From a distance, it looked like a clump of reeds sticking out of the calm waters of Calibogue Sound.
But there are no reeds in Calibogue. Drawing closer, the “reeds” were moving and dark shadows followed beneath. These were no reeds — they were big jacks! What had appeared to be reeds were actually second dorsals of jack crevalle, barely breaking the water’s surface as they cruised the Sound looking for prey.
Jack crevalle inhabit our waters in summer, smaller ones often schooling with Spanish mackerel and bluefish. The bigger ones tend to school on their own, moving with the tide, back and forth between the ocean and the sounds in search of food. This pattern has made them a dog days’ favorite, as they often weigh upwards of the thirty-pound mark and are second only to their cousin, the amberjack. Amberjack can average fifty pounds or better and are found offshore more than their smaller cousins…but both are formidable opponents on the end of a line.
The most common way to target jacks is by stalking.
Boats cruise up and down tide or rip lines looking for the schools of big jacks. Other than the illusion of “reeds,” anglers look for groups of large “v” wakes or dark spots. Once the jacks are spotted, the angler must be positioned within casting distance and present a live bait or an artificial — swimming or popping plugs both seem to be effective. It’s very exciting to watch a thirty-pound fish attack your bait or lure!
Once hooked, even on heavier tackle, jacks will put up an extended, brutal battle. One fish we hooked (blindly) on a light tackle took more than two hours and four miles before we finally caught him. And that was only after several attempts at charging him with the boat when he surfaced! Pound for pound, you will be hard pressed to find a tougher fighting fish than the jack.
Early morning is best for hunting jacks in the Sound.
Then move out further to the sand bars and shallows off the beach as the boating traffic increases. Jacks can be skittish but once you are hooked up, it’s game on!
Article and photo by Miles Altman, Bayrunner Fishing Charters
Capt. Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters has more than 42 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. The Finatic boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers, features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 or bayrunnerfishinghiltonhead.com to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.