Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris)



Skipjack herring (river herring, Tennessee tarpon, hickory shad {wrongly called}) is a predatory fish. It travels in large schools and attacks schools of smaller baitfish. Often easy to spot, but hard to acquire at times. Skipjack are perhaps the best striper bait in this region. They reach a size of over 20 inches and over 3 lbs, thus making the larger ones trophy striper bait only. Typical skipjack sizes range from 12-18 inches.


The skipjack is usually highly abundant in the Tennessee river and its major tributaries. As a migratory fish, there are distinct "seasons" when they become abundant in certain areas.


They are about as elusive as mooneye in a cast net, but fortunately their aggressive nature usually makes them quite easy on rod and reel. By far the best area to catch skipjack is below dams in the tailwaters during times of generation. You will usually spot them breaking on the surface. Any crappie jig, small jerkbait, streamer fly, or spinner will catch skipjack. They are quite a bit of fun on light tackle with vertical leaps and head-thrashing. In the spring, they migrate in LARGE numbers along with white bass and sauger up into the shallow headwaters of lakes.


Overnight storage of skipjack is next to impossible. Without an oxygen system on board, you will be lucky have one survive more than a couple of hours in even a 30 gallon tank. If you can manage to dangle them in the water, or upright in the tank, they will survive for a few hours. This trait of skipjack is a severe limitation considering their prime status. They are typically a 'catch and use' bait.


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