How to Catch a Rainbow Runner

How to Catch a Rainbow Runner

Bringing in a Rainbow Runner can be a fun and rewarding experience for any angler willing to put in the work to find them. This strong and fast species puts up a good fight and can be difficult to locate as they tend to prefer the open ocean. However, if you’re looking to bring them in, there are some important tips you’ll need to bring on the boat with you. Even after you’ve found the Rainbow Runner, you’re still in for a fight.

The Rainbow Runner, also known as the Hawaiian Salmon, Spanish Jack, and Rainbow Yellowtail, is a common member of the Jack species. They are a smaller fish relative to other tropical species you might be searching for, but they pack quite the punch when resisting your line. More often than not, the Rainbow Runner is caught as a bycatch by fishers looking for other species in the area.

Catching the Rainbow Runner is all about bringing the right tools and knowledge for the job. Once you know where to go for the Rainbow Runner, you’ll have a much easier time. Equip yourself with the right tackle and the proper food and the Rainbow Runner should swim to you. Though this fish is mostly a bycatch that’s used to bait other species, it has plenty of value itself and is worth your time to locate and fish as your primary focus of the day.

Where to Find the Rainbow Runner

This species of Jack is a tropical fish and will only be found in warmer waters. They don’t have a specified region and can be found in tropical and subtropical water across the world. As long as the temperature of the water is 70-80 degrees, the Rainbow Runner will make a home there. Stick to the warmer waters when beginning your search and be prepared to travel if you’re living in the northern hemisphere as the Rainbow Runner will not be near you.

Many tropical species of fish love to locate themselves in and around reefs but the Rainbow Runner prefers to stay away from structure. They are typically found in groups known as shoals in the open ocean. When specifying a location, it’s best to stick nearer to drop offs as the Rainbow Runner prefers to live nearer to the surface of the open ocean. 150-meters tends to be the deepest they’re found so you won’t have to worry about fishing 300+ meter waters.

They are a curious fish and will come up to any scuba divers in the area to check them out. This works to your benefit as they’ll be interested in what your bait has to offer them and are easier to draw in than more timid species. Smaller Rainbow Runners stick to their schools for safety but the bigger ones will drift off on their own making them more difficult to bring in. Most Rainbow Runners will be at most 40 lbs.

Stick to Their Season

While the Rainbow Runner is active all year round, it can be significantly more difficult to locate one during the winter seasons. You’ll want to stick to the warmer seasons as this keeps the ocean water at a nice 70-80 degrees which is best for locating the Rainbow Jack. The more temperate the waters, the more likely they are to be near the surface which gives you plenty of opportunity to find them and bring them in.

How to Catch a Rainbow Runner

Luckily for you, the Rainbow Runner isn’t too picky when choosing the bait it goes for. As they are a curious fish, they’ll be easy to draw in with even the slightest amount of movements. For this reason, many anglers highly recommend trolling or drifting as the method of choice. The practice of casting your line and moving it slowly alongside your boat as you drift with the current is great for bringing in difficult to find fish as it expands the area of coverage.

Poppers are another fantastic way to grab the attention of this fish as they move and flow through the water in a way that just seems to interest the Rainbow Runner. We’ve found this to be a successful method of bringing the fish in, but trolling is an easier way to catch their attention. Regardless of the method you use, be sure to ready yourself for a fight. Try to tire them out before bringing them in or you might find yourself weakening before the Rainbow Runner does.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Rainbow Runner is often found nearby sharks and other predatory fish as they are a great baitfish for these larger species. If you’re looking to catch a shark or a tuna, having a Rainbow Runner on hand will be quite useful. With that being said, when catching a Rainbow Runner, be prepared to bring them in quickly before a larger predator takes your line from you. You’re likely not going to catch the bigger fish as your line was built for the Runner.

Best Bait for a Rainbow Runner

The preferred diet of the Rainbow Runner is smaller fish and squid. We will always recommend you use live bait as much as possible as it provides more draw for the fish you’re searching for and will be easier to keep active. In the case of the Rainbow Runner, try to use local fish that might already be in their diet. Squid is the most surefire way of grabbing their attention, but there are other smaller baitfish you can use to draw in a Rainbow Runner.

Some plastic baits might work as well, but you’ll need to keep them active and simulate the look of live bait. The Rainbow Runner is a curious fish so this shouldn’t be as difficult as it would with other species, but you might find yourself tiring out before the Rainbow Runner has even taken the bait. Plastic baits will still work, but if you want to avoid fatigue and keep yourself ready for the upcoming battle, live bait might be the better choice.

As long as you’re able to keep the bait active and showcase it for the curious Rainbow Runner, you should be able to bring it in. The real difficulty in the process is finding the Rainbow Runner so as long as you’re in the right spot, grabbing its attention shouldn’t be too difficult.

Best Line Setup for a Rainbow Runner

When targeting a Rainbow Runner, be sure to use similar lure setups to the ones you would use when fishing for tuna or mackerel as they will be likely to be drawn in by the same methods. You’re fishing similar waters and the Rainbow Runner is essentially a smaller version of the above two species so catching it will take a similar thought process. Medium poppers will work fine for the Rainbow Runner, but a heavier setup will be preferable.

When considering your setup, you’ll want to keep it heavy in order to combat the strength of the Rainbow Runner. This is something that many anglers fail to prepare for when fishing the Rainbow Runner as they assume that because it’s a smaller fish, it’s easier to bring in. The fight that the Rainbow Runner is able to put up will likely tire you out before it tires the runner out. That’s why we recommend using heavier gear as it will tire the Rainbow Runner out earlier.

Keep in mind the depth at which they can be found. You may need to reach as deep as 150-meters, or you’ll simply stick up near the surface. They are a difficult fish to pin down and you might be lucky as they’re swimming near the surface, or you’re in for a long haul with the deeper ones. The timing at which you go fishing will play a part in how deep they are as they’re more active during the mornings and late afternoons.

How to Clean & Prepare a Rainbow Runner

Before you start cooking, you’ll need to remove any unnecessary parts of the fish. These include the fins and the tail. With a filleting knife, you’ll want to make an incision right behind the gills and run the knife down along the backbone all the way to the tail. Cleaning includes removing the skin but keeping the flesh as this is where the flavor comes from. Do this on both sides of the Rainbow Runner.

Once you have the Rainbow Runner properly cleaned and prepared, you can begin the seasoning process. Make incisions along the remaining skin so that the seasoning has ample opportunity to get into the meat. There are many different recipes for the Rainbow Runner, but we highly recommend stuffing the stomach cavity with your choice of filling. Once it’s prepared you can cook it on direct heat or smoke it throughout the day.

Catching the Rainbow Runner can be a challenging and difficult process, but one that’s well worth the effort. Though it’s more commonly known as a bycatch for other species in the area, the Rainbow Runner itself can provide an afternoon of fun and a delicious dinner afterwards. 

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