For Western Angler editor and fishing extraordinaire Scott Coghlan, skippy are one of his favourite species to catch for a raft of reasons. Read his expert insights into the humble bread-and-butter species in the latest edition of Scott’s Species!
Species: Skippy (or) silver trevally, Pseudocaranx dentex
Eating: 4 stars
ID: Black mark on gill plate. Yellowish tinge on fins.
Most often called skipjack trevally or skippy, silver trevally are a bread-and-butter staple in the southern half of Australia and an important recreational fishing target in WA.
They are found from Exmouth in WA across the southern part of the country to southern Queensland — often in big schools.
Off Perth, they are usually most prevalent in winter, when they show up in big numbers around inshore reef systems, and are often shadowed by big Samson fish that seemingly view them as a good snack.
Rottnest Island is a good spot to catch them from shore as they often inhabit its reef holes, and inshore boaters can also get them around Rotto in good numbers.
Although they can grow to more than 10kg, skippy of this size are usually only seen in public aquariums.
Most fish will be under 1kg and a skippy of 5kg is a prize catch. At this size, they are usually taken along the south coast, where big fish get caught offshore and occasionally from shore, especially east of Esperance.
Skippy are renowned for pulling hard for their size, using their broad flanks to work against the angler.
Complicating matters for the angler is the fact they have very soft mouths and it is easy to pull the hook by exerting too much pressure.
Skippy are not a hard fish to find and are often in big numbers around structure such as jetties, reefs and rocks in shallow water, but they also are quick to head for this structure when hooked.
They are suckers for burley and respond well to things like pollard, but be careful not to overdo it or they’ll go off the bite eventually.
Small baits — such as whitebait, chunks of pilchard or pieces of squid — can be dynamite. In years gone by, fresh cockles were dynamite for us around Albany.
Small metal lures work and little soft plastics are deadly. Complicated rigs are not essential for bait fishing and something as simple as a burley cage, with around 30cm of leader to an appropriate hook will do the job.
Light spinning gear is all that is needed. The length of the rod will be determined by the environment — whether you’re fishing from the shore or boat — and a small threadline reel armed with 4kg to 5kg braid will be sufficient for most scenarios, other than the big offshore skippy, which are often taken jigging.
We used handlines to catch them from the wharf in the Albany back when I started fishing, and the combination of thin mono and hard-pulling skippy meant some nice deep cuts on my fingers.
However, regardless of where or how you’re fishing and the skippy, they’re an awesome fish to catch for anglers of all skill levels.