CAPTAIN JOEL’S FISHING HOLES: YELLOW JACKS ARE GREAT FIGHTS AND EVEN BETTER EATS

Arguably one of the most underrated fish in the Keys, yellow jack have no closed season, no size limit, and taste fantastic in a variety of preparations. CONTRIBUTED

By Joel Brandenburg

If you’re looking for a big fight and a great meal, target yellow jacks. They fight like jack crevalle, which pound for pound is the hardest fighting fish in the ocean. They taste like a permit or an African pompano – sweet white meat. They are good fried, grilled, blackened or baked. 

Some marine biologists claim that yellow jacks aren’t indigenous to the Florida Keys and showed up here about 20 years ago from Central America. We are just figuring out a little about their spawning habits and habitats, but FWC and Florida’s marine biologists know two things about yellow jacks for sure: They fight like a gamefish and taste like a delicacy. 

Because of this, FWC had to put a limit on them. Presently there’s no size limit and no closed season, but there is a bag limit, which equates to 100 pounds per person per day. The fish average about five pounds each, and it’s not rare to limit out with 20 per person. The biggest one ever caught on my boat was about 15 pounds, and the biggest one I’ve ever seen caught was about 20 pounds. Twenty pounds is rumored to be a world record yellow jack. 

I like to catch them around the Seven Mile Bridge and on shallow wrecks. My favorite bait is a yellow jig head tipped with a large live shrimp, but I have caught them on almost every type of live baitfish. They typically don’t eat dead bait and they are very leery of wire leader and braided line. Only use a light mono fluorocarbon leader to target them.

TOURNAMENT ALERT!

The upcoming Battle of the Bubbas wahoo and kingfish tournament will benefit Warriors on the Water. Due to the alarming veteran suicide rate, Warriors on the Water’s goal is to prevent or reduce this tragedy by providing those who have served with fishing charters and outdoor events. Vets have a chance to spend time on the water with others from all branches of the military to share stories and build camaraderie with each other. Those suffering from depression, anxiety and/or PSD can relax and reflect in the great outdoors. It’s a very worthy cause that we’re proud to support. Captains will choose two days to fish from Feb. 3-5, with a captains’ meeting on Feb. 2 from 4 to 6 p.m. The entry fee is $695 per boat, and top teams will be awarded more than $20,000 in cash and other prizes. Find more information and register by scanning the attached QR code. Good luck, and hope to see you all there.