TUNA, SKIPJACK
Sci: Katsuwonus pelamis

Common Names: The skipjack or striped tuna is also known by many Australian anglers as the "stripey". In Hawaii, the Polynesian name for this prolific species is "aku". As with all the tunas, the name "tunny" is still sometimes used, and skipjacks are often confused with bonito (Sarda australis and S. orientalis).

Description: The skipjack is small to medium fish with a very thickset, barrel-like body that tapers abruptly to a relatively small, upright tail. This fish is characterised by its belly stripes, which contrast with the upper back and flank stripes of the true bonitos. Skipjack colouration is typically steel-blue to purple on the back, silvery-blue on the flanks and silvery-white on the belly. The belly area carries four to six longitudinal dark stripes.

Size: Most striped tuna or skipjack caught by Australian anglers weigh from 1 to 6 kg, with a few giants of close to 10 kg turning up occasionally. Record catches in other parts of the world have topped 18 kg, but such fish are uncommon.

Distribution: A world-wide species of tropical, sub-tropical, temperate and even cool waters, the skipjack ranges from the lower reaches of larger estuaries, harbours and bays, through inshore areas to the continental shelf and well beyond. Striped tuna prefer relatively clean water with a temperature range of about 16 to 26 degrees Celsius , but will sometimes swim in both cooler or warmer seas. This species forms vast schools, some of which contain hundreds of tonnes of fish.

Fishing Techniques: Skipjack are mainly pursued as bait for larger or more desirable target species, although they are brilliant sport fish in their own right, and provide one of the toughest battles, for their size, of any pelagic species. The vast majority of skipjack taken by anglers fall to small lures trolled behind boats or cast-and-retrieved from boats, deep shorelines or jetties and wharves. Striped tuna will also take un-weighted pilchards or small flesh-strip baits and even small live baits at times, especially when these are fished in conjunction with a berley trial.

Eating Qualities: In the past, skipjack were not often eaten in Australia because of their dark, blood-rich meat and strong flavour. However, if bled promptly and kept on ice they are quite palatable in casseroles, pies or when baked. They are also well suited to canning, smoking, salting and drying. They also make superb baits, and may be used alive for marlin, sharks and big tuna, dead for the same range of species, or cut into strips, cubes or slabs for practically any carnivorous saltwater fish.

By Steve Starling