What's hot: Amberjack have infested most of the reefs and wrecks in 80- to 140-foot depths. On a recent trip offshore we were fishing a spring in 120 feet and had 30- to 50-pound amberjack on the surface behind the boat. These fish were so aggressive that most times we could pick fish from the school and wait until they swam close enough to simply drop the bait right in front of them.
Location: Amberjack tend to congregate over larger structure. In our area most people think of large wrecks like the Mexican Pride or Blackthorn but in recent years fish increasingly have been found suspended over the mitigation piles in depths of 90-120 feet of water near the pipeline.
Tactics: Getting these fish to feed is not difficult. Most of the time a couple of quick drifts over these fish will produce enough for dinner. Anchor over these spots and pitch 50 to 100 live baits over the side to get these fish right under the boat, and the angler can watch these big brutes take the bait.
Tackle: Many types of gear can be used to target these fish. Large spinning rods are good for fish from 10-15 pounds. Medium sized fish, from 20-40 pounds, should be taken on conventional gear in the 50- to 60-pound class. For large fish, use conventional reels from 80-100 pounds. Amberjack have to be 28 inches to be kept. A fish this size is usually 13-15 pounds. Their fillets are big, so take only what you can eat and quickly let the rest go.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.