How to catch the feisty Jack Crevalle

Getting to know the Jacks

The Jack Crevalle is an underrated game fish since it is not highly targeted by fishermen primarily because it doesn’t taste good. Although it is often caught while aiming for other game fish, you might be surprised that this species has great energy and strength – a powerhouse catch.

Identified by its deep, compressed body with a blunt head, the Jack Crevalle has a light olive back with greyish sides and yellowish belly. There is usually a black spot on the back end of its gill cover and has a sickle-shaped tail. It is known by other names like the jack, common jack, horse crevalle, cavally, cavalla, and toro.

Jacks have an average weight of three to five pounds but in some areas, they can go to 12 pounds and up and some even grow to 60 pounds as proven by fisherman Carlos Alberto Leal Simoes who caught a world record Jack Crevalle weighing 66 pounds near Angola, Africa after a 15-minute battle at sea.  

The cavally is an excellent fighting fish for its size and would often engage you in a challenging tug-o-war. While other species have a tendency to run away from you, the jacks are known to circle the boat and usually put up a worthy fight.

Tackle and fishing technique

These open-water predators are often spotted chasing baitfish such as sardines and herring at the surface. Keep a watchful eye for birds feeding on surface baits because their presence is an indication of feasting game fish which most likely include cavally.

For bait, the cavally would not hesitate to take on natural bait, whether live or dead, but bigger ones are more keen on fast-moving prey. So for better hook-up results, it is recommended that you use fresh or active live fish such as a nine to 12-inch mullet to entice this species. You can use a two to three-foot leader of 30-40 test mono, a 5/0 to 7/0 hook, and a barrel swivel. Keep in mind that where you hook your live bait can influence how it behaves in the water. For example, pinning the mullet on its dorsal fin will drive it in a frenzy as it swim downwards and all that energy is likely to attract predatory fish like the Jack Crevalle. If you want the live bait to swim away from the boat, you might want to hook it by its anal fin. This will cause the fish to behave sporadically and attract nearby game fish which is fitting on a stationary boat.

When using artificial lures, there is a bigger chance of getting a bite when you retrieve artificial lures like poppers and jerkbaits quickly and aggressively. A high-speed retrieve using bucktail jig, spoon, plastic grub, topwater plugs, and surface chuggers also produce positive hits for this species. If this sport fish misses on the first pass, it is likely to try again if it sees its potential prey actively moving.

The decision to use bait or lures is up to you but your reel should be loaded with a minimum of 200 yards of at least 20-pound test line. It may take about an hour to fight a 30-pounder jack and use a net to land the fish especially if you plan to release it back to the water since it’s not a tasty species. Its flesh is deep red and its red muscle makes it coarse and not appetizing to the palate.

If you want to experience catching the Jack Crevalle, you can schedule your Cabo sport fishing trip any time from January to June because these months are perfect for sight fishing them.

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