Welcome to our complete guide about How to Catch Crevalle Jack Fish in Florida Guide. We have been catching these fish for decades in Florida, and it’s one of the more fun fish to catch. As you know, they can get big and they have endless energy. I’ve had big ones tow my kayak around Tampa Bay often! Jack Crevalle are definitely a tough-fighting Florida fish!
[Page Updated – 27 July 2021. Bookmark this page (Windows CNTRL+D, MAC CMD+D) so you don’t lose it.]
HOW TO CATCH JACKS (Crevalle Jack)—Guide
- Size: 8/10 stars
- Fight: 8/10 stars
- Difficulty to Catch: 6/10 stars
- Taste: 5/10 stars
INDEX to Sections in this Guide:
- Jack Crevalle FACTS
- WHY catch them?
- WHERE are they found?
- What do Crevalle Jack EAT?
- HOW to catch them?
- WHEN is the best time to catch them?
- GEAR to use? (our best recommendations)
- LAWS in Your State
- How to COOK them?
PRO TIP – Crevalle Jacks are also called Jacks, Jack Crevalle, Black cavalli, Trevally, Common Jack, or Black-tailed Jacks.
Crevalle Jack Facts
Species: Caranx hippos. Frequently called Jack Crevalle instead of the proper name.
Other Jack Species: Pacific (Caranx caninus), BigEye (Caranx sexfasciatus), Bluefin (Caranx melampygus), Giant (Caranx ignobilis), Horse-Eye (Caranx latus)
Horse-Eye Jack (Big-Eye Jack) Caranx latus – this Jack is also found in Florida waters.
Front of head at more gradual angle than C. hippos. Dark hard scutes on lateral (side) in front of tail. No dark spot on pectoral fins.
Size is maximum 30 inches (8.5 pounds). Habitat – Often found in schools near offshore reefs.
Similar Species: Amberjack (Seriola dumerili).
IUCN Redlist Status: Least Concern (LC), Stable populations. Crevalle Jack are not on any endangered list in the United States and there are no limit on their catch for recreational anglers in Florida or other US States.
Appearance: To some degree, Jacks look like a compressed Amberjack. They are higher from dorsal to ventral (top to bottom) than an Amberjack, but the look is a bit similar. Something like a short and thin Amberjack. Tail is very thin, in a strong V-shape, similar to, but not quite as deep as Mahi-Mahi (Dorado).
Color is typically light silver, blue or greenish cast with a darker dorsal (back) and yellowish fins and white or yellow tinted ventral (belly). There is a conspicuous dark spot on the pectoral fins, easily seen. The dorsal fin has 2 parts. First – 8 spines. Second – 1 spine with 19-21 soft rays. Anal fin – 2 detached spines + 1 spine and 16-17 soft rays. Dramatically forked caudal fin. Pectoral fins are longer than head. A straight area of lateral line has 23 to 35 very strong scutes (scales with horn/nail on top).
Length: This fish can reach over 4 feet in length, and possibly to 5 feet (unofficially). The maximum they can weigh is around 70 lbs. (32 kg). There have been reports of bigger, but exact species of these records is in dispute. They are common in the one to eight pound range, but there are plenty of adult fish that reach maturity around (24 inches) 60 cm.
Weight: Usually under 10 lbs. Maximum around 70 lbs. as adults. Possibly more, there is some confusion between species. These are big and powerful fish when they reach adulthood.
Range/Distribution: In Florida from Spring through Fall. They have a terminal temperature of around 48° F (9° C) so they must move south and/or into deeper water as the water cools off for Winter in North America.
Habitat: Jacks are found just about anywhere. I’ve found them mostly in 15-20 feet of water in Tampa Bay, but that’s where I generally am on the Kayak. I don’t usually target the species, but you can bet that I’m going to quickly find a Gotcha Lure if I see a school of them feeding on baitfish they’ve surrounded! They like any structure, rocks, wrecks, sand, oysters, oil rigs, and ledges. You can also find them around anything floating – similar to Dorado. This species can be anywhere within the range of 1 to 350 meters deep (up to 1,150 feet).
They tend to hang around in pods of 3 to 10 fish when in the 20 to 40 lb. range and much fewer when truly record-sized fish. The bigger fish are cautious and hard to catch.
Diet: Smaller fish of all kinds. Between 74% to 94% of their diet is comprised of fish. In a certain area they will target a specific fish for the most part and prefer to stick with that for the majority of their diet. They are primarily fish eaters, but they will also eat crustaceans, squid, all sorts of other marine life. They’re not choosy, and they are voracious eaters. Their digestive system is capable of quickly digesting a meal. Within five hours or so their meal is unrecognizable in the digestive tract. These fish eat often and a lot.
Crevalle Jack Fishing World Records
The current IGFA record for this species (Caranx hippos) is 56 lbs. 6 oz. (26.5 kg).
Why Catch them?
