Jack Crevalle Fishing, a complete guide for Anglers
Anglers jack crevalle fishing will find one of the toughest of all of the inshore saltwater game fish. Jacks grow large, are aggressive, school up in large numbers, and have a fairly wide wide range throughout the tropics.
Jack crevalle are found in tropical and sub tropical waters throughout the world. Jacks grow large, with the world record being over 54 pounds and caught in Jupiter, Florida. They are most often found in large schools. This results in them being very aggressive in most instances. Jack crevalle will readily hit most lures and flies that resemble the bait that they are feeding on. Most jacks are released as they are prized for they fighting qualities and not their fillets.
Jack crevalle fishing tackle
Tackle for jack crevalle fishing runs the gamut. Anglers catching two pound jacks on the flats will do fine with light spinning tackle. Conversely, anglers fishing for jacks on inshore wrecks will need stout conventional gear. Fly anglers will choose a 10 wt outfit as a good all around rig for targeting these bruisers.
A 7 foot medium action spinning rod with a 2500-3000 series reel will do well for jack crevalle fishing in most inshore applications. This allows anglers to cast a fairly light lure or bait a decent way while providing enough backbone to handle a nice fish. Anglers fishing for larger fish around structure will need to bump it up a notch or two. Heavy spinning tackle or medium conventional tackle is better suited to fishing for jack crevalle in tight quarters.
Here is a link to a Penn Conflict combo that is a good all-round outfit. 2500 is a great size for most applications, bump up to the 4000 for big jacks around bridges and docks.
Capt Jim has been a fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida since 1991. Anglers who are interested in purchasing the equipment that he uses and writes about in his articles can do so HERE on the PRODUCTS page.
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Anglers interested in fly fishing for jack crevalle can clink on the link to get a detailed article on the tackle and techniques requires to catch a jack on fly.
Rigging up for jack crevalle
The same rig that works for other inshore saltwater game fish will work fine for jack crevalle. Jacks really do not have teeth (they do have little stubby ones), yet a shock leader is required. A shock leader is 2′ or so of stronger flourocarbon line. 30 lb test is a good all around size. Anglers will need to bump it up higher when targeting larger jack crevalle near heavy cover.
Jack crevalle range and habits
Jack crevalle are widely distributed across the temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Jacks range from Canada to lower South America and the west Atlantic. They are also found in the east Atlantic, including the Mediterranean. Jacks are one of the largest fish in the genus Caranx. They grow to over 50 pounds. However, most jack crevalle landed by anglers are in the 3 pound to 15 pound range.
Jack crevalle can be found in inshore saltwater areas as well as the waters close to shore in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. In Florida, jacks also move up into brackish rivers in winter. Juvenile jacks will drift north with the currents. However, jack crevalle can not tolerate cold water and will migrate south or die in winter.
Anglers jack crevalle fishing will find these powerful game fish to be voracious predators. Jacks are opportunistic and will feed on both bait fish and crustaceans. Shrimp and crabs are a primary forage, especially for juvenile fish. Bait fish are devoured all year long. Jacks are often fished for as they are seen terrorizing helpless bait fish on the surface. This is fantastic sport as they will take just about any lure or bait that is cast into the melee!
Top jack crevalle fishing lures
While jacks can certainly be caught by anglers using live or cut bait, many fish are landed by anglers casting artificial lures. The primary reason for this is the aggressive nature of jack crevalle. In addition, their habit of schooling in large numbers adds to the competition factor. Finally, lures are fun to fish with!
Jigs are probably the most effective artificial lure for catching jacks. They are versatile, cast well, and imitate a wide variety of forage species. Most anglers use a jig with a plastic grub body. This makes changing or replacing the body easy and inexpensive. Hair jigs still produce, though they are less versatile. The jig size should be matched to the size of the forage and water depth.
Plugs are very effective lures for catching jack crevalle. Small shallow diving plugs closely resemble the small bait fish that the jacks are feeding on. The Rapala X Rap in the #08 size works well when jack crevalle are feeding on smaller bait. Larger plugs work well when fish are feeding on mullet and other larger bait fish. Spoons are another effective lure for jack crevalle fishing. A 1/2 ounce silver spoon is a great all around choice.
Catching jack crevalle on live bait
Live bait is certainly effective for anglers targeting jacks. They feed on live shrimp, crabs, and bait fish. Anglers fishing without a boat often find that live bait is the best choice. Shore bound anglers can’t chase feeding schools of jacks. Fishing structure or the surf from a fixed location with live bait can be the best approach.
The list of effective live baits is long. Depending on the location, shrimp, crabs, pinfish, grunts, mullet, pogies, sardines, and more will fool a jack crevalle. As with all bait fishing, the hook size should be matched to the size of the bait, not the fish being targeted. 1/0 live bait hooks and 4/0 circle hooks are a good place to start.
