A Fish Nicknamed Reef Donkey
May first is the opening day of amberjack fishing. I’m as excited as someone declared cancer-free! Actually, I can’t be that rejoicing, because that announcement must eclipse anything on a bucket-list. I’m just stating, I’m aflutter about me and all others on the boat tangling with a large fish that battles, at-all-cost, to break free. Some of my best memories are of people’s statements made during and after hooking up with an exuberant amberjack, especially those from first timers.
In the Big Bend area, fifty-plus pounders are not common, as in the Atlantic. That means the fun isn’t quelled by a stress-test fight, lasting over twenty minutes, and women are not excluded from the match. Women are actually better AJ fisher-people than men, because they know, or are forced to allow the reel drag to assist in catching the fish. They don’t try to dominate the fish over the strength of the line, yet permit the fish to peter out in due time.
With the smaller sizes, not the big Atlantic eighty pound plus studs, our AJ’s in the relatively shallow Gulf waters are younger, and very much worm free. They are excellent eating! They freeze well. Professional fish cleaners cut the dark meat away from the fillet to eliminate the strong fish taste; if you clean your own fish, do as well.
My family enjoys eating amberjack cooked in various methods. We prepare extra so to have enough to make AJ salad. My wife is spoiled on eating fish, as spoiled as a hand-sized-purse-dog, carried by a young arrogant socialite. She loves an amberjack meal with having her pick of fish.
So, how does one latch on to a reef donkey? I don’t have a clue. Just kidding! Most of the haunts are listed on the internet with lat/long. If you have a large, ~6000 series, spinning combo or can cast a 4/0 reel combo, you’re set. If not, buy a SpinFisher V 6500 series, the variety I have several of because, they are durable, handling abuse with a sealed drag system. Then attach a leader ~60 pound fluorocarbon to the mainline, 30 to 40 pound mono or braid, terminal to a straight 6/0 to 8/0 hook, depending on the size of the bait. There is no such thing as a bait too large. Pitch the bait out and let it perform naturally. When the pole doubles over, enjoy.
Heavy jigs also work well using big spin combos. My favorites are the ones I make, because I learned what works by experience. They are sold exclusively at Steinhatchee Bait & Tackle Shack across from the Taylor County boat ramp.
Amberjack fishing is an awesome experience! The extra fish caught during the charter are fine as well, food worthy, yet not bucket-list.