There are many baits that are great for catching blue catfish but, few are as sought after as skipjack herring. Also known as: skippies, Tennessee tarpon, and river herring, their oily flesh is known to catch monster channels and blues. Unlike shad, they can be caught by hook and line and offer some fast, high flying action for anglers looking to stock up on bait. Their common name is derived from their erratic feeding habits where they can be seen jumping and skipping across the water’s surface chasing baitfish.
Skippies are a very active fish with blue-green backs, silver sides and white bellies. They are between 12 and 16 inches when mature, and commonly reach weights of 3/4 to 1 1/2 pounds. Similar to gizzard and threadfin shad, they are easy to identify by their shallow bodies and protruding lower jaw.
Where to Find Skipjack
Skipjack are not found nationwide but, are in great numbers the Mississippi, Ohio, and Tennessee rivers as well as many of their tributaries.
Skipjack herring are a migrating fish, moving both up at downstream throughout the seasons. In early to late spring they will move upstream, concentrating in areas below dams, powerplant tailraces, and lake headwaters presumably to spawn. They are usually found in large rivers and streams with deep, fast moving water above a sand or gravel bottom.
Known as the freshwater tarpon, skipjack can provide an exciting day of fishing while filling a cooler with bait. Since their primary forage is small baitfish and insects, they can be caught on a wide variety of jigs and lures. Some favorites are skirtless jigs like the Skippi jigs, crappie jigs and spinnerbaits, or sabiki rigs.
Skipjack can be very difficult to keep alive so they are most often a catch and use type of bait but, many catfishermen will stock up on them in the spring and vacuum pack and freeze them for use at a later date.
Check out the video below from Monster Rod Holder’s Steve Douglas for some hot skipjack action!