Anglers with boats will use live bait when fishing for jack crevalle as well. Live bait works well when fishing docks, bridges, jetties, seawalls, and other structure. Anglers anchor up-tide from the structure and drift the bait back to it. Chumming with live bait is an extremely effective for jacks and other species. This technique is used extensively by charter boat captains throughout the Southeast.
Jack crevalle techniques and tactics
While jack crevalle are a fantastic game fish, few anglers actually target them. Most jacks are caught while fishing for snook, redfish, speckled trout, and other species. Also, jacks are “targets of opportunity” as they are spotted blowing up on bait. The same inshore techniques that produce most fish will produce jacks if they are present.
Drifting the flats for jack crevalle
Many anglers drift the flats all over the country to catch reds, trout, flounder, striped bass, and other species. Jacks are often caught by anglers doing this. The technique is pretty simple. Anglers choose a flat to fish then motor up-wind and up-tide of the flats. As the boat drifts across, lures are cast out ahead of the boat or live baits are drifted on the bottom or out behind the boat.
Jigs are a great artificial lure to use when drifting the flats. Most of the time the water depth will be ten feet or less. A 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce jig can be used to cover the entire water column. Jigs also catch just about every fish that swims. White is an excellent color in normal or clear water while brighter colors such as chartreuse or hot pink are better in stained water. Spoons are another productive lure that casts a long way and allows anglers to cover a lot of water.
Casting to shoreline cover for jack crevalle
Anglers will often work a productive shoreline in search of fish. This is an effective technique in both saltwater and freshwater. Plugs are an excellent artificial lure to use when doing this. Plugs float initially, then dive down upon the retrieve. Shallow diving plugs go down 3-4 feet, which is ideal in most instances. The Rapala X-Rap and Yozuri Crystal Minnow are both good examples of these baits.
Topwater plugs are great fun to fish, especially when jacks are seen feeding on the surface. Anglers do need to take care and not “set the hook” as soon as the take is seen. Instead, the best approach is to wait until the fish is felt, then the line is reeled up tight and the rod tip raised.
Jigs and soft plastic baits are also good baits for working productive shoreline cover. They do need to be worked more slowly than do plugs. The best shorelines with have trees, docks, rip rap, points, and other irregular features and structure. Add in some depth and good tidal flow, and you have a likely fishing spot!
Fishing for jack crevalle in inlets and passes
Passes and inlets are natural spots that hold fish. These are “fish highways” that connect the inshore bays to the open ocean and Gulf. Jack crevalle will stage in the inlets and passes and use the current to their advantage. Most inlets and passes have abundant structure and strong current flow along with an abundance of bait fish.
Anglers can drift, anchor, or fish from shore in inlets and passes. Boats should not be anchored in a strong current. This can be dangerous. Often times the tail end of the outgoing tide is the best time to fish inlets and passes. When the tide is not strong, anglers can anchor and fish structure such as docks, seawalls, and jetties.
Catching jack crevalle in open water
Jacks are often times found in the inshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. They are usually seen foraging on schools of helpless bait fish. These are usually some of the larger jacks that are caught. Anglers enjoy great sport casting lures into the schools of feeding fish. This is pretty easy fishing. The boat is idled out in front of the fish and then lures presented to them.
Trolling for jack crevalle
Trolling is a very effective fishing technique. It produces a wide variety of species, and jack crevalle are no exception. While jacks are caught by anglers trolling in the inshore bays, passes, and open waters, most anglers use this technique in the winter. Jacks do not tolerate cold water. They migrate up into creeks, rivers, and residential canals in search of warmer water.
Most anglers use plugs when trolling for jack crevalle. The primary reason is that plugs float upon rest. This means that when the boat is stopped, the lure will not sink down and hang up on the bottom. Jigs and spoons do not share this habit. Anglers fishing for jack crevalle in tight quarters with docks and other structure will require stout tackle.
Sarasota Jack Crevalle Fishing
Jack crevalle are one of the many species available to anglers. Sarasota jack crevalle are great fun!
Sarasota jack crevalle are the bar room brawlers of inshore saltwater fishing. They are mean. Jacks are nasty. They have broad shoulders and large forked tails. Jack crevalle pull extremely hard. They swim around in big schools which results in a competition factor. They are one of my favorite game fish!
Sarasota is a good environment for Jack crevalle to thrive in. We have a nice mixture of shallow flats, deeper flats, passes, and most importantly creeks and residential canals. Jacks cannot tolerate water that’s below 55° for very long. Back in 2010 we had a severe cold snap and jacks were one of the first fish to die.
read current Sarasota fishing report
Jack crevalle spend their winter in creeks, rivers, and residential canals. These areas are typically five or six degrees warmer than the exposed open grass flats. Small bait fish, primarily glass minnows, seek refuge in these areas as well. This results in jacks having a place that they can thrive during cold weather.
As it warms up, jacks move out of these areas and scatter out onto the nearby flats to feed. They will often be seen terrorizing bait fish on the surface. We call this “breaking fish”and it is one of the most exciting ways to catch Sarasota jack crevalle. Jacks will pen the helpless bait fish up against a seawall. From a distance, it looks like a boat wake crashing up against the wall. In reality, it is a school of feeding fish.
Sarasota jack crevalle locations
I probably catch more fish for clients on Sarasota fishing charters while drifting the deep grass flats than I do any other technique. Sarasota has many acres of submerge grass in water between five and 10 feet deep. These are very fertile waters as the grass houses shrimp, crabs, and bait fish such as pin fish and grunts.
The technique is quite simple. Anglers cast jigs, flies, or live baits out as the boat drifts over the flat with the wind and the tide. Jacks and other game fish tend to roam the flat in search of food. When anglers do fine fish, they generally come in bunches. This is especially true with jack crevalle, bluefish, and ladyfish. We don’t normally see jacks working the surface and this deeper water, but it does occur occasionally.
Jacks will also school up in both passes. Big Sarasota Pass and New Pass will both have concentrations of jacks in them at certain times. The rocky shoreline at the northwest corner of Siesta Key holds a ton of bait in the summer. This in turn attracts the jack crevalle. This is a good spot to target jacks in the summer time.
Jack crevalle fishing
They will also be encountered in the middle of the passes as anglers drift for pompano, ladyfish, and other species. Vertically jigging is a very productive technique, especially in water deeper than 15 feet. Anglers drop a 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce jig down to the bottom. Then, as the boat drifts along the jig is bounced up and down. Each time it hits the bottom it kicks up a little puff of sand, which closely imitates the crab.
The best area to fish for Sarasota jack crevalle would be from Siesta Drive Bridge south to Blackburn Point. This area is a bit shallower with oyster bars, docks, holes, residential canals, and Phillippi Creek. Perhaps it is because it is a bit smaller of a body of water in the jacks are easier to see and locate, but this stretch of water produces more jack crevalle then does the area up north.
Sarasota jack crevalle tackle
Phillippi Creek is a very reliable spot for jacks in the winter, though they can be found there all year long as well. They can be anywhere in the Creek from the mouth all the way up to Bee Ridge Road. Casting and trolling Rapala plugs is a great way to find and catch jacks. Trolling is a great way to cover a lot of water and eliminate unproductive areas. Other productive creeks include Bowlees Creek, Hudson Bayou, Whittaker Bayou, and the Grand Canal on Siesta Key.
Anglers can choose either medium spinning tackle or light bait casting tackle when targeting jacks. Most of the Sarasota jack crevalle are in the 2 to to 5 pound class. This makes spinning tackle a great choice. Also, often times the lures and baits used are fairly light. A medium spinning outfit spooled up with 20 pound braid is an excellent choice. More experienced anglers who like tossing heavier top water plugs may opt for a bait casting outfit.
Sarasota jack crevalle rig
The rig is fairly simple. I like to double about 3 feet of the running line using a Spider Hitch. Then, I attach a 30 inch piece of 30 pound test fluorocarbon leader using a Double Uni Knot. Jacks have small teeth, but we use the shock leader more because of their abrasive jaws and Gill plates. A lower or hook is and attached to the free end of the leader.
My personal favorite way to catch jacks is to do so casting plugs. I find it to be an enjoyable way to fish, and soda my clients. Using the trolling motor, I ease the boat down a shoreline that has fish holding structure. These would include docks, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines with a little depth. It’s fun making a good cast and then the anticipation of a strike. When a Jack takes the plug, there is no mistaking it!
Sarasota jack crevalle lures
My favorite lure for this type of fishing is the #8 Rapala X-Rap slashbait. It is about 3 inches long and it very closely mimics the bait fish that we have here in the water. Those include finger mullet, scaled sardines, glass minnows, and even small pin fish. Olive is an excellent all round color. White works very well in clear water and gold is a better choice in darker or stained water.
Jigs and other soft plastic baits fool a lot of jack crevalle as well. As stated earlier, anglers casting jigs over the deep grass flats catch jacks, mostly by surprise. For the deeper grass flats a quarter ounce jig head with a 3 inch to 4 inch plastic body works best. Anglers targeting jacks and shallower water will do better to lighten up the jig head to 1/8 of an ounce.
Bass Assassin jigs are my preference when it comes to soft plastic baits. They produce an incredible array of colors and tail sizes and shapes. They also offer a nice selection of jig heads. When targeting Sarasota jack crevalle, I prefer their Pro elite jig head. It has a wide gap and a very strong hook. Keep in mind, anglers will also encounter snook and redfish in the same areas that they will find jack crevalle.
Catching jack crevalle on live bait
While I personally prefer using artificial lures when targeting jacks, live bait catches plenty of fish as well. In the cooler months, anglers casting live shrimp under docks in search of redfish and snook will catch their share of jacks. Likewise, a free line shrimp over the deep grass flats will catch jack crevalle.
There is one live bait technique that is incredibly effective for jacks. Live bait chumming is incredibly productive. It is something that we do in the summer time when bait fish are thick on the grass flats near the passes. Using our cast nets, we load up the live well with to inch bait fish. Once the well is full, it is time to go fishing.
The boat is anchored up current of a likely looking spot. This can be a dock, and oyster bar, a grass flat, or a mangrove shoreline. Several handfuls of live bait are tossed out behind the boat. If the jacks are around, it won’t take them long for them to find this free meal. Once the fish are boiling behind the boat, baited hooks are tossed out into the melee. Hookups are usually immediate. This is a great way for less experienced anglers to have the chance to catch a nice fish!
Jacks on the fly
Jack crevalle are an ideal target for fly anglers as well. The fact that jacks are often sight fished and are so aggressive makes them popular to fly fisherman. The take is savage and jacks put up an incredible fight on a fly rod! When fish are breaking up on the surface it is certainly a great fly fishing opportunity.
An 8wt fly rod with an intermediate sink tip line is a great all round choice for targeting Sarasota jack crevelle. Anglers can certainly get away with a 7wt outfit if they prefer. A 9wt would be better if the jacks are running large, in the 10 pound class. An 8 foot to 10 foot tapered leader with a 24 inch piece of 30 pound test fluorocarbon bite tippet finishes off the rig.
Fly selection for anglers fly fishing for jack crevelle is very simple. When they are in a feeding frenzy, fly pattern rarely matter as long as the fly is a drastically larger than the bait that they are feeding on. If I had to pick one fly pattern to fish with all the time for jacks, it would be in all white Clouser Minnow tied on a #1 hook.
Sarasota jack crevalle techniques
The technique when fish are breaking a simple, cast to the edge of the school of breaking fish and strip as fast as you can. When the fish are worked up like this, they are easy to hook. When fish are not breaking on the surface, anglers blind cast the same spots as mentioned above for anglers using artificial lures. The fly is cast out, allowed to sink a few seconds, then retrieved back using 12 inch to 18 inch strips.
Anglers seeking a unique experience can choose a river fishing charter. I am one of the only guides in Sarasota that offers this to visiting anglers. There are several rivers that lie a half hour away from Sarasota and Bradenton. These can provide excellent fishing for jacks in the cooler months.
The Myakka River flows from Manatee County south into the north end of Charlotte Harbor. It is an excellent river for catching large snook. Jack cravalle and several other species are found there as well. The best area for targeting jacks in the Myakka River is the portion around Tamiami Trail Bridge. This area seems to have the best salinity level for jacks.
Jacks in the Manatee River
While the Myakka River offers good fishing for jack crevalle, my first choice would be the Manatee River. This River is not quite as long as the Myakka River. This means that jacks tend to concentrate and it and easier to locate. The Manatee River flows into the south end of Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay has an excellent population of jacks. They migrate up into the Manatee River and its tributaries in the wintertime
My clients catch the largest jack crevlle of the year fishing the Manatee River in the wintertime. It is hard to believe the fight that a 10 pound Jack and put up on light spinning gear or especially on a fly rod. The scenery is one of the attractions of the trip as well. It is peaceful and relaxing as much of the fishing is done in “no wake” zones. There is also the chance to catch snook, redfish, ladyfish, and even largemouth bass as well.
Blind cast for jack crevalle
While jacks will be seen working on the surface, many more are caught by anglers blind casting. Sometimes boils and other activity will be seen, but most of the time it is just a matter of drifting the shoreline and casting lures or flies out. The random nature of the bite and it being unexpected certainly adds to the fun!
So, the next time you’re down this way and would like to tangle with one of the toughest fish in the sea, give Sarasota jack crevalle fishing a try! You won’t see them on the cover of any glamorous fishing magazine. They are bit too rough and unrefined for that. But tangle with them, and I think you’ll agree with me that they are one of the most exciting fish to catch! More information on jack crevalle can be found HERE.
Capt Jim Klopfer
1059 North Tamiami Trail Sarasota, Fl 34236