| Crevalle jacks, ladyfish, gafftop sailcatfish, and