Catching Skipjack Tuna in Summer: The Complete Guide

March 14, 2021

Catching Skipjack Tuna in Summer: The Complete Guide

Fishing for Skipjack Tuna is fun when they are on the bite. But it can be a challenge because they are sometimes picky eaters. At times they will take anything that hits the water. Other times they can be really tough to catch. Particularly when the weather is warm, and the sun is shining. So what are the tricks for catching Skipjack Tuna in summer?

Simply put, the summer is not the best time to fish for skipjack. They prefer to eat when the water is cooler, and they don’t like being out in the sun. In warm weather, Skipjack Tuna are found in the cooler waters of deep channels where there is a fast-flowing current. 

Catching Skipjack Tuna

Skipjack Tuna can be tough, so it is a good idea to have as many options as you can fit in your tackle box. The most common rig for Skipjack Tuna fishing is a Sabiki rig using a few different lures. It helps to have a selection of different lures because of their picky appetite.

Anglers can also use crappie jigs successfully(these are also great for Tripletail). Again using two or more jigs on the line is a favored tactic. Skipjack Tuna can hunt deeper down in the water column or on the surface. This makes it a good idea to try different techniques too.

Fast reeling and keeping your lure on the surface is an exciting way to fish for skipjack. The fish can leap from the water as they take the bait. Then an hour later, the fish prefer to take a slower moving bait that is deeper down.  

A long rod can be useful to cast a longer rig with more lures attached. Start with the heaviest lure towards the end of the line. Then add lighter lures at eight to twelve-inch intervals further up the line. Attach a small sinker to the end of the line if you need help gaining some more distance.

If using multiple lures is a new tactic for you, start with just two. The more Skipjack Tuna lures you add to your rig, the more likely it is to get tangled. As you gain confidence with the way the line responds to multiple lures. You can start to add more.

Sizing your lure for the target species is crucial. Small flies or grubs are best for catching sheer numbers. But if you only want to catch the larger fish, choose four to five-inch lures instead.

It can be helpful to take a few rods when you go fishing for skipjack. Swim out a live bait, and leave a spoon in a fast current while fishing with a Sabiki rig to increase the odds.

Skipjack Tuna Fishing from the Bank

Tuna jumping out of water

Fishing for Skipjack Tuna from the shore can be difficult in summer due to their tendency to stay in deeper water. Night fishing, early morning, and late evening are the times to fish for skipjack. These are the only times that anglers can reliably encounter them in the summer months.

Use a sinker when fishing from the bank to allow you to cast to the deeper water where the fish are. Flies, plastic and live grubs, spoons, and live minnows should all be used to determine the fish’s appetite. As far as catching Skipjack Tuna in summer, we recommend getting a boat to get to deeper water.

Skipjack Tuna Behavior

Skipjack Tuna are known to be an easy and tasty meal throughout the animal kingdom. The Clupeidae family, of which Skipjack Tuna are a part, can make up 45% of a predatory bird’s diet. It is almost as if they are aware of the name given to them by catfish anglers, ‘ catfish candy.’ Skipjack Tuna are timid and prefer to avoid the spotlight. 

When the sun is high, it penetrates deeper into the water. Skipjack Tuna are fond of currents which disturb the surface because it breaks up the light. Surface currents aid with camouflage against attack from the air because it dissolves their outline. 

Their large eyes, which help them spot prey in the dark depths where they hunt, also have a defensive purpose. Spotting aerial threats and other predators beneath the water is key to their survival. Skipjack Tuna are also sensitive to noise, so buzzing a depth meter is a strict no-no.

Generally, Skipjack Tuna are most often found in fast-flowing, clear water, preferring sandy and gravel beds. They can be found further downstream in less oxygenated, murky water and hot water factory outlets in winter.

Skipjack Tuna Diet

Skipjack Tuna mainly eat other small fish such as minnows, threadfin, and gizzard shad. The maximum size of the prey they take is about one-third of their own length. This suggests that lures or bait used for Skipjack Tuna fishing should be no more than six inches. 

