Amberjacks are easy to catch and are a favorite Key West game fish due to their size, strength, and endurance.
Amberjack (Seriola dumerili)
(Florida Record 142lbs.) Two types of Amberjack are found in Key West waters – the Greater Amberjack (Seriola dumerili) and the Lesser Amberjack (Seriola fasciata). Greater Amberjacks are the largest of the three species of Jacks. They have a dark stripe running from their nose to the front of their dorsal fin. This stripe will “light up” when the fish is in feeding mode. Greater Amberjacks usually weigh 40 pounds or less and are found around rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks in about 65 to 250 feet of water. Juveniles often hang near floating objects and may be found in water less than 30 feet deep.
In contrast, Lesser Amberjacks seldom exceed 10 pounds. They have larger eyes and deeper bodies in proportion to their size than greater amberjacks. Olive green or brownish-black with silversides, they usually have a dark band extending upward from their eyes, and juveniles have split or wavy bars on their sides.
Amberjack Habitat and Behavior
Greater Amberjacks feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans, and are thought to spawn offshore throughout most of the year. Greater Amberjacks are found around rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks in about 65 to 250 feet of water. In Key West waters, they frequent deeper reefs, wrecks, and isolated structures. Juveniles often hang near floating objects and may be found in water less than 30 feet deep. Lesser Amberjacks are found deeper than other jacks, commonly about 165 to 430 feet around reefs and wrecks.
Fishing for Amberjack
Greater Amberjacks grow to exceptionally large sizes around Key West, sometimes exceeding 100 pounds. When a fish like this is hooked in deep water, the ensuing fight will test any angler’s mettle. They are easy to catch with large jigs or large live baits and are a favorite Key West game fish due to their size and the strength and endurance they show when hooked.