They can reach a maximum length of about 60 inches and just shy of 200 pounds

There is a fish that frequents wrecks, reefs and ledges off our shores that I have watched bring grown men, myself included, to their knees begging for mercy. That fish is the greater amberjack, commonly referred to as an AJ. When an AJ attains a weight of about 30 pounds or more, it then acquires the moniker "mule" and if you have ever tangled with one you will know why.


There was a time when Floridians did not regard amberjacks very highly as a food fish. I believe that all changed with the influence of Caribbean cuisines. The Spanish speaking islanders know the fish as a coronado and have eaten them with gusto for ages. The AJ has several smaller cousins as the lesser amberjack, banded rudderfish and almaco jack — all equally tasty.


The AJ is the largest of all the jacks. They can reach a maximum length of about 60 inches and just shy of 200 pounds. The females grow the largest, maturing at four years with a possible 17-year life span ... if lucky. The average size for a mature AJ comes in at around 40 pounds.The state record is 142 pounds at Islamorada.


Ever since the edibility factor of this species became so well known, its numbers have fluctuated dramatically in the Gulf. State and federal management has struggled to stay on top of the situation with both commercial and recreational landings over the years.


When pursuing this quarry, it is essential to have a fairly stout tackle and an impeccably smooth drag. AJs can be found feeding anywhere in the water column above structure. At times they will feed explosively on the surface, inhaling anything that moves.


Currently the open seasons in the Gulf are May 1-31 and Aug. 1 through Oct. 31. The bag limit is one per person/per day and the minimum size limit 34 inches fork length.