Juvenile fish prefer to eat insects over other fish, and adults are happy to take grubs in the right conditions. Studies show that adult Skipjack Tuna will resort to cannibalism if other sources of food are scarce.  

Skipjack Tuna rely more heavily on their eyesight than the other senses to seek out their prey. As such, spinners can provide some motion in the water, which help attract their attention. Their sensitive hearing can also make using a popping float worthwhile.

Using a popping float can make use of their sensitive hearing to draw these baitfish out. Allow two or three feet of line between the float and the first lure. A popping cork can also add a little weight to aid in casting. But it may also lead to tangles if you have a series of lures.

Skipjack Tuna Habitat


Skipjack Tuna are migratory and head upstream in springtime to spawn. Many of the rivers that Skipjack Tuna call home have been dammed. This stops the fish from reaching the smaller tributaries and streams that feed the larger rivers.

Skipjack Tuna make use of the fast flows from the dams which provide their favored hunting grounds. Skipjack Tuna can be found beneath dams from spring to fall. In winter, they take a break from the fast flows in the estuaries’ slower moving water.

Skipjack Tuna are quite shy fish and prefer the darkness of deeper water on a bright day. The higher the sun is in the sky, the less likely they are to bite. The fish and insects that are a skipjack’s main food source are usually found in the shallows.

Skipjack Tuna have big eyes and good eyesight, which they use to dart out of deeper water to ambush their prey. Hunting from beneath is a favored tactic of Skipjack Tuna. You can sometimes see them jumping from the water as they feed.

Young Skipjack Tuna Habits

In springtime and the fall, fishing with the youngsters can be an entertaining family day out. For the angler with young children catching the jumping, Skipjack Tuna can be really good fun. But in the summertime, you are better off leaving the kids at home. 

Due to a skipjack’s wary nature, they are usually best to catch from the bank when the sun is low in the sky. Early mornings and late evenings are the best time to catch skipjack. In summer, many people choose to fish for Skipjack Tuna at night. 

Using live minnows and floodlights seems to be the method for the guys who fish in summer at night. The glinting of the floodlights off the scales of the baitfish are almost impossible to ignore. This means that catching young Skipjack Tuna in summer relies on finding baitfish.

Storing Skipjack

Because Skipjack Tuna can be tough to catch in the summertime, many people freeze them to use later. They are much easier to catch in spring. Catfishermen catch a load in the spring and store them in the freezer.

Skipjack Tuna starts to go bad very quickly. It would be best if you had lots of ice in the box where you keep your catch. Mixing rock salt with your ice will help to keep the fish fresh until you can freeze them. This is important for all types of tuna, including Blackfin Tuna.

It is time-consuming, but you should wipe the fish clean prior to freezing. Also, freezers tend to freeze the fish in the center more slowly. If you have time, the day after freezing the skipjack, rearrange them in the freezer, moving the central fish to the outside. This will ensure that all the fish are frozen quickly.

Wintertime Skipjack Tuna Fishing

Fishing in Winter

In the winter, Skipjack Tuna can be found around the hot water outlets of factories. These warm currents help sustain the growth of algae and other aquatic plant life. These plants draw small crustaceans and fish, which, in turn, draw larger predators.

Skipjack Tuna can also be found in the brackish water of estuaries. Catching in these shallow, murky waters can be great at the right time of year. When the water starts to warm up, they become more active and head upstream.


As I mentioned, Skipjack Tuna can be picky. Sometimes they will take only one color of fly. Other times they don’t seem to care about the color. Sometimes they will happily pick up a spoon before suddenly changing their mind only to take live minnows. 

We hope you enjoyed this article on catching Skipjack Tuna in the summer. You should also check out our best Skipjack Tuna lures article and what Skipjack Tuna taste like if you want more info!

Happy Hunting

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