Chasing Jacks!

Chasing Jacks!

The tale I am about to relate happened several years ago but the memory is as vivid as though it was this morning. A buddy phoned to say he was anxious to hit the water. I quickly obliged and told him that I would be checking the weather forecast for the first good opportunity. Lucky for us, the meteorologists were predicting a string of several days with light north wind. I knew this was our window as it gave us several different options of how and where we might spend a day on the water. I phoned my buddy back and proposed that we make a full day of it by hitting the jetties at daylight and, then once the sun came up, we could ride around looking for tripletail. The plan didn’t require much convincing.

When we pulled out of the boat ramp there was a faint orange glow on the eastern horizon and I knew that our timing was perfect for a run to the Sabine jetties. Sure enough, we began catching some decent trout along the rocks and it didn’t take long to fill our limits. We decided to head into the Texas pocket with hopes to throw the cast net and catch some live bait for the tripletail. Not long into our search I looked up and noticed a large V-shaped waking pushing through the water. Stu asked me what I thought it might be and my reply was, “I honestly have no idea but put that She Dog in front of it and lets find out.” A well placed cast and finding out is exactly what we did. A large head emerged from below the surface with mouth wide open and we watched as that topwater disappeared. Stu reared back with a mighty hookset and quickly asked what I thought might have grabbed his plug. “It’s a jack,” I assured him, “And you better hang on!”

As Stu did his best to control the beast I stayed on the big motor and kept the fish close, with hopes to not put too much stress on the angler or the fish. Chasing it down, I began to notice several more wakes being pushed across the surf and I knew they were also jacks. We finally got the fish into the boat and my buddy was relieved. We snapped a few quick photos and sent her back on her way. As Stu was catching his breath I told him to look out front because it was time to do it again. With the adrenaline still pumping, he bombed a cast and a few twitches later he had had another giant blow-up. Pretty much an instant replay; as we released his second fish I told him that another one was headed straight at us. Being somewhat less than enthusiastic about tangling with a third jack in rapid succession, he decided to pass the rod to me. I gladly accepted and grabbed my 11-weight fly rod instead of the baitcast rig.

I managed a decent cast and a few strips with a white and chartreuse streamer got her attention. Once again, she came across with her mouth wide open and we watched as the fly got sucked in. I made a solid strip set and within seconds I was into my backing. While fighting the fish I began to look across the surface and that is when I realized that there were literally hundreds of jacks scattered about. As far as you could see in every direction there were wakes being pushed by either single fish or small groups of three to five. At that time I had never seen anything like it. We caught jacks steadily until almost noon, and with exhaustion setting in, we agreed we’d had enough catching for that day.

Since that memorable morning I have found jacks schooled and behaving very similarly on several occasions and it always seems to happen on the perfect weather days. Mostly when the surf is almost mirror-slick and you can easily spot them cruising the surface. The most amazing thing about fishing for jacks is that a majority of fishermen want absolutely nothing to do with them. I fully understand that if you are trout fishing with light tackle, hooking into a jack may not be the ideal outcome. However, if you are using the right equipment and enjoy the challenge of whipping hard-fighting fish, there should be no reason not to target jack crevalle when they are available.

The thing that makes these fish so desirable to me is that they are incredibly aggressive. They are mean, explosive, and by far the strongest inshore species you will likely ever encounter. On top of all of that they will rarely, if ever, refuse a topwater. Once you get their attention they will do nearly everything possible to chase it down and pounce on it.

Experience over the years has taught me that if you can’t spot them cruising the surface the next best plan is focusing on rafts of pogies. Pogies (shad) are one of their main food sources during the summer months and they are never far from them. Keep a topwater tied on and cast around the edges of the pogy schools. The jacks like to cruise around the edges and wait for a single pogy to drift away from the school before attacking. A lone topwater just off the edge will get smoked every time.

Summer is here and I am excited for the calm days out along our beachfront. We don’t get many days where the conditions are ideal, especially when fishing from a poling skiff. Until then, I will be eagerly checking the forecast for a stretch of a few days with light north wind pushing to the coast. When that time arrives you can be assured I’ll be out there, rod in hand with a topwater tied on, chasing the jacks!

 
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