Amberjack season is open in federal waters, giving sportfishemen a reason to make a long run offshore. The commercial and recreational harvest was closed for much of late 2015. This lack of fishing pressure allowed the big AJs to gather in large schools around big wrecks and other large-bottom features. Since they have been plentiful and the bag limit is one per person, it's fun to scale back on tackle and mix up your approach can be fun. We like to tease the fish to the surface and cast topwater plugs on medium size spinning tackle. The fish will often rise up to the sound of the boat, but sometimes you have to stir them up first. Drop a butterfly jig down and work it up and down rapidly to get them excited. Once the first fish is hooked, be ready with a net full of live baits as it nears the surface. If other fish are escorting yours as it comes up, dump in a couple dozen live baits. As the live "chummers" flee, the rest of the amberjack will go crazy chasing them down. Then skip surface lures across the water and swarms of ravenous jacks will smash them all the way back to the boat. Once the frenzy is going full speed, just about anything that moves gets hit. This is a great time to break out the fly-rod and test your skills fighting AJs that can weigh 50 pounds or more.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at (727) 944-3474.