The thrill of saltwater fishing is, for me, the excitement of hooking a hard-fighting fish and having it fight with every ounce of energy to escape as I try with all my skill to land the fish. Chances are I’m not even keeping it if it’s a big fish, I’ll take the time to revive it and make sure it will be alright to swim off and not get sharked. I just love the fury of the fight.
Jacks are great fighters. They pull hard, very fast, and for a long time. They change direction often. They make multiple runs away from you and make your drag scream. You will wonder if you have a shark or barracuda on the line.
We have some small 10 lb. fish at a fish conservation center here close to where we live. There are huge saltwater pools filled with Cobia in one pool, Jacks in another, Amberjack in another. They are fed on a schedule. I was lucky enough to be there to watch the Jack Crevalle get fed. The lady with the live baitfish walked to the other end of the lake where I was and started dropping baitfish in the water. The fish, knowing it was feeding time, raced the entire length of the pond – about 40 meters in just a couple of seconds. I could see the water wake as they screamed toward the hapless baitfish! When they arrived it was a total slaughter that was over in seconds. They easily chased down every last fish and made it a meal. It was incredible to see.
I’ll have to shoot some video on it and post it here. Seeing them feed is really something to see. These are small Giant Trevally though I think – similar to the ones we have in Florida, but these get to massive proportions, way over 100 lbs.
Where To Find Jack Crevalle?
They can be found on both of Florida’s coasts, and all the way down to South America and over to Africa and Portugal. They have a wide range! Jacks can be found in brackish water, and out in the middle of the ocean, just about anywhere. They are hard to target because they don’t stick to an easy routine. They could be anywhere. You’ll know they’re there when you hook one, and probably not before that unless you see a bunch of them slaughtering a school of baitfish.
Diet – What Do They Eat?
Fish, squid, crabs, crustaceans, and anything you drag through the water when they’re hungry and in feeding mode. They are insatiable eaters and not discerning at all when they’re just chomping on anything that moves. I’ve often seen Jacks corner a bunch of smaller fish and tear into the school of them over and over for minutes at a time until the water froths with blood bubbles. I hope you see that on the water someday! When you do, launch literally ANYTHING with a hook and you’ll catch one. You may catch 2 fish at a time if you throw a big lure with a double treble hook. I’ve done it!
They eat Yozuri Minnows at least sometimes!
How to Catch them—Techniques
From a Small Boat – Kayak, Canoe
Assuming you have a strong braided line on – around 50 lbs. or at least 30 lbs., you can just let the jack tow you around in your Kayak until it gets tired. I prefer this in open water where there’s nothing for the fish to hide under or wrap around. I’ll just hold on for ten minutes until he exhausts himself pulling my butt around the bay. Make sure they’re real tired when you bring them on the boat, or it’s a bit like pulling a Gar up into your kayak. The flopping around can get crazy!
Land your fish as soon as you sense that he’s tired and not making any more runs or the extended fight from a kayak will attract sharks. Tampa Bay is full of sharks, and this was typically my problem when catching fish on the larger side from the Kayak.
Jacks often chase baitfish into shallow water and trap them against a seawall. This is how I’ve known they were in the area most often. They are often feeding, and they love to come up into saltwater canals, chasing baitfish in there. If you want to test the waters to see if there might be some fish inshore, just tow a shiny gold or silver Gotcha Lure with double treble hook through the water fast. Don’t worry, you can’t reel as fast as the jacks can swim, so crank it – especially if the water is warm.
Note – don’t make the mistake of not using your drag when you fish for crevalle. They are capable of extremely long runs and can spool your reel or wrap you around a pier or dock in no time. Once you know Jack are in the area, it’s a blast to catch some, the fight is always good.
When Is the Best Time to Fish?
When the water is over 60-70°F, you’ll probably find Jacks in shallow enough water to target them inshore during the Spring and Fall season.
I’ve mentioned before that inshore I preferred to use my Ugly Stik. I had a couple but a medium action, or even medium-light is fine for most Jacks because they’re under 10 lbs. If you happen to get a bigger one, you’re going to be kicking yourself for not using a stronger rod. I like medium-heavy action rods inshore so I am ready for anything. I can catch a 1 lb. trout on a medium-heavy action rod. It’s not as fun as a light action rod, but the point for me in catching small fish like trout or most Flounder is that I land them because I’m going to eat them. They don’t fight well, so what’s the point? Using a medium-heavy action rod will give your more landed fish. To me, that’s the goal. I hate to lose small fish, but you know what? I can’t stand to lose BIG FISH!
We recommend the following Medium-action rod for catching Jack Crevalle inshore or from a small boat within a half-mile of the beach.
UGLY STIK rod at Amazon for Catching Jacks Inshore. Choose 7 foot medium 2-piece or 1-piece.
Spinning Reel for Jacks?
I don’t know, once I got accustomed to my first baitcasting reel, I never wanted to use another spinning reel. I love the feeling of the baitcasting reel. I like seeing how efficiently it wraps line. When I see line leaving or spooling on my spinning rod I can’t help get over the idea that it’s wildly inefficient! That’s just me. Many pros prefer spinning rods for ocean fishing. Up to you I guess.
