Dogtooth tuna facts


Gymnosarda unicolor

OTHER NAMES: Pegtooth Tuna (USA), Scaleless Tuna (USA, Australia)

The Dogtooth Tuna is in fact more closely related to the Bonito’s than the true Tuna family. It falls under its own genus, Gymnosarda. It looks somewhat like a deeper bodied, very heavily built King Mackerel and is a powerful fighter of the tropical Indian Ocean. This species has become more popular with anglers in recent years due to the popularity of vertical jigging and popping offshore.


A heavily built fish. Its back is dark blue and sides and stomach silver with no markings. The lateral line meanders randomly and it has large eyes. The tips of the dorsal and anal fins are white. Large peg-like teeth are easily visible, giving it a very aggressive look. It has a row of finlets from behind the dorsal fin and behind the anal fin, down to the large, sickle shaped tail.


Dogtooth Tuna are an Indo Pacific species, found off Africa from St Lucia Northwards. There are not many reports of this species from South African waters, though they have been caught off St Lucia and Sodwana. Dogtooth Tuna usually prefer large drop offs, or almost vertical walls around deep water. They are found to depths of over 100m. There are many caught off St Lazarus banks (Northern Mozambique), Bassas Da India, Grand Castor banks (Madagascar), off Mafia and Latham Islands (Tanzania)and around many of the Seychelles islands. Some small specimens are landed on a fairly regular basis off 25 Mile Reef North of Bazaruto Island, so there must be bigger fish somewhere in the area.


Dogtooth Tuna are a resident species and can be caught year round.


The largest reported catch of Dogtooth Tuna is 131 kg’s, caught off Korea in 1982. They reach a length of 2.2m.


Dogtooth Tuna frequent reef environments, particularly in places close to large underwater drop offs, seamounts and steep walls. They are often found in association with schools of Rainbow Runner, which is one of their favourite foods. This species is an apex non-pelagic predator of its environment, along with big GT’s and sharks. An aggressive feeder, Dogtooth Tuna eat a wide variety of prey species, from pelagic schooling fish, to reef species and squid. These fish either move around as individuals or in small schools of up to six fish. It generally is found in the mid-water at depths of up to 100m and has a temperature preference of 20 to 28 degrees Celsius. This species is highly vulnerable to overfishing due to its resident nature, and the fact that large specimens do suffer from barotrauma and need to be carefully handled and revived before being released. These fish usually arrive at the surface after a long fight on their backs, with a swollen stomach.



Most Dogtooth Tuna are caught on vertical jigs, they do however take surface lures such as big chuggers or stickbaits. They are particularly active on a pushing tide, as well as dawn and dusk. Dogtooth can also be targeted at night.

Interestingly Doggies will hit almost any size jig, from the largest to very small. Purple, pink, silver and orange are all good colours for this species. The speed of retrieve is also often not an issue. Doggies will hit jigs being whipped in and will also take virtually static jigs, hanging in the midwater, particularly if the jig or the assist hook is dressed with something with some movement in it such as a soft plastic squid. A heavy mono or fluorocarbon leader is enough for these fish, as their teeth do not have cutting edges.  Other doggies will often try to wrest the jig or plug from the hooked fish’s mouth. You usually know when you have hooked a Dogtooth tuna by the distinctive throb up the line from the big tail wags of these powerful fish.

Dogtooth Tuna generally head down when hooked, and very often cut the line off on the reef. They are powerful fish, which are extremely hard to stop on any tackle. It is advisable when hooking a big doggie to put maximum pressure on the fish with the tightest drag setting your reel can manage, in order to try and get it away from the reef. Start the boat and move to the deep side of the drop off, minimising the chance of the line being cut off when the doggie dives over the drop off.

There can be few fishing experiences as thrilling as when the doggies are coming on to lures on the surface.  They will track a popper or stickbait for a while before hitting it with an explosive smash. Hooking one of these fish on a short line, near the surface gives you the full experience of this fish’s amazing power and speed. Only the very best tackle is able to stand up to the pressure and it takes a lot of strength and energy on the part of the angler to win the battle.






Craig Thomassen
Latest posts by Craig Thomassen (see all)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *