How to Catch Amberjack in the Gulf of Mexico
A carnivorous saltwater fish, the amberjack can weigh up to 170 lbs, but the average for Texas is 20 lbs. They aren’t a picky fish, which makes fishing for them easier as they are less likely to snub their nose at any type of bait. Even though they are most often caught for the sport, their mildly sweet buttery flesh is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. In the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the larger amberjacks can harbor a lot of parasites in the meat, making them less desirable for consumption. Still, as a powerful fish, they can be thrilling to catch.
Amberjack can be found year-round in the warmer waters just south of the Gulf and tend to move into the Gulf area during the warmer months between April and August. They are most prevalent in this area between April and May when they’re at the peak of the spawning season. Outside of these months, they may become sparse off the Texas coast as they travel back farther south.
Recommended Tackle for Amberjack
Amberjacks like to run, and due to their size and power, they can be difficult to land without the right tackle. Sometimes getting them in the boat is even more difficult than landing them and can require some pretty serious gear in order to get the job done. Unlike many of their counterparts, they don’t tire easily and are likely to fight you to the end.
- Spinning Tackle: A popular option to land Amberjack is a spinning tackle. The key is choosing tackle that is heavy enough to get the job done, as Amberjacks have a tendency to pull you under structures. You will want to use a heavy reel with an 80 or 100 lb test line when using spinning tackle. The ideal situation for using spinning tackle is when you can chum the fish to draw them away from structures, which will give you a lower risk of getting caught up.
- Conventional Tackle: Many Amberjack fishermen will opt for a conventional tackle as it provides better leverage when trying to pull up these strong fish, which can lower your risk of the line breaking off. When using conventional tackle, you will need anywhere from a 60 to 100 lb test line, and this set up is used best with live bait or a deep vertical jig, fishing closer to the structures where they may be hiding.
Best Bait for Catching Amberjack
Since Amberjacks are not picky eaters, finding the right bait can be as easy as securing whatever live bait is available. The most commonly used bait types for baiting Amberjack include herring, sardines that are scaled, mullet, blue runners, and cigar minnows. When having to utilize frozen bait, it is best to stick to squid, mullet, or cigar minnows to be most effective.
Lures can also be used for Amberjack and are sometimes the better option since they can be extremely aggressive. A vertical jig is a popular choice which does well at sinking to deeper waters and then can be jerked up as you pull in the slack. The constant jerking motion of these jigs seems to entice Amberjack, and many times they will strike the bait as it is descending. Other lures such as spoons, flies, and diver plugs can be effective when you chum the waters to draw them to the surface.
Where Are the Best Places to Find Amberjack?
Amberjack like to hang out by structures, where they can easily find and consume their prey. From Galveston, you are most likely to find them offshore, lurking around artificial reefs, oil rigs, shipwrecks, large rock piles, and deep ledges. They are most attracted to natural reefs with higher profiles where they are at there thickest point. They will be anywhere from 60 to 240 feet deep, with the larger catches residing closer to the bottom.
Amberjack also prefer warmer temperatures when they are large, but younger ones prefer cooler waters and like to reside around 30 feet down in these areas. Since there is still a high concentration of Amberjack close to the coastline during the most popular months of April and May, most fisherman will stick closer to the shoreline and still bring in a decent size catch.
Their inherent need to fight, combined with their strength and size, make them a challenge to many anglers and a popular choice for those who enjoy sport fishing. The key to landing a good size Amberjack in the Gulf is planning your trip as close to the spawning season as possible and ensuring you have the right tackle to not only land them but lift them into the boat.
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