A Florida favorite: jack crevalle

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Although sometimes overlooked and considered less desirable than some of the other great game fish we have in Florida. Jack crevalle one of the toughest fighting, abundant species around. I’ve heard captains affectionately call this fish a “muscle with a tail,” “canal tuna” or “tourist tuna” because the jack crevalle is a crowd pleaser and can save the day when nothing else is biting. Here’s the scoop on one of Florida’s favorite gamefish.

Jacks range in size from about 1 lb. to their max size around 30 lbs. Their geographical range spans the entire Florida coastline, with the largest species caught traveling in pairs or small schools near offshore wrecks and reefs. Smaller fish in larger schools can be found virtually anywhere including the intracoastal waterway. A great place to find jacks is the entrance to inlets, canals and waterways. A great way to find jacks is to look for the birds. A hungry school of jacks will drive schools of baitfish to the surface. Pelicans and seagulls will dive and pick up scraps and baitfish.

Jack’s are not picky when it comes to bait. They can be caught on a variety of live and dead baits, lures and on fly. One of the most exciting times to catch these fish is during the mullet migrations. As mullet migrate down the coast, all types of predators capitalize. Jacks are particularly abundant and during the mullet run you can catch jacks off the beach and on piers and seawalls. One quick tip – a hungry jack school will push baits against a seawall and will strike multiple times. Reel your bait and lure all the way to the rod tip before taking another cast.

Generally speaking, they like their baits to be fast moving – especially larger fish. Smaller fish can be taken on light spinning or baitcasting gear. Larger fish require heavier tackle and a 20-30 lb. leader. As for lures and flies – jerkbaits, soft plastic (zoom flukes) and poppers work very well in a fast-paced STOP-GO, STOP-GO method. On fly, any type of clouser, deceiver or streamer will work the key is to strip very fast.

Perhaps the reason jacks are considered less desirable than some other species we have in our waters because they’re frowned upon as table fare. Jack crevalle’s flesh is blood-red due to muscle content. The appearance turns most away…but if you do decide to cook your catch, keep the smaller fish. Ice your catch quickly, fillet them, cut out the blood line and soak the fillets in milk. This will draw the blood out of the flesh.  Although there are plenty of other better eating inshore fish in Florida like redfish, trout and black drum…if you are adventurous, give jack crevalle a shot on the grill.

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Atlantic tripletail are like tropical nomads. With a definitively unique appearance and behavior, these animals spend their lives on the surface of the water column. They aren’t particularly boat shy, yet are still a challenge to find and entice to eat.  Similar to dolphin, tripletail can be found by locating floating debris and weedlines.  Here in Florida, these fish provide great opportunity in both the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters…both inshore and offshore. If you’re a seafood lover, you’re in for a delicious surprise…tripletail provide stellar table fare, comparable to grouper.  Here is the how-to on fishing for Florida tripletail.

Tripletail received their name for obvious reasons. Their dorsal and anal fin extend far back on their body, and appear to be attached to the fish’s tail. Tripletail resemble freshwater crappie-with a sloping forehead and small forward facing eyes. Coloring on these fish is highly dependent on water color and their surroundings. They can range from a mottled dark brown or blackish, to a yellow tint, or a mixture of all three. Tripletail camouflage themselves in order to ambush and stalk their prey. They’ll often float on their side-just beneath the surface, resembling a floating trash bag or a mangrove leaf. My first time seeing a tripletail floating on it’s side; it was motionless with a pale yellow color. I thought the fish was sick or dying…I have since learned this is typical behavior for this species.

For tackle, a medium class 7 foot rod and a 3000 size reel loaded with 10-15 lb. test will suit most tripletail fishing perfectly. However if you are fishing heavy structure, beef up your tackle to pull stubborn fish away from debris. Tripletail are clever, scrappy and will do their best to foul your line. That being said-20-30 lb. fluorocarbon is a good choice. Use a number #4 hook with a shrimp, crab or small baitfish. Tripletail are not picky.  Also, ¼ to ½ oz bucktail jigs, or a D.O.A. shrimp are great artificials to try.  Tripletail will also willingly take a fly.  A 6 or 7 weight rod will fit the bill. Any shrimp or crab pattern, or a white and green streamer can work.

Offshore in both the Gulf and the Atlantic ; tripletail can be found hovering around  weed lines or debris. The longer a piece of debris has been floating in the water, the more likely fish will be present. Algae growth on flotsam will draw in the entire food chain. In inshore waters in Southwest Florida;  October 15th  marks the beginning of stone crab season.  Crabbers set out thousands of pots that will stay put until May 15th.   Again, the longer the crab buoys soak, the more likely there are to be tripletail on them. Fishing the crab buoys takes patience and persistence, not every buoy will hold fish.  When fishing buoy lines-run past the buoys on a plane, but slow enough to spot fish.  If you spot a tripletail, drive past the buoy. Don’t pull back the throttle right on top of the fish. Idle or use a trolling motor to slowly make your way back to the buoy. Try to let your offering drift naturally..  If that does not work, drop it right on their nose.

