It’s fall. And while everyone is running hither and yon pursuing the “politically correct” fish, many an angler will not hesitate to turn on a dime if they spot a hungry school of jack cravalle. They are fun, great fighters, and always available in abundance during this productive time of year.

 Come on now… ‘fess up. The main reason you go fishing (aside from the fillets) is that enthusiastic pull on the other end of the line. Most of us will crow about how “I got a grand slam… a snook, trout and a red.” We’re so proud of our achievement. Yet, if we were to truly acknowledge our innermost feelings, we just love any fish that nails the bait, giving us an enthusiastic, hard-charging run for our money. Which brings me to the champ of all “big-pullers”… the sleek jack cravalle.

 With the constitutionally mandated end of commercial gill nets in Florida waters, massive hordes of jacks have been invading Suncoast waters every fall without being netted. For more than five years, none are cut off at the pass, scooped up in entanglement nets and swiftly shipped to market. Instead, these beautiful, yellow tailed speedsters now provide a huge dose of sensational fishing action for even the least skilled anglers among us. Some time back, Fox-13’s Captain Doug Hemmer and I went on an excursion to the Suncoast’s premier fishing Mecca, the Charlotte Harbor/Boca Grande area. We launched just as the dark night was giving way to a clear glorious day. Heading for an island that we heard held schools of large reds, we set up shop at the south end. Sure enough, the tails and big wakes were giveaways. The reds were home, and feeding this early morning hour.

 Most exceeded the legal maximum, but they appeared kind of skittish… short-striking our topwaters. Then we switched to 7-M MirrOlures, which tend to run just below the surface, and had immediate hook-ups. There were some big bruisers. It was all we could do to “turn them around.” The, as suddenly as they appeared, the reds vanished.

 Cranking up the outboard, Doug decided to check out some of the many rich areas of Gasparilla Sound.

 Zooming his shallow running skiff across acres of skinny grass flats and around numerous mangrove islands, Doug brought the boat to a sudden stop, sliding us into an vast open area just peculating with enormous schools of voracious jack cravalle. They appeared to striking at everything in sight. Doug had his 7-M MirrOlure rigged up and threw it into the churning mass of hungry fish. It took no more than one twitch to entice one of the enthusiastic critters to strike. As he struggled to subdue the golden-tailed creature, I elected to try the D.O.A. Terror-Eyz.

 Flipping the bait out, it landed in the middle of the agitated mass of hungry jacks. It barely landed before I got a hook-up.

 “This would be a great place to do a lure commercial,” observed Doug. “I know. These hungry fish are striking just about everything in sight.”

 For more than an hour, we were surrounded by aggressive jack crevalle, unperturbed by our presence or the catching and releasing of their brethren.

 Here is a species that is easy and fun to catch, fights hard, and never gives up. They are truly and angler’s fun fish. And you can certainly use a number of different baits – everything from the aforementioned MirrOlure and DOA Terror-Eyz, to most any gold spoon, jigs, shrimp or whitebaits. Jack crevalle are definitely not picky. Just toss any of the of these baits into their path of travel and hang on.

 Now remember, a school of jacks can move very fast, and turn on a dime. The best thing to do when you spot a school of jack cravalle is to set up a drift up-current and let the tide carry you into striking distance.

 Doug and I later went on to catch more of the so-called “in” fishes… snook, trout and reds. But the highlight of our day, was working that huge school of enthusiastic jacks churning.

 These days, most of us take the availability of jacks for granted. It wasn’t too long ago when the now defunct Florida Department of Natural Resources encouraged commercial fishermen to target jack cravalles. The officials claimed that, if handled properly, there was good food value in this swift pelagic species. Thus began the accelerated annual harvesting of one of Florida’s most entertaining fishes. And of course – pre net ban — they were no match for those big gill nets.

 Now, to borrow an old phrase from the Bucs, “it’s a new day in Tampa Bay, and all along the Suncoast.” The jacks are back… unimpeded by monofilament

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