Catching skipjack in the Hauraki Gulf

By Scott McDonnellNZ Fishing World
Catching skipjack in the Hauraki Gulf

Right now, and for a limited time only, there are silver bullets in the form of skipjack tuna, shooting around the Hauraki Gulf. This is how you catch them

Skipjack Tuna in unprecedented numbers have been attracted in to the Gulf by the warm water and huge shoals of anchovies and pilchards around.

These silver bullets provide incredible fun on light gear if you are keen to seek them out.

Gear required

Any light gear from 6 – 10 kg (as you might use for soft baiting)is suitable. Monofiliment is just as suitable as braid and may even offer a small advantage.

Terminal tackle is important and trying various sizes and coloured lures can make all the difference on any given day.

Angler playing skipjack

You will be trolling lures behind the boat, so small tuna specific jigs with brightly coloured flash, feather or rubber skirts are the best option. 

Great lures are available from Kilwell, Black Magic or Williamson and they usually come pre rigged on a fairly heavy leader that will cope with larger tuna such as yellowfin. If you are just trolling the Gulf then we suggest downsizing the leader to 20 – 25lb fluorocarbon and a smaller hook as this can help with strike rates. Light gear means razor sharp hooks are needed for best results.

Often the lure that most resembles a Christmas tree decoration will win the day with skipjacks.

Here are a selection on typicla lures suitable for skipjack.


Trolling 2 – 4 lures behind a boat is the best way to target this species, and although they can often be seen on the surface, strikes can come out of absolutely nothing and without warning.

 Sight fishing and casting into schools using soft baits and a quick retrieve can also be worth a crack.

Look for workups and bird activity, even if they are simply waiting around on the surface, and troll lures around the outskirts.  Don’t turn too sharply as this can tangle all the lines set out back.

When a fish has been hooked and landed it’s often best to slowly circle the area for a while as they may be holding around currents and baitfish.

Set the lures up in a pattern much as you would for targeting larger tuna species.  Two rods set up in wide rod holders can be set back 20 – 30 metres, while inside rods can be set with lures in as close as 10 – 15 metres in the propeller wash.

If only trolling two rods keep one lure at 10 – 15 metres and let one out longer to cover you bases.

The optimum trolling speed is between 5.5 – 6.5 knots.

Set drags fairly light so that line can be pulled from the reel without much pressure.  This stops light line and leader from breaking on the strike. It also prevents the hook tearing in the relatively soft tuna mouths.

skipjack trolling pattern

Where to fish

Right now fish are all around the northern side of Waiheke and can be found between here all the way to the top of Tiritiri Matangi and Kawau Island.

They can be in close or out wider in anywhere from 30 – 60 metres of water, so the footprint gives you lots of area to slowly troll around looking for sign.

If the skippy are not playing ball there’s always the option of stopping for a bit and dropping inchiku and slow pitch jigs to the bottom looking for snapper.

solid skipjack

Uses of skipjack

Skipjack tuna are widely recognised as one of the best baits around, particularly as strip baits for snapper or virtually any other bottom feeding fish species. Game fishermen also use them live bridle rigged for targeting marlin.

Catching your own fresh skippy provides a bait that beats anything frozen, and they can always be used for berley or frozen for later use.

Good luck

Rarely will you have the opportunity to hook and play a fish that will take off with the sheer speed and power of a skipjack tuna on light softbait style gear, so if you are looking for a change of pace and something a little different, the time is right to have a crack!

happy man

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