During the spring and fall, Cape Canaveral in the Florida Space Coast holds the title for sheer numbers of big tripletail. Anglers here fish the sargassum weeds and buoy lines. When the fish are in the sargassum, light tackle or fly fishing works wonders and will provide great sport. When the fish are holding on buoys, heavy braided lines gives you with added security.  Near Cape Canaveral, fish average under 10 lbs. but there’s a great chance you might have a shot at a 15-20 lb. beast.

Recently, I fished out of South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island with Capt. Ozzie Fischer. Running the beaches, we came across multiple tripletail floating sideways along swim buoys.  We used my trolling motor to idle to the fish from down current and pitched weightless, small pilchards with great success. For one fish, a 12 lber that had spooked and dived-a small split shot placed right above the hook was the ticket for getting a bite. Again, patience and persistence is key.  Devote some time to each fish and mix it up with your fishing style, using baits or lures. If it’s just not happening-return to that fish later on, after they have settled down. Tripletail will not stray far from the structure they are holding on.

If you decide to keep some tripletail for the dinner table, Florida regulations in both Gulf and Atlantic state waters put a minimum size limit of 15’’ and a daily bag limit of 2 fish per person. Tripletail provide some of the best table fare of any of the species we catch. However, they can be difficult to clean, with giant scales that act like armor. A long sharp knife is key. In between fish-make sure to sharpen your blade. Here’s the process: press down hard with your blade and make a clean cut from the top of the head, in back of the pectoral fin, down to the gut. Run your blade down the back, and then along the bottom of the fish. Now make long strokes, slicing the fillet away from the backbone. Remember to take your time! When cooking tripletail, the less preparation the better. Tripletail fillets are white, flaky and mild…best suited to being sautéing quickly or broiled.

 

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Southwest Florida is synonymous with incredible inshore fishing. Whether you’re targeting Pine Island Sound for gator trout and bull redfish, or you’re coming the beaches of Captiva for snook…this area does not dissappoint!

he barrier islands of Sanibel, Captiva, North Captiva & Cayo Costa are known for their pristine, white sand beaches lining the edges of the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches are littered with intricate seashells…drawing people from around the world. The surf is home to a variety of sought-after fish species including tarpon, snook & jacks. These predators push bait right up onto the beaches, and great fishing is easily accessible.

Pine Island Sound is nestled between the aforementioned barrier islands to the West and Pine Island to the East.  The sound is filled with all different types of marine habitat. This includes oyster beds, tidal flats, salt marshes, seagrass and mangroves. The sound is host to some of the best fishing Florida has to offer…with massive bull redfish on the flats & bars, and monster snook in the passes between the islands.

Before European influence; the area surrounding Pine Island Sound was home to the Calusa Indians. The Calusa tribes survived off the waters…thriving on a diet consisting of bony fish and shellfish. Using nets made from palm fibers, the Calusa’s caught mullet, pinfish, pigfish among a number of other species. They also collected oysters, scallops, conch, crabs and clams.

This entire area is still host to the forage species that draw in the gamefish. Tarpon & snook ball bait in the Gulf surf and in the passes…redfish and trout on the flats and bars. Here’s how to fish the barrier island beaches, Pine Island Sound & surrounding areas.

Sanibel/Captiva Beach Fishing

Summertime and early fall provide tremendous fishing opportunities from the beaches of Sanibel & Captiva. The big snook spawn in inlets and passes, then head to the surf to feed. These fish swim along the shallow trough, right along the shore and push baitfish seemingly onto the beach. You can see the snook swimming parallel, 5 feet from shore…dorsals, backs and tails out of the water.

These snook and other gamefish are eating pilchards, threadfin, mullet and glass minnows. To catch bait; throwing a cast net is your best method. A bucket with aerator and lid is necessary to keep your baits lively.

Tackle wise; medium to medium heavy spinning gear with 10-15lb braid will do the trick. For leader; 30lb. fluorocarbon for smaller baits & 40 lb. for the larger baits. Hook size is important for presentation. For small-medium pilchards 2/0 – light wire circle hooks. For large threadfin & mullet – 5/0 light wire circle hooks work best.

Artificials also work very well on the beaches! Try a soft swimbait, like a Berkley Gulp. When the fish are feeding on tiny bait, like glass minnows – try a Rapala X- Rap in glass ghost or sil
ver colors.

When the water clarity is clear, you can sight fish to tarpon and snook. A lot of people tend to over cast to the fish…try to wade ankle deep & cast your bait directly parallel to the beach. You don’t tons of expensive gear or a boat for this type of fishing…the beaches are easily accessible and sight fishing is incredibly exciting!

Pine Island Sound/Flats & Passes

The flats, bars & passes around Pine Island Sound hold some of the most explosive shallow-water fisheries in Florida. Giant redfish schools comb the flats, searching for a snack. You’ll see their telltale giveaways; tails with black spots just above the waters surface. Sometimes the groups of reds are so thick, the water looks gold. The snook co-mingle with the redfish and both can be caught using the same presentations.

For tackle, Light to medium spinning tackle rated for 8-17 lb. test is sufficient. A 3000 size reel spooled with 10 lb. braid is perfect for this type of fishing. The light braid allows for long casts when the fish are spooky. Redfish & snook can be targeted with a variety of live/dead bait & artificials. For bait, live shiners are a go-to, and cut bait such as mullet, threadfin & ladyfish.  soft-plastics like the different variations from D.O.A. We’ve also had great luck with topwater baits.

For the best shot at these fish, the local guides on Captiva Island are top-notch. Captain Ozzie Fischer with Bay Fischer Charters, runs an operation leaving from South Seas Island Resort, he can be reached at 239-872-8515.  Another local guide: Captain Ozzie Lessinger leaves from McCarthy Marina on Captiva and can be reached at www.fishsanibelcaptiva.com & 239-910-7764.

For accommodations, there is no better option than South Seas Island Resort, located at the tip of Captiva Island.  South Seas offers  fun for the entire family, with tons of activities like parasailing, paddleboarding and golf. It’s beaches are ideal for swimming & shelling and offer breathtaking sunset views. Check out South Seas Island Resort at their website here: www.southseas.com

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Miami Beach, is known for its night life, attractions and thrills—but it’s also known for some of the best billfishing found anywhere in the world. Each year, thousands of anglers travel to South Florida to target our thriving Atlantic sailfish population. It’s no wonder the Atlantic sailfish is Florida’s official state fish.

My fishing career was sparked at 10 years old, when I caught my first sailfish off of Miami Beach, while on vacation. I’ve been professionally fishing for this species for over 25 years now, and I owe it to my dad for taking me sailfishing at such a young age.

Long before I started hosting my national TV show, “Bass2Billfish with Peter Miller” on NBC Sports, I started the Get Lit Fishing Team, in 1989, with my best friend Kitt Toomey. The first Get Lit was a 25-foot Dusky, and 25 years later, it is now a 60-foot Spencer. Since 1989 we have won or placed in over 120 high profile billfish tournaments and are 3-time World Sailfish Championship winners. We’ve spent a lot of time billfishing, with the majority of that time on the hunt for sailfish. But we’ll never turn down a blue marlin or swordfish, either!

Through trial and error, and loads of practice, we’ve developed a system that consistently produces. Sailfish can be found year-round off the coast of South Florida, but the winter months tend to provide the best fishing. The peak of our sailfish season starts in late November and runs through April. There are certain conditions that can give you the best shot. Once the winter cold fronts start settling into a cyclical pattern, pushing down the east coast of Florida, the sailfish are most active and show up in the greatest numbers. The weather might be sloppy this time of year, but the payoff is well worth it. Winter cold fronts mean that sailfish will most likely be traveling south, nose into the Gulf Stream current, which runs north. My favorite fishing condition for sailfish is directly following a cold front, with a strong north wind. In these conditions, the bite is usually visual. Sails will literally surf down waves, allowing you to sight fish.

The most successful method for sailfishing is kite fishing. Kite fishing is effective for a number of species, as the kite baits tend to be irresistible to a number of pelagics and inshore species including blackfin tuna, mahi-mahi, kingfish, and, of course, sailfish. The majority of the South Florida captains run a kite setup employing two kites, with three baits dangling from each kite on release clips. This makes for a lot of bait in the water. The kites keep the bait carefully suspended just below the surface without extra line and leader hanging in the water, creating the cleanest presentation. For the beginner, a short rod and reel attached to a kite will suffice. Specialty equipment for kite fishing is widely available. Although pricey, an electric reel can be a great asset due to the amount of time you will save by just pressing a button to reel in the kite.

Light tackle is the name of the game, with a 20-pound conventional set up being the perfect rig. Reels with a fast retrieve are mandatory. For leader material, we generally use 15 feet of 50- pound fluorocarbon. The lighter the material, the better your bait presentation. For hooks, we use 6/0 to 7/0 circle hooks. The hook is bridled to your bait with a rubber band. The bridle allows the bait to look as natural as possible and swim freely. Baits of choice include goggle-eyes, threadfin herring and large pilchards. Sailfish can weigh anywhere from 20 to 80 pounds and sometimes larger, and they’ve been clocked at over 70 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest fish in the ocean. They’re acrobatic and unpredictable. Captain, angler and mate all need to be aware as sailfish have been known to jump in boats.

Sailfish travel in schools, so after a single fish is hooked, the other baits are left in the water to try and capitalize on the possibility of a multiple hookup. This is quite commonplace and there is nothing that can get your adrenaline pumping more than multiple sailfish jumping all around your boat.

If you get the chance, I suggest heading to South Florida and trying your luck in this iconic fishery. Contact one of our local charters here in Miami. Captain Quinton Dieterle, our team captain, has his own charter service. It’s called Cutting Edge Sportfishing, and you can find him at www.miamicharterfishing.com, or by phone (305) 361-9740. Also, Captain Jon “Froggy” Cooper, another member of our Get Lit Fishing Team, runs Diversion Charters. He can be reached at (305) 724-6870. These captains will teach you the fundamentals, and will put you on the fish.