Think you don’t know jack? But maybe you do
If you’ve been fishing around Anna Maria Island in recent weeks, you probably know a lot about jack — jack crevalle, that is.
Schools of jack crevalle have invaded Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Sound and south to Sarasota Bay, swarming schools of baitfish, leaving a trail of wreckage in their wake. These voracious fish are ranging anywhere from 1-10 pounds and will chew on just about anything that crosses their path. That being said, these fish can be caught on a variety of baits, including jigs, spoons, Gotcha plugs and even topwater baits.
The jack crevalle is native to Florida waters. The common size is 1 to 5 pounds, although fish in the 20-pound range are not uncommon. The world record for a jack crevalle is 58 pounds 6 ounces.
There is really no food value to these fish — the meat is dark and has a strong flavor. Although not good to eat, they do make an excellent adversary on light spinning tackle or fly tackle. Drag-screaming runs are followed by dogging at the rod, before the fish finally succumbs, makes the jack crevalle a true competitor in the ranks of strength per pound. For their size, the strength of these fish will amaze the light-tackle angler.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish macks, jacks and blue runners are abundant around the pier in the morning hours around sunrise. Clark spoons or crappie jigs in pink or white can get you connected.
Mangrove snapper, flounder and juvenile grouper are being caught by bait fishers at the pier. Anglers using live shrimp and shiners are catching decent numbers of the trio of species, although keeper-size fish are hard to come by.
Lastly, night fishers are catching the occasional snook on live ballyhoo and shiners. Free-lining baits along the shadow line the pier forms on the water is a great way to hook up. Other species being caught at night include stingrays, shark and the occasional spotted seatrout.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting reef species on nearshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico. By using live shiners for bait, Girle is reeling up keeper gag grouper and a few short reds. Also on the artificial reefs, Girle is catching limits of 12-15 inch mangrove snapper.
By free-lining live shiners behind the boat, Girle is catching dolphin — also known as mahi mahi or dorado — in 45 feet of water. Yes, I said dolphin and, yes, in 45 feet of water. It just goes to show you that you never know what’s going to happen in a day’s fishing in our local waters.
Moving inshore, Girle is still catching limits of redfish as well as a few keeper-size snook. Under-slot snook are more frequent, especially along mangrove shorelines with good water flow. Expect to catch a few spotted seatrout in the mix, too.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle says snook and redfish are dominating the bite on the flats of Anna Maria Sound. Most charters arriving back at the dock are showing off slot-size reds before they are set on the fillet table. For bait, most are using live shiners or pinfish to get these copper-sided fish to bite. The same applies for snook, too. Most snook being caught are in the 20- to 26-inch range. Keeper fish are occasionally found in the mix.
Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle are feeding throughout the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as off the beaches. Oldham suggests Gotcha plugs or silver spoons to tie into these toothy fish.
On a final note, Oldham adds the sheepshead are starting to appear around docks and piers again. He suggests a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader combined with a small live bait hook and a split shot to rig for these buck-toothed fish. Add a shrimp, sand flea or fiddler crab and you’re in business.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters says if you’re looking for action, fish the beachside. Spanish mackerel, kingfish and especially jack crevalle are feeding on schooling baitfish up and down the shore of Anna Maria Island. Gross is anchoring and chumming to catch these migratory fish. Once the fish are feeding, Gross’ clients cast into the frenzy, which is resulting in multiple hookups.
While targeting the mack family, expect to see and catch blacktip and spinner sharks. By using chunks of Spanish mackerel as bait, you can expect to hook up with shark ranging in sizes of 3-7 feet.
In the backcountry, Gross is finding a good redfish and snook bite. Keeper-sizes of both species are being caught on live shiners. For the snook, keeper sizes are a little hard to come by, but there are decent numbers of those 24-inch fish to keep you occupied in between hookups with the big ones.
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