Species spotlight: Greater amberjack

Troy Helwig caught this 114.2-pound beast back on March 18, 2011 out of Ocean Springs. (Photo courtesy Troy Helwig)

Greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) are long, heavy-bodied fish. They are one of numerous members of the jack family. They are close cousins to lesser amberjacks and banded rudderfish. Greater amberjacks are commonly called simply “amberjacks.”

These fish vary widely in color depending on their surroundings. Their backs are usually bluish-brown to dark olive and their sides are often silvery white with a wide amber-colored stripe running down each side from head to tail.

Many members of the jack family look very similar. One feature that sets the amberjack apart is a dark band extending from the mouth, through the eye, and to the front of the dorsal fin. Their tails are more crescent-shaped than forked.

Amberjacks can grow to more than 150 pounds, but are more commonly caught by anglers in the 20- to 40-pound range. Most catches of amberjack are incidental catches by anglers targeting snapper and grouper while bottom fishing with cut bait.

These fish are found throughout the world in subtropical and temperate waters. Those caught by American anglers range from off the coast of New England to the Gulf of Mexico. They are typically found around natural and artificial reefs and wrecks. Offshore oil platforms are also common areas to find them.

World record amberjack weighed 163+ pounds

Holden Martinolich went on his first offshore fishing trip with his dad Jason on Aug. 4, 2019 about 80 miles southwest of Dulac, La. Holden reeled in his first amberjack that weighed 107.6 pounds.

Their diets consist mainly of smaller fish, crabs and squid. They are one of the few fish that rarely eat shrimp, even when large populations are present. They spawn in large groups in the late spring/early summer and don’t travel far to spawn.

Nicknames for amberjack include reef donkey, donkey fish, amber donkey, wreck donkey, amber fish, AJ and big jack.

Amberjacks are the most sought after members of the jack family and are known for striking fast, fighting hard, and going on long, drag-pulling runs. In some parts of the world, they are known as carriers for various species of tapeworms. Many anglers shy away from eating them because of this, but plenty of anglers do eat them.

The Louisiana state record amberjack weighed 140 pounds and was caught by Chris Legrand at Horseshoe Lump in January 2017.

The world record weighed 163 pounds, 2 ounces and was caught out of Zenisu, Tokyo, Japan by Tadashi Yamanaka in June 2015.

The post “Species spotlight: Greater amberjack” first appeared on MS-Sportsman.com.

About Brian Cope 155 Articles
Brian Cope of Edisto Island, S.C., is a retired Air Force combat communications technician. He has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina and has been writing about the outdoors since 2006. He’s spent half his life hunting and fishing. The rest, he said, has been wasted.

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