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Crevalle jack -- a mean package by any name

November 22, 2019
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Some facts about our jacks:

A member of the carangidae family; also called common jack, toro, cavally, cavalla, horse crevalle, even canal tuna or by any other name, this is one mean package of brute force, fast fins and real bad attitude.

The IGFA All Tackle World Record Book recognizes 15 species of jacks. The world record for our "jack" or common jack stands at 66.2 pounds, caught in 2010, which means that in all probability there's an 80-90, even a 100-pounder swimming out there somewhere! Get the children and dogs out of the water! Yikes!

Article Photos

This past week, my Maine brook trout client (personal best trout 2 pounds. PB smallmouth 3.5 pounds) cast a large fly rod popper into a frothing boil of Matlacha jacks murdering bait they had trapped against a shallow bar. When it touched the water there was an instant explosion, a hard strip-strike and a $7 popper, gone. Eaten! He looked at me with wide, almost frightened eyes, trying to speak but nothing was coming out. He was almost frozen with marine "buck fever" after his first kamikaze-like jack attack.

"Get the spinning rod!" I yelled, trying to snap him out of what had just happened. He quickly bent down and picked up a top water lure loaded rod and cast. They must have all been there waiting, all of them looking up like an outfielder tracking a fly ball, as the surface seemed to explode before the Rapala touched down -- the explosion shooting water 4 feet into the air. The rod doubled, a hook set and the fight was on, then suddenly, the lure floated free. "Twitch it!" He twitched once and the lure was immediately eaten again. The first jack had torn one of two hooks completely off the new Skitter Walk.

After a series of long runs and rod pumping action, the fish was landed, the picture was taken and jack went back into the water. When I dropped Mr. Brook Trout off at RSW, he said, "Now I have to go home and catch 2-pound trout?" "Thanks, I'm ruined!"

I just smiled. "I told you."

Now I know the inshore "purists" out there are thinking, jacks? Who wants to catch jacks? Which pulls harder, pound for pound? Your trout? Your snook? Be honest. Eating wise, well you'll win there; although many local old salts speak fondly of "ways of fixin' jacks." I'm still leery.

I do seem to recall a local incident many years ago while working in a local bait store, a certain someone, encountered some unusually rude customers, sold them bait and wished them well. Later that day, the once rude customers returned happy and excited asking that certain someone what kind of fish was in their cooler. Lifting the lid and spying the big, old, under iced and long dead jack, while inhaling the odor of fish rapidly going bad, our certain someone quickly closed the lid, turned to the earlier rude but now happy customers and replied, "Wow! It's a permit! And, man-o-man, are they delicious! Rinse the outside and bake it whole and slowly at 275 for 4-5 hours." (I heard through the grapevine that it peeled the paint off the walls of their efficiency.)

Biggest jacks I've seen in 20 years here where in winter around the I-75 bridge over the Caloosahatchee and around the railroad trestle bridge just downriver. Those 3-packs of 25-pound plus brutes were really big for West Coast, Fort Myers/Cape jacks, but the really big boys live on the Atlantic side of the peninsula, where hooking a 50-pound ocean-going jack on a top water plug might pull your skiff over the horizon or arms out of sockets.

As a guide, I always get a kick out of a first-time salty's reactions to a doubled over, light spinning rod, a screaming drag and a mean jack, making lifetime Southwest Florida memories.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.

 
 
 

 

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