If you do like Baitcasting Reels, here’s one of my favorite rod/reel combinations for up to 50 lb. Jack Crevalle.
Fifty pound (50#) braided line is recommended for general fishing in areas where you might catch big jack, big reds, big snook, and other fish. You’ll do well to use a mono leader to give a little stretch because braided line is so unforgiving in that department. 150 yards of line is plenty for jacks and most other inshore fish.
We recommend the following line for Jacks, just to be safe. It really hurts to see one snap the line!
Don’t Forget the LEADER
60-80 lb. clear leader is best. Jacks do have teeth, but they don’t typically chew threw 80 lb. test line. We recommend this line, and it is sometimes sold out because it is in high demand. Everyone likes this one. If this shows as sold-out, search Amazon for it again.
80 lb. Clear Fluorocarbon Leader – for big Jack Crevalle and other fish on the larger side. You’ll need about 2 yards of it. You’ll need about 40 feet per rig. This monofilament gives some elasticity, necessary for fighting these very strong fish. Something needs to give, and often the rod doesn’t have enough bend. The braided line does not stretch much at all.
The best hooks are strong and fair. Don’t use the off-set hooks. It isn’t like they are difficult to catch, they do bite at anything pulled quickly through the water. A size 3/0 or 4/0 hook is plenty big for them. Use circle hooks if you’ll be doing a lot of catch and release and you know where they are.
3/0 Hook Recommendation – perfect for Jacks of all size except the smallest, though I’ve caught them on these 3/0 hooks as well.
Best Crevalle Jack Fishing Rigs?
I can’t remember ever using a specific rig for Jacks. They like fast moving bait, so you can throw a swivel on your braided line, attach 6 feet of fluoro leader and a 3/0 hook with a strip of squid, cut fish, or live bait, and if Jacks are around, you’re going to see some action. Jacks will move toward a piece of cutbait or squid if they hear it plop and start sinking, but it’s better to pull that through the water and it will be attacked with little delay.
Fishing Laws in Florida
In Florida, these fish are not regulated, meaning you can catch up to 100 lbs. of fish in a day and be within the law. However, 100 lbs. is the maximum, or you need a commercial fishing license. There is one way you can go over the 100 lb. limit as a recreational angler, you can catch two fish which together weigh over 100 lbs. and you can keep them both, but no more.
There is no season or daily bag limit on Jacks, just the 100 lb. limit per day.
There is a vague statement about “larger fish” in the Florida Fishing law… not surprisingly. Here’s what it states.
“For larger fish such as the southern stingray, if you harvest two fish that have a combined weight of 150 pounds, that is your limit for that species.”
Now, does that apply to Jack Crevalle? Who knows? There are many vague laws put out by Florida Fishing Commission and it’s up to you to figure them out. I certainly wouldn’t take more than 150 lbs. with two Jack Crevalles, just to be safe. What would you do with them anyway? They’d be absolutely full of parasites.
Legal Gear for Harvesting
Fishing with spears, gigs, hook and line, seine, and cast net are permissible.
Federal Waters Crevalle Jack Laws
In Federal waters, Jack are taken according to Florida Law around the state.
Get the Fishing App
If fishing from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, Georgia, South or North Carolina, you can use this mobile application to stay up to date on the fishing rules on the Atlantic Coast.
How to Cook them?
Most people don’t cook this fish. Most people just don’t like the taste of them. They are not offensive, but just not as good as some other Florida gamefish. They have a lot of dark meat that most people don’t enjoy the taste of. Jacks have parasites in the muscle, and the bigger jacks will have a lot of them, like Black Drum. Do you REALLY want to eat it?
If you’re going to eat it, and I have before and didn’t mind the taste to be honest! I love the taste of fish, and the Jacks I’ve had were OK. Of course I smothered them in butter and cumin powder to remove the taste…
Anyway, only eat SMALL JACKS. Under 3 lbs. Don’t eat the bigger ones, you’ll regret it and waste the fish because you will probably find worms. Bleed the fish right away after catching by hanging upside down over the boat after cutting the gills with scissors or knife. Put it on ice right away. When you get back, cut off the head and fillet it out. If you see any worms, just discard the entire fish and call it a learning experience.
Frying your fish would be best, after breading it. You’ll mostly kill the taste. I just broil mine and as I said, it’s OK to eat. I didn’t find it repulsive in the least. Here are some Redfish Recipes you could use to cook up your Jack.
- MYFWC (Jack profile)
- Fishbase.se (Jack profile with good Biology section)
- ResearchGate Review of Caranx hippos (excellent PDF)
- IUCN Redlist – The International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Jack profile.
Image credits: Jack Crevalle illustrations by Diane Peebles who is commissioned by Florida State to create accurate identification drawings of each Florida species. Map image from IUCN. Other images are credited.
More Fishing Guides with All You Need to Know
Fishing Tacklebox Essentials
Fish Scale (Digital and up to 110 lbs.)
Florida Fishing Identification Booklet – 5×7″ Laminated (Waterproof)