On March 24, 2017, amberjack season came to an abrupt halt as the Gulf Council determined the fish had reached its yearly poundage quota for recreational anglers. When seasonal changes were delayed for 2018, anglers were given the opportunity for a brief run at the hard-fighting fish starting Jan. 1 before closing Jan. 27.
Exciting anglers planned accordingly, but as the calendars turned to 2018, Mother Nature had other plans, and a week of strong wind and cold held most boats back.
This week offered a few nice days between cold fronts, and anglers like Capt. Jason Stock took advantage.
“There are small windows to head offshore in January, so you’ve got to take them,” the nearshore specialist Stock said. “With these fronts, you might only get one or two good days over a few weeks.”
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Stock often fishes reefs and wrecks from 30 to 100 feet. He loves putting clients on big fish. “I like getting people that bucket list fish. They’ll remember catching something like a goliath grouper or huge shark forever. I’ve got a lot of people who come down from up north and they go back with fishing stories they will never forget.”
As he headed west, Stock was armed with big tackle and big bait to target monster amberjack. Amberjack so big anglers would never forget.
“There are big amberjack on most wrecks and big ledges from 40 feet on out this time of year. Most people just don’t know it and don’t fish big enough baits. It takes something like big blue runners, grunts, porgies, pinfish, even bonita to get monster amberjack. Big poppers work, too,” Stock said.
While fishing Wednesday on a shallow wreck in the Gulf of Mexico, Stock had amberjack chummed to the surface. That’s when he threw a lure commonly used in Louisiana for yellowfin tuna, a Halco Roosta Popper. With that a huge amberjack made its presence known.
“The bite was unreal. A monster fish on a topwater in the middle of the Gulf, that’s something people won’t forget.”
After a lengthy battle, a 78-pound amberjack was aboard Stock’s 23-foot Hanson.
The next day, he was back at it again, heading offshore in foggy but calm conditions.
“There were two other boats on the wreck, and I don’t think they were catching anything. We pulled up and threw out big bait, hooked up and pulled the fish off the wreck,” Stock said. “The big ones will often sound for the wreck, breaking you off in it.
“With the bigger fish fish it’s hard to get them on anchor, they break you off almost every time. If you get them away from the wreck you can fight them like normal.”
By deploying big live bait, Stock and friend Mike Yadus landed another pair of 74-pound amberjack. “When I filleted one of those fish, it had a bonita in its stomach. That shows you just how big of baits they are eating,” Stock noted.
Unfortunately, Friday’s cold front may be followed by another stronger front midweek. “It looks like the week ahead won’t be too promising. I’ll be keeping and eye on the weather because the fish aren’t going anywhere.”
Stock can be contacted through his website at jmsnookykayakcharters.com.
For more information, contact Jon Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.