Being a year-round unregulated species, Jack Crevalles offer the opportunity for targeting at any time of any day. Jacks are truly an unrestrained warrior. They can be found all around Florida, either coast, inshore or offshore. Also known as Crevalle Jack’s, this species is powerful; they will put up good fights. Larger Jacks offshore will provide some of the best fights you’ll find and give even the best anglers a run for their money.
What Do Jacks Look Like
The colors of a Crevalle Jack can range from a greenish-gold to a bluish-green, with their bellies displaying hues from silver to yellowish. These Jacks will have a noticeable black spot on their gill covers as well as on the base of each pectoral fin. The second dorsal fin and the anal fin will be just about the same size. The Crevalle Jack’s head is like that of a mahi, yet less blunt past the slope.
Jacks can be caught at upwards of 20 pounds, but due to fishing seasons, they are more commonly caught around 3-5 pounds.
Rules and Regulations
This common Jack is one of the thousands of species in Florida that is ‘unregulated’. Let’s be clear though, there are still some general guidelines that must be followed while fishing. Standard recreational gear requirements and unregulated bag limits are still in place for recreational fisherman.
The default bag limit for unregulated species runs at 2 fish or 100 pounds per person per day, whichever is greater. For example, if you are targeting smaller species like these Crevalle Jacks, you can catch as many fish as you like, so long as you don’t exceed 100 lbs. If you are targeting larger species, catching two fish that weigh 125 pounds total would be your take home limit.
Generally, legal gear requirements include hook & line, spears, gigs, seines and cast nets; however, in certain locations there may be more regulations in place. Be sure to check your local requirements before setting out to fish. Illegal gear consists of, but is not limited to, chemical fishing, explosives, electricity (including bang sticks) and fish traps.
Where to Find Them
Jacks can be found on both coasts, both inshore and offshore, as they can tolerate a wide range of salinities. Peak spawning season occurs from March through September in offshore waters.
The gulf coast offers various bays and inlets with multiple structures that offer perfect habitats for Jacks. Schools of Jacks are known to corner pods of baitfish at the surface so if you are on a boat, keep an eye out for birds picking at the surface of the water.
When the open seas are too rough or too cold, stick to the in-shore waterways for year-round action. Crevalle Jacks like to spend their time growing up in Florida’s coastal estuaries. You can catch them up to 10-12 inches in these waters.
Jacks can be caught while standing on the beach as well. Cast nets and hook and line anchored to the beach can pull up a decent bag of Jacks if you hit them at the right time. Early morning is a great time to catch the fish from the coast when they are cornering their bait schools.
Fishing Tips and Tricks
If you opt to target your Jacks in-shore, we recommend you fish early morning at first light. As the day begins, these fish like to be inland to trap the smaller baitfish between them and the coast. This makes for the perfect opportunity to use small, shiny lures to attract the Jacks to you.
While any size Jack will give you a good fight, you can target the larger Jacks offshore. Once they have grown, they ditch their safety net in the shallows and move out to deeper waters where live baits and fun tactics can be used to hook them.
They feed mainly on small bait fish like mullet, sardines and herring so when fishing for smaller Jacks, be sure to use smaller bait fish (around 2-3 inches) and the larger bait fish for offshore targets. When casting a line, reel fast! Jack Crevalle love hitting fast-moving targets.
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Preparing Your Jack Crevalle
Most anglers will tell you Jacks are trash fish, but we are here to tell you that is incorrect. Over the recent years, Jacks have become more popular table fare. The key is to bleed and ice the fish immediately if you plan on cooking them. Bleed the fish by cutting the gill arches and holding the fish upside down until you notice the blood coming to a slow drip.
Jacks are known to look and feel like beef with a strong fishy flavor. Bleeding and icing will remove a large portion of the fishy flavor. When cooking, the fish should be treated like a good steak. Marinate in a seasoning that includes some citrus to help remove any additional fish flavor. Grilling, baking and pan-searing are great cooking methods to test out.
For fisherman that still do not wish to take these fish home to eat, we ask that you fish friendly. Please treat the fish in such a way that will allow them to return to the water with a chance at recovery and survival.
Jacks are a strong and varied species. This unregulated species offers a perfect target for those anglers who wish to fish all day and still not max out on a bag limit. Crevalle Jacks offer a fighting power that makes for an enticing battle, even to the most seasoned of fisherman. Using live baits and reeling quickly are sure-fire ways to make sure you catch plenty of these fish.
For those who have tasted Jack and weren’t impressed, we urge you to try it again. Chefs and fellow anglers have been successful in transforming this species into a variety of recipes.