Key West Skipjack Tuna
Basic Physical Traits
Measuring approximately 30 inches in length once they reach maturity, these fish are among those that reproduce and mature most quickly, making them a desirable commercial species. This spindle-shaped fish weighs about 18 kg, or about 20 pounds, once they reach their full growth. They have two dorsal fins, one with spines and one without, and three keels. Typical of many ocean fish, their undersides are silver and their backs are a deep blue, in order to baffle the efforts of predators. Another key feature is a dark stripe that runs along the corelet to the tip of the tail.
Preferred Habitats and Feeding Patterns of Skipjack
As one of the widespread ocean species, Skipjack Tuna can be found in both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. They prefer to school and travel along the lines of confluence, where warm and cool waters meet. While they are commercially harvested, much of this occurs in the Pacific Ocean or in the cooler regions of the Atlantic. Hence, the Skipjack schools are an abundant source for individuals fishing Key West.
While they tend to linger near the surface during the day, at night they will often descend to depths of up to 800 feet. Skipjack feed on a variety of ocean life, and may be considered an exclusively carnivorous species. Primary feedings occur during both dawn and dusk near the surface of the water. Their favorite foods include:
• Squid and cephalopods
• Lantern fish
Because they are a medium-sized fish, they do have a variety of predators that favor them as a prey species. Sharks, billfish, sea birds, human beings, and larger tuna commonly feed on this species.
Tracking and Catching Skipjack
Because effective open-water fishing tactics resemble the tracking methods used by hunters of terrestrial species, there are several key habits and characteristic behaviors that make useful cues for fishing enthusiasts. Skipjack tuna tend to linger near the surface of the water during the day feeding on bait fish at dawn or dusk. An excellent indicator of a school may be sea birds that feed on the same varieties of fish as well as the Skipjack themselves.
Unusual habits of these fish can also be an excellent way to track a rich fishing spot. They are often seen leaping from the water in pursuit of prey. As well, Skipjack favor shade when they linger near the surface. They are often found schooling ahead of storms in the cloud shadows. Fishing enthusiasts can use these tendencies to their advantage.
Much of the excitement of open water fishing comes from the challenge offered by the fish. Skipjack are strong swimmers and will provide an ample fight. It has been noted that all species of tuna tend to offer formidable resistance and exhibit a seeming confidence in their eventual escape. Because they make little pretense of jumping or thrashing once they’ve been hooked, these fish are fantastic opponents.
Irrespective of size, all tuna are extremely strong swimmers. Once they’ve been snared, they will often simply lead the angler a merry chase, forging ahead and often seeking to plunge straight down to safety. This is largely what makes them such a delightful target species for enthusiasts, who must exercise patience and persistence once they’ve got a Skipjack on the other end of their line. Fishing for Skipjack in Key West is an endurance sport. Much as a marathon runner must conserve and plan their strategy, these fish require an angler to utilize every ounce of skill and strength.