How to Catch Skipjack Tuna

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Learning how to catch skipjack tunas will require a combination of the right skill and proper fishing gear. These pelagic fish travel in schools and fish trolling is the most preferred method of seizing them. Although other fishing means may work, as well.

How to Catch a Skipjack Tuna

Arguably, skipjacks are best caught by employing trolling fishing. One known advantage of trolling is its versatility. We can apply it on different bodies of water, provided they are deep enough, and even on different types of fish, tuna included.

An image of a skipjack tuna that has been caught

Also, since the boat is moving as we troll, we effectively cover large areas of water instead of being stationary. So, how do you troll for skipjacks?

  1. Make sure you use the proper gear for trolling skipjacks. It will be a waste of effort and time on your part if you engage these tunas ill-equipped. The standard fishing gear anglers use to catch skipjacks are fishing rods, reels, and lures. We will further talk about these below.
  2. The approved trolling speed for catching skipjacks is between 4.0 and 6.5 knots.
  3. Drop two to four lures as you troll behind your boat. This is our team’s tested and recommended range for skipjack trolling.
  4. You will need to adjust the rig’s depth depending on which level of the water column they are feeding in. Skipjacks are known to inhabit ocean depths of 853 feet.
  5. Arrange the lures in a pattern similar to how you would in angling larger tuna species. Typically, two rods are set up at the back of our boat while the others are positioned on both sides.
  6. Pay attention to the reels. When they begin to spin quickly, it could mean that a fish took your lure. Grab the affected rod and reel combo and reel in the fish.
  7. To reel in the baited skipjack, allow the drag and rod to do the work. Prepare to land the fish when the fish is about a rod length away. Stop reeling when the fish is swimming away and let the drag tire the fish out.

Since skipjack tuna is one of the most fished varieties, there are several ways to catch them. It can be for commercial or recreational reasons. According to the NOAA Fisheries, commercial and recreational fishing landings have landed sizable pounds of Pacific skipjacks in 2019 and 2020.

Alternative Methods to Catch a Skipjack Tuna

Pelagic fish such as skipjack tuna typically travel in schools and are most easily captured when trolling. However, other fishing methods are also effective.

Purse Seining

This method is common among commercial fishers. Here, 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 the fish.

The lead line is then drawn in, “just like closing a purse.” The net is also closed on the bottom, preventing fish from swimming downward and escaping. Since skipjacks travel in congregations and are pelagics, purse seining is very effective in catching them.

An image of freshly caught skipjack

Handline Fishing

An old-school type of catching target fish like the skipjacks, handline fishing uses a vertical line equipped with a barbed hook. Here the fisherman hauls his catch using his bare hands, making this method very traditional. Even today, there are fishermen catching tuna in the open sea via the handline technique.

Handline fishing works well in catching skipjacks once you have spotted a school of them. You can just drop your baited line and wait for the tuna to take it.

Baitcasting Fishing

This is a type of recreational fishing where the angler uses specific fishing rods and reels equipped with the best baits. Same with the handline method, baitcasting is effective when a group of skipjacks is present in the waters. Usually, this occurs when they are out feeding.

Standard Fishing Equipment for Catching Skipjack Tuna

Just like with our other fishing excursions, the success of landing a skipjack tuna into your boat depends significantly on the gear you bring. Even if you have the skill but your equipment is not designed to handle such fish, you will eventually lose the opportunity to catch skipjacks.

Having said that, check out the following commonly used equipment for catching tunas:

Fishing Rods

The ideal fishing rod for skipjacks has a minimum length of six feet with medium to heavy action. It must be lightweight with high sensitivity. The rod handles are required to be non-slip, providing the user with an excellent grip.

Buyers should also consider the construction material of the rod. This feature affects its durability or how many seasons it will last.

Fishing Reels

Use fishing reels that are adequately sealed to protect the internal gear and bearing systems. It should house a large line capacity because skipjacks may dive to escape.

The product’s drag system is another item to add to our fishing reel checklist. This feature must be smooth and snag-free. Lastly, the reel handle must be ergonomically designed, leading to comfort, control, and leverage.

Fishing Lures

Lures are also critical in fishing for skipjacks. We advise anglers to always opt for lures that produce distinct sounds that appeal to pelagic fish hearings. Even so, artificial baits that generate smoke trails to attract fish games may also do the trick.

An image on how to catch skipjack tuna

Frequently Asked Questions

Did You Catch a Skipjack Tuna or a Bonito?

Many anglers confuse skipjack tunas with bonitos or false albacore. At first glance, the two fish are identical, but specific physical characteristics set them apart. By knowing their differences, you may know if what you caught was a skipjack or a bonito.

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. These stripes can vary in color, thickness, shape, and design, but they will always be present.

When it comes to their meat, bonito has a low-fat content. Skipjacks have meat that is much lower in fat content than adult bonitos. Furthermore, skipjack’s meat is darker, ranging from dark pink to red.

Where Are Skipjacks Usually Found?

Knowing where your target fish resides is essential. Skipjacks are commonly found among subtropical and tropical waters such as the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans. But their most significant numbers are concentrated near the equator.

Known as migratory fish, skipjacks can travel long distances. They are a pelagic species able to dive up to  853 feet deep.


Whether a novice or an experienced tuna angler, it is essential to know basic skipjack angling information. Factoring in the behavior of the fish and their habitat are some data we should know. Lastly, applying the most effective fishing method coupled with reliable gears will help us lure skipjack tuna.