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Florida Sport Fishing For Greater Amberjack Is Brutal Fun

Greater amberjack, or AJ, are without a doubt the meanest Florida fish in the ocean.

They're tough scrappers and amberjack dish out more than they take. This means as a deep sea sport fisherman, you need to be prepared for battle.

When planning Florida Keys fishing vacations, if you'd like to return later that day in pristine, perfect condition, you'd better scratch AJ off your 'to catch list.'

If you don't care what condition you return to shore in, then be forewarned.

You'll have the time of your life - that's for certain. However, you'll have lots of lumps, bumps, bruises as well as plenty of aching sore muscles to prove just how much fun you really had.

Due to the fighting power and popularity of this Florida saltwater fish, AJ's became heavily over harvested for a number of years. To help correct this problem, there are now Florida fishing regulations limiting their take.

Since they're not a particularly good eating saltwater fish, other than perhaps to smoke, proper catch and release methods make the most sense. The larger amberjacks also have a tendency to be wormy in the tail - so smile - take your picture - and let the fish go and live to fight another day.

Greater Amberjack Hauled In

Larger Amberjack are Monsters to Battle
Florida Public Libraries, Don DeMaria Collection, Flickr

Catching Greater Amberjack, you'll be offshore fishing Florida Keys. The Marathon Hump is a popular fishing spot for AJ but to get out there you need to have a very seaworthy boat, one that has the speed and power to get you out and back should weather change.

You also need to have the necessary equipment to properly fish for AJ, and of course you do need to know the fishing restrictions that are in place.

You'll quickly discover that it makes more sense, both economically and in terms of fishing outcome, to go fishing for Greater Amberjack with a professional Florida Keys fishing guide.

They have everything you'll need to make your fishing trip fun, safe and successful. All you have to do is worry about bringing the bandages and deep heat rub for your soon to be sore muscles!

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Tips For Greater Amberjack

Greater amberjack are happiest when they're in, or near a structure. AJ are found all year in the Atlantic around the Florida Keys Humps, with March and April usually being the hottest months for fishing for amberjack.

If you're fishing the Marathon Humps and the 409 Hump, you'll find that the greater depths with the rising substructure, will produce good AJ fishing through to the early summer months.

When fishing for amberjack you'll want to use heavy fishing tackle, and you can down rig or deep drop fish for them, using bait fish such as pilchard, grunt, squid or even deep jigs.

Amberjack Live Near Reefs, Wrecks and Humps

Amberjack Live Near Reefs, Wrecks and Humps
Photo By Andrew David, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC Panama City;
Lance Horn, UNCW/NURC - Phantom II ROV operator

You'll find when deep sea fishing Florida Keys are littered with wrecks and reefs. These are also great structure hangouts for AJ's and drifting over the reefs and wrecks will usually yield some very productive amberjack fishing. The key is to stay near the structure and don't drift too far off base.

When you're drift fishing, you can hook on some live bait, such as grunt or pilchard, and then feed your line down, straight and deep. When you feel structure below, bring your line back up 4 or 5 fathoms and then let it sink back to the bottom. Once you feel the pull of the bite, tip your rod and start to reel it in - or at least try.

Catching greater amberjack is akin to pulling in a freight train. They can be ultra heavy - easily exceeding over 100 pounds of nasty attitude. However, even the more typical 40 - 50 pound AJ's are real bruisers.

The way they run and fight, you'll feel like you're attached to something a whole lot bigger. Incredibly stubborn, these terrific fighters have amazing strength. They also possess unbelievable stamina and will take your line and make numerous heart pounding and arm breaking runs.

Giant Amberjack Hooked

Hooked Amberjack
Florida Keys Public Libraries, Don DeMaria Collection, Flickr

Since they're also found in water around 300 feet or more, the depth substantially adds to the challenge of bringing in an AJ.

The problem with fighting amberjack is twofold. First, you absolutely must strap yourself in or you're going to get slammed around the boat pretty good. Most likely you'll even be pulled overboard if someone doesn't catch you in time and haul you back in.

Not only do they have no concern for your well being, they could care less about your fishing tackle. They'll bend your rod so hard you’re sure it'll snap. They'll tear your line and your leader, leaving you holding nothing but your breath.

Second, AJ are incredibly nasty and unwilling about being brought to the surface. Their dogged determination means you're fighting not just a monster fish, but time as well.

The reason time plays such an important factor is that shark love amberjack. The longer it takes you to bring this big fighting fish in, the more likely you'll attract big shark. If that happens, you can kiss your nice prize goodbye.

School of Amberjack

School of Amberjack
Photo A. Hulber, OAR/NURP, U of NC at Wilmington

However, all this pain and agony is definitely worth it. The thrill of doing battle with an AJ is the adrenalin rush anyone deep sea fishing Florida Keys lives for.

Amberjacks, just by their nature, also increase the number of ways you can fish for them. AJ's are sort of the hoodlums of the deep. They travel in packs and viciously attack schools of bait fish leaving a bloody mess behind. This 'pack mentality' means that when you've hooked one AJ, others will often follow to the surface after it.

Knowing this, make sure you have extra equipment rigged up and ready to go because now it gets exciting. Now that you can see amberjack racing around on the surface, you can sight fish for them.

By casting to them with live bait, plugs or even flies, you'll find the action gets even more frenzied. Plus, if you're crazy enough to use lighter tackle, you'll feel your muscles pull as you struggle to keep this beast from pulling you and your equipment down deep.

Anyone who's had the opportunity of doing battle with a greater amberjack knows just how incredibly exhausting and exhilarating the experience can be.

Without question, there isn't another Florida saltwater fish that's built with this kind of power, or that possesses this type of bad attitude. Knowing that you were attached to one, even if just for a few moments, is one of the greatest thrills you'll likely have as a saltwater sport fisherman. There's one thing for certain about catching a greater amberjack - they won't disappoint you - ever.

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Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040