We are so lucky to be able to fish for so many different species here in the keys. As temperatures rise and fall through the year, a variety of fish move their way through our channels, flats and basins. We all know about the spring tarpon bonanza that begins as the water warms in March. Predictably, permit will head out to the nearshore wrecks to spawn in April. When the water cools down later in the year, sea trout and pompano make a showing in the basins. One of the most exciting and tough fighting fish we have in the winter is the jack crevalle. These brutes blast through our channels and basins in big schools, and they are hungry! During the spring tarpon runbacks tend to get a bad rap with anglers live baiting in the harbor. Everyone is hoping for that big explosion of silver to break through the surface as a monster flies into the air. Sometimes the line goes straight down, and stays down..
“Awww dammit! It’s a jack!” Is the PG version of what is usually exclaimed.
After several long minutes of tug of war, grunting, sweat and multiple circles around the boat, the angler is always surprised that a 17 pound jack just wore him out worse than a 50 pound tarpon. Even though the jack crevalle isn’t considered a glamour species, there is no denying their power and endurance.
Now that the tarpon are gone and the water has cooled it is time to start targeting jacks. I like to look for them in the gulf side basins and channels. Ill drift through and blind cast with jigs or swim baits. If there are pilchards to be had, i will stake out on the edge of a channel with good current running. Start throwing out freebies and the jacks will probably find them. Once the school is located there is nothing more fun than throwing a top water plug to them. A fast retrieve will result in aggressive and repeated attacks. For the fly casters a popper or banger fly works very well. When a big jack eats it get that line cleared or it won’t last long!
This time of year you can look for schools of jacks on the flats as well. Often they will follow large rays and sharks. The bigger the shark is the more likely there will be jacks behind it. Again, these fish are there to eat. Get a plug or fly to them quickly since these fish are usually moving quickly across the flat. Once one fish sees the bait the rest will follow and fight for it. Jacks are a tough and resilient fish but since the are so aggressive they will swallow a bait quickly. I will change out any treble hooks for singles to help insure that these fish are released in good shape. Since they have little to no food value it is best to make sure they swim away healthy as possible.
Get out there and find those big yellow schools and enjoy the fight. when the bite is on it is hard to have more fun than during a jack attack.
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