Boating Gamefishing

Live-baiting skipjack tuna

As mentioned in our January edition, live-baiting skipjack tuna can be a very successful form of game-fishing especially for marlin and big tuna, and is a fairly simple process. If you’re fishing on a budget this can save you a bit of extra cash, travelling at a slower speed, using less gas, only one game rod is needed, and you catch your own bait.
Live-bait game-fishing is generally a lot more accessible. Even in a small boat this style of fishing can be performed with some outstanding results. This is due to the large schools of skipjack tuna we have here in our New Zealand waters, and their location is generally in 100m of water or sometimes even shallower. An age-old adage says, “Find the bait, find the fish.” We will run through a few tips and techniques to get you started.

Tuna Tubes – These are great if you are planning on doing a lot of live-baiting. There will be times when you will lose bait from either a shark or marlin, so having one ready to go in the tubes can be very handy. There might be a hot bite in an area where skippies are hard to come by, so filling up your tubes and then planning to fish the area can pay dividends. Otherwise, without tubes, once you have caught your skippy you will have to rig up straight away and get back in the water quick smart, which is not all bad because if there are skippies in the area so there could also be the predators that feast on them. Contact your local marine dealer for tuna tube and pump options to best suit your boat.

Trace: Use a 350lb to 400lb leader, and a 13/0 to 15/0 circle hook. You can attach your hook either by using a snell knot or by simply crimping it to the leader, so it pays to have a few leaders ready to go.


There are a couple of different ways of rigging skippies. The quick-and-easy cable tie and docking-ring method we mentioned in last month’s Adventurer, and there is also the button-dacron method. However, the one we use most of the time is with a needle and dacron, as in the example below.

1. Start by attaching your dacron loop to the hook.
2. Then attached the end of your loop to the needle and pass through the front eye cavity of the skippy, this should go through with ease.
3. Once through, place the end of the loop over the point of your hook and twist around about 6 times.
4. Then bring the point of your hook through the opening at the bottom of your twists and pull to tighten,
5. Then repeat step 3 & 4 but this time with only 2 or 3 twists.
Setting your line 

Once you have your bait in the water and your engine just in gear, let your bait out behind the boat (around 30m). When running two baits, run one short and one long as this helps to keep the baits from coming together and tangling. Having one of your baits in short is also a great visual aspect. If you watch the bait you get to see the bite a lot of the time.

Once in the preferred location, you need to set your line for a bite. I find the best way is to hold your line (wrap a rubber band around your mono and hold the rubber band). We prefer this method as it lets us feel what is happening. When you can’t see the bait, you can usually tell when there is a fish on your line as the skippy will get very agitated and swim around a lot more. At times like this, if you have your bait in a release clip and the skippy trips out of the clip before it is eaten by the marlin, this can upset the bite altogether and may cause the marlin to either miss the bait and get tangled in the leader, or even not be able to catch the skippy. So holding the bait is a great way to know what is going on back there, plus I find holding the bait and getting the bite is a real buzz, or alternately you can clip your rubber band in your outrigger.

The bite

When something turns up you will feel your skippy get very excited; once you feel a heavy tug from a larger fish that’s when you let go, so I like to run a drawback of line about six to eight metres in length. We use this method so when your bait gets hit and you let go there is a split second of slack line which gives the fish more chance of swallowing your bait. You should have the drag on your reel set just above free spool, so the line can run freely without birds nesting. A lot of people ask how long you give the marlin to eat the bait before you put the drag up. This is a hard question as every bite is different. You don’t want to give the marlin too long because you don’t want him to get the bait all the way down in his guts, or too short and you will pull the bait off him. Generally, we give it around 10 to 15 seconds, then slowly start bringing the drag up to strike, then hopefully we have a clean hook-up in the corner of the mouth. This is not always the case though, as the marlin sometimes find themselves getting bill-wrapped and tangled in the trace, or just swiping at the bait. If this happens, get another bait in the water quick smart as you might get him second time round, or there are likely to be other marlin nearby.

Get out there guys and girls and give it a go, make the most of this fine summer we are experiencing. If you would like to know more, flick us a message on our Facebook page, and we would love to hear how you get on.

Good luck and stay safe.


Handy Hints

• Lively active baits are always better, if you have been dragging your bait around all day or may have been damaged when rigging they can tend to be a bit lifeless, replacing with a fresh bait is recommended to send out as much vibes as possible.

• Small to medium size skippy’s are the recommended size, too big and the fish can choke on them without swallowing the bait down.

• When handling your live skippys use a wet towel/cloth to hold them, and hold upside down to stop them from kicking, try not to make them bleed at all.

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