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SIZE: Schools of young fish are common at 5-20 pounds. Average size over deep wrecks and reefs is 30 – 60 pounds, but 100-pounders are not too rare and the potential maximum exceeds 150 pounds. World record 155 pounds, 10 ounces; Florida record 142 pounds. GAME QUALITIES: A strong, punishing fighter that powers deep and defies lifting.
Experienced light-tackle anglers can successfully battle them with spinning and bait casting rigs, and even fly rods. Around wrecks, they frequently follow hooked fish to boat side, and also may rise to the top voluntarily.
Then they can be cast to with surface plugs, spoons, jigs, or big fly rod streamers and poppers. Live chum will also draw Amber jack from the depths.
Best bait with heavy tackle is any sort of live fish, the friskier the better. FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting;Trolling; Casting.
HABITAT: Adults are common at various depths, ranging from reefs several hundred feet deep to fairly shallow wrecks and reefs. Big ones also come close to shore at times, particularly in the Keys and the Islands.
Artificial reefs and wrecks all along the Gulf Coast often harbor huge schools of smaller Amber jack, and many Gulf wrecks are home to big ones as well. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some facts about this species, update anglers on the current Gulf of Mexico regulations and a short Identification guide on how to distinguish greater amber jack from lesser amber jack, Almach jack and banded rudder fish.
They are voracious eaters and often targeted by recreational, commercial and charter fishermen as they readily accept lures or natural bait in a variety of fishing methods. Moreover, it is super important to be able to properly identify which jack is on your line before throwing it in the ice box.
The greater amber jack can be found on offshore reefs and wrecks in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Their range in the Western Atlantic is from Nova Scotia to Brazil and typically found in depths between 60-250 ft.
Amber jack spawn between March through June and during that time a single female can release between 18-59 million floating eggs. Juvenile greater amber jack are yellow and have 5-6 vertical bars along their sides.
As adults, greater amber jack transition to feed on fish and invertebrates that inhabit both pelagic and benthic environments. There are now two separate management strategies causing regulations on size and season to differ between amber jack harvested on Florida ’s East and West coast.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed greater amber jack as a species of the least concern. The greater amber jack as well as some other members of the Serious genus have been successfully bred and raised in captivity.
Their fast growth rates and late age of maturity makes them a prime candidate for aquaculture. In fish and many other organisms, growth usually slows once sexual maturity is reached as energy is diverted towards production of eggs and sperm.
There is plenty of scientific literature out there regarding spawning and rearing jack belonging to the genus Serious so give them a read ! Due to strict regulations in the United States and efforts by aquaculture operations, amber jack is listed as the best and good alternative fish by Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.
Tapeworms belonging to the order trypanorhyncha otherwise known as spaghetti worms, can occasionally be found in the fillet of greater amber jack. Jack and other fish are the intermediate host for these restore worms that undergo an interesting and complex life cycle.
The cycle starts within a shark where tapeworm eggs are expelled in the predator’s feces and hatch into coracidium larvae. The thought of why these worms are so concentrated in near the head and tail is that those areas are usually the first sites bitten by sharks when chomping on a fish.
These schooling jacks inhabit offshore reefs and wrecks where they cruise the water column and search for fish and invertebrates. In Southwest Florida there may be some seasonal size variability with larger jacks moving closer to shore during the winter.
Juvenile versions of these jacks can look different from their adult counterparts and undergo physiological changes as they grow. Luckily slot and minimum size limits are regulated on all but one of these four species and helps in the prevention of misidentifying undersized jacks.
One feature that may be more pronounced when the fish is active and “lit up” is the darker colored eye stripe called the nuclei bar. In greater amber jack the nuclei bar starts from the nose and extends into the first dorsal fin area, in lesser amber jack the bar starts from the eye and extends to in front of the first dorsal fin.
The simplest way to describe the maxilla would be the bones that form the top of the jaw and create the corner of the fish’s mouth. The other two species maxillae will most often end prior to the start of the eye, not extending past the mid section.
On any of these four jack species, the first dorsal fin’s membrane is supported by bony structures called spines. The second dorsal fin however is supported by structures called rays. There are overlaps on number of spines and rays between species but can aid in distinguishing greater from lesser amber jack.
This should be a last resort method of identification as handling a live fish to see their gills can be detrimental to their health. This can explain why as the jacks grow, the number of gill makers is reduced as their prey size increases.
2020 Gulf of Mexico Regulations: Daily Bag Limit : 1 per person, Size Limit : minimum 34” fork length, Season : open May 1-31 and August 1 – October 31, subject to change if the recreational annual catch target is met 2020 Gulf of Mexico Regulations: Daily Bag Limit: 5 per person aggregate between banded rudder fish Size limit: slot 14”-22” fork length Season : open all year in state waters, in federal water this species is open all year but may change if the annual catch limit is reached between recreational and commercial landings.
IFA World Record: 5 lb 0 oz Key West Florida April 13, 2015 2020 Gulf of Mexico Regulations : Daily Bag Limit : 5 per person aggregate between banded rudder fish Size limit : slot 14”-22” fork length Season : open all year in state waters, in federal water this species is open all year but may change if the annual catch limit is reached between recreational and commercial landings.
2020 Gulf of Mexico Regulations : Daily Bag Limit : Florida state waters: unregulated, bag limit 100 lbs per person, Gulf of Mexico federal waters: part of the 20-reef fish aggregate person per day aggregate* Size limit : none Season : open all year in state waters, in federal water this species is open all year but may change if the annual catch limit is reached between recreational and commercial landings. Distinguishing Characteristics:Deep body shape, pronounced elongated dorsal and anal fin, darker coloration, 18-25 gill makers.