They are some of the most bruising fighters in the Gulf, known for runs that slam rods on gunnels and can wear an angler out faster than the stink of catfish bait.
Amberjack is one of the favorite targets of offshore fishermen wishing to get both the workout and the post-workout meal.
Amberjack must be at least 30 inches to keep on the Gulf side, and an angler can harvest one a day. To get any amberjack, anglers will typically have to venture into at least 100 feet of water. Keepers are in at least 140 feet of depth.
Amberjack stick to any structures, such as a spring, wreck or big ledges. They also gather around towers such as gas and oil rigs.
Amberjack are a speedy fish and prefer equally frisky baits. Dead baits are effective for grouper and snapper but rarely will entice an amberjack bite.
Use live baits for AJs, the best being pinfish, squirrel fish and grunts. Amberjack also feed on squid and crustaceans. Their spawn is said to encompass the entire year.
Jigs also are effective for amberjack fishing. The livelier the bait, the better chance you’ll have for a bite. As with live bait fishing for any species, it’s important to keep fresh bait kicking on the hook.
Knife jigs work particularly well for attracting big amberjack. A quick jerk on the rod causes a slicing action that works well around bait schools. The jig scatters the bait fish, something that gets attention of amberjack (and kingfish) who blast after the speedy, shifty jig.
Capt. Williams likes to put a slide rig on the bottom of the jig and add a No. 7 circle hook to nab a short-striking jack.
Capt. Williams will be at the Red Barn flea market Saturday and Sunday doing seminars and hanging out in a tent for anglers with any questions.
“I will be giving hands-on demonstrations, showing people how to rig right,” Williams said. “How to rig the hooks, how to use jigs, how to tie PowerPro braided line to a fluorocarbon leader without a swivel.”
When it comes to eating an amberjack, the AJs aren’t unlike fish such as snook and redfish that gained in popularity once anglers found a proper way to clean or prepare them. One of the most important things to remember when cleaning an amberjack is cutting out the blood line, leaving white meat that is just a bit tougher than grouper. Cutting out the blood line removes a fishy taste that has made some anglers unaware of the potential of this great-eating fish.
Greater amberjack are the largest of the jack family, with dark stripes running from their nose to the front of their dorsal fins. Amberjack are usually less than 40 pounds, but there are spots in about 375 feet of water where amberjack between 50 and 70 pounds can be caught.
In proportion, lesser amberjack have bigger eyes than the greater amberjack and are olive green or brownish-black with dark strips running upward from their eyes. Lesser amberjack usually stay under 10 pounds.
When it comes to AJs, there’s hardly a more fleeting, better tasting fish in the Gulf.