed of the drag as you fish as well.
  • Fishing lures Lures are also critical in fishing for Skipjack so look for options that both skim the surface or dive down should the fish be hiding lower underneath. Options that produce distinct sounds may also appeal here too.

Check out these: Deep sea trolling rod and reel combos

tips for catching skipjack tuna - skipjack tuna with hooks

3. Take a choice of bait and lures

As with most saltwater species, Skipjack Tuna will take a large range of baits and lures. For best success with bait, I strongly suggest the use of live bait. Most seasoned Tuna fishers will tell you that they get their best results with live baitfish.

If you are using lures go for plastic skirts, poppers or swimbaits that will move around to mimic live bait – but you may have to play around with colors and shapes until you have success. The old silver spoon type lure can work here as well.

4. Move around

Whilst this next tip is probably already taken care of simply by the fact you a trolling, keep in mind that as they are found in the ocean, Skipjack Tuna are susceptible to changes in current and water temperature hence tend to move around a bit. 

So, as with most other faster moving species, you may need to chase them a little especially if they are using the currents to corner baitfish.  A fish finder can be very helpful here in locating schools of Tuna although scanning the surface for baitfish ‘bust-ups’ can also be very effective as well.

Another trick here is to speak to the locals as they can generally tell you where the fish will be at certain times of the year and where to go if they are not in the spot you thought they would be.

Check out these: Deep sea fish finders

tips for catching skipjack tuna - skipjack tuna in basket

5. Consider alternative methods

And finally, as above, pelagic fish such as Skipjack Tuna typically travel in schools and are most easily captured when trolling. However, other fishing methods can also also effective. So if you have the means and capabilities on your boat, then you can also try the following:

  • Purse Sein nettingThis method is common among commercial fishers where a giant net wall is deployed from a fishing vessel to enclose a school of fish. Once a school of fish is located, a boat with a net surrounds them. The lead line is then drawn in and then also closed on the bottom, preventing fish from swimming downward and escaping. Note: this method is banned in some locations for recreational fishers so always check with local authorities before setting any nets.
  • Handline fishingAn old-school type of catching target fish such as skipjack, handline fishing uses a vertical line equipped with a barbed hook and a live bait (i.e. no lures). The advantage here is that the line can be pulled in quickly and dropped down without the need for a rod and reel when there are large schools underneath the boat.
  • Baitcasting This is a type of recreational fishing where the angler uses smaller baitcaster rods and reels equipped with baits or lures. Baitcasting is effective when a group of Skipjack Tuna is present in the waters nearer the surface – often chasing a bust up – as they can be quickly and accurately cast into the middle.


Did You Catch A Skipjack Tuna or a Bonito?

Many anglers confuse Skipjack Tuna with Bonito as at first glance, the two fish are almost identical. Skipjacks have a metallic dark or blue dorsal side that fades to a silver or white belly, creating a camouflage pattern. On the other hand, Bonito all have stripes on their backs and sides and usually a little smaller as well. Ironically, we have often used Bonito as a live bait on the trolling reels to catch Skipjack.


And there they are, my 5 tips for catching the Skipjack Tuna. I would be pleased to know how this article helped you, and as usual,  let me know of your experiences here.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time.

Have fun


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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.