Skipjacks are known to me as the Silver Ghosts of the River, one day they are in there so thick you can walk on there backs and the next day they are gone, where they go who knows, all these years I have fished for them and I have never figured out where they go when the water muddies up, there main diet is small Shad and there own kind, they are a Cannibalistic bait fish, two things are required, food and highly oxygenated water, so they will be around powerplant discharges during the winter months and during the regular months they will be located in and around dams where there is flowing water, any dam that has a working Hydro will also be loaded, they will also be up in the discharges during the summer, I like the water to be slightly stained, these guys have great eyesight so you don't want them to get a great look at your jig, down in Kentucky I have seen them roar right up to a jig in clear water and back off, if it is stained they will have a reaction strike to your jig.
I must warn you Skipjack fishing is highly addictive there is so much fun catching these fish as they will hit your jigs hard, but sometimes a soft tap, but there main thrill is there acrobatic leaps out of the water in an effort to dislodge that jig from there mouth, there drag burning runs, and since they are a schooling type of fish there are times when you can have four Skipjacks on your rig at one time which can really put the test to your equipment.
When you pull them out of the water they will still thrash around if you grab and squeeze on there gill plates on the side of there head it paralyzes them and they will cease there movements. Put them in an insulated cooler, keep them cold and dry if possible. I have large bags that Iíll put mine in then I cover them with ice that way they stay dry.
I normally just use a high speed spinning reel loaded with 20# test line toss it out and reel it back in they will run down any jig no matter how fast the retrieve is, there are times when they are deep under the surface and they want a slower retrieve so you have to experiment with them. I have fished with Crappie jigs tied on to the main line to the regular Sabiki rigs, there are times when the want the real small jigs. In 2007 I switched over to a saltwater type of Sabiki rig
that has been deadly on them,
It's called a Squid rig, I get these from Kings bait and tackle
317-831-0135 ask for Perry
and tell him you want the Saltwater style Sabiki Rigs, the hooks are stainless and there is no
bending or give when you set the hook, just make sure when you feel that tap to
set the hook hard there mouth is very hard and when they leap out of the water
they will lose the jig. There are four jigs to this rig so it is much easier to
throw this set-up; I attach a 3/8th to a 1/2oz. sinker to be used as
a weight at the end of the line. The colors seem to attract them as the pink and
green seem to be the best producers. You need to try and match the hatch, look
into the water and see what they are feeding on then try to mimic that pattern
with your bait. Different colors and or dark colors can be a ticket to success.
I very seldom have fresh Skips I live too far from the river to afford the gas to travel and then fish I mainly set aside a weekend and do nothing but Skipjack fish, Barkley and Kentucky Dams are my favorite places to catch them along with Markland Dam in Indiana, I vacuum pack mine and they are just as good as fresh, be sure to freeze them before vacuuming them a lot of people will put them fresh in the bags and vacuum them, that will pull all the blood right under the scales and when you thaw them out the tissues are not full of blood, freeze them first, then while hard Vacuum them, when you go to thaw them out pierce the bag with a knife, this is important because if you thaw them with the vacuum on them the pressure will squeeze the blood again right out of the tissues as they soften up, thaw them out slowly, I just put the skips Iím going to use that day in a cooler and fill the cooler with cold water they will thaw very slow, if done right when you cut them the blood will be bright red and should flow freely from the body cavity, if the blood is a dull red or brown color they will still work but not near as effective as the bright red. Also I will scale my bait prior to cutting it up into chunks seems to get more scent into the water.
I will generally cut the head off and that is one bait Iíll position the hook in the two nostril holes, cut the gut pocket out it becomes another bait then I can fillet the two sides out and chunk them up or leave the two sides intact and use them as big chunks After cutting up your bait put it into another container and keep it as cold as possible, I have what is called a Cool container that is insulated, has a center section for storing bait then you can put ice around the outer section or I fill it with water then freeze it, but the main objective is to keep your bait as cold as possible if the blood leaks into the container that is fine as the bait will marinate in its own juices.
Over the years I have switched from a live bait fisherman to all cutbait, I have seen my numbers of fish and weights increase from doing the above even with Shad as bait and I mostly fish the Ohio River.
This should help you get started on a very exciting type of fishing on the rivers.
Doc and Lynn Lange 2-2-2008