If you were about to die of pure starvation on a deserted island, you might entertain the thought of eating a jack crevalle, but in circumstances any less critical you’d look at the fish in disgust.
But jack crevalle have become a targeted gamefish in recent years, even though catch and release is almost looked down upon in South Louisiana.
Their schooling nature and relentless fighting attitude makes them irresistible for people who live to stretch their line but don’t care about catching dinner.
And, although he’s a speckled trout and redfish guru, fishing guide Capt. Ty Hibbs can’t say no this time of year when jack crevalle flood his backyard: Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne.
“As much as we love speckled trout, catching those jacks on tuna poppers and fly rods never gets old,” the young captain said.
Hibbs has favorite areas he finds attract jacks around Lake Pontchartain this month.
“Anywhere from Williams to Little Woods is good,” he said. “The whole south shore pretty much gets thick with them.”
There’s also an overlooked place in Lake Pontchartrain, according to Hibbs.
“Nobody really messes with the west side (of the lake), but they actually have a ton of them over there,” he said.
Jacks are known for going nuts and busting up big schools of bait. Hibbs said anglers can use this to their advantage.
“If you go at first light or last light when it’s calm, you just drive until you see white water,” he said. “When you see that, it’s a guarantee that it’s going to be full of jacks, if not bull reds.”
However, if Hibbs doesn’t see any surface activity, he takes a different approach.
“There are a few areas you can go and chum them up,” he said. “If you don’t see them going crazy, you can throw tuna poppers, and it’s like ringing a dinner bell. It’s kind of like a popping cork for trout.”
Tuna poppers might sound like a bit of overkill for the jacks, but Hibbs said the more commotion you can make with your lure, the better.
“They love a lot of activity and a lot of action — big splashes and all,” he said.
Jack crevalle simply never surrender on the fight; they’re arguably the hardest-fighting fish that swims. Depending on the size of the fish and the gear you’re using, battles over an hour aren’t uncommon.
To get the ferocious-fighting fish to the boat, Hibbs uses a Penn 6500 Spinfisher V loaded with 50-pound braid and an 8-foot Teramar rod.
“Anything you catch snapper on is what I like to use for jacks,” he said. “It’s not too overpowering for the fish because you still do want to fight them — that’s the whole fun of it — but it’s still good enough to where you’re not fighting them for two hours.”