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January 19, 2012

Great Sight-Cast Fisheries

Five pulse-pounding sight-cast spots guaranteed to rock your world, plus some reader favorites

Jack Be Quick

Huge jack crevalle provide vicious topwater-plug action

Just about this time of year, anglers along Florida’s southeast coast are treated to one of the most outrageous fisheries the Sunshine State has to offer. To say it can be ­jaw-dropping is an understatement.

Hordes of jack crevalle — big ones — maraud just off the beaches from Palm Beach to Sebastian, clustering on the surface in schools that can include thousands of fish. Approach and present offerings to these bruisers correctly, and it’s very possible to latch onto the jack of a lifetime.

“It’s really something,” says Capt. Mike Holliday, of Stuart, Florida. “I’ve caught them to 42 pounds, and they can be incredibly aggressive.”

The action usually starts in late December, as huge schools of jacks in the 10- to 15-pound range begin to show. As spring approaches, the fishing only improves, with more-numerous pods of fish and much-larger specimens. Anglers generally run the beach at speed, watching closely for surface irregularities, brown-colored splotchy areas or (when conditions are calm) fins protruding from the surface, as the jacks slowly daisychain just beneath the chop.

“If I run 25 miles of beach in the spring, I’ll generally see eight or nine schools,” Holliday says. “One or two of those schools will be very small — but the fish will all be giants.”

Holliday says that’s a common thing — the largest fish tend to hold in the smallest schools and often fairly close to the beach, only a couple hundred yards out.

Early in the year, the jacks are not finicky. As spring and summer progress, however, they get skittish, and care must be taken to quietly intercept their movement with short bursts from a trolling motor.

Once in position, anglers cast big, noisy topwaters to the outer edges. The results can be, well, explosive — and because of this, the schooling jacks make a perfect fly-rod target. Bring a 12-weight and cast a popper into the fray, while another angler teases the monsters into a frenzy with a hookless plug.

Then it’s simply a matter of hanging on! — Mike Mazur

The Skinny

Location: Stuart, Florida
Prime Time: March through June
Tackle: Strong, yet ­castable spinning outfits with 20- to 30-pound braid and 3-foot, 60-pound leaders tied to large, heavy-duty topwater plugs, such as those made by Yo-Zuri and Halco


Capt. Mike Holliday
Stuart, Florida

Capt. John Meskauskaus
Stuart, Florida

Next Up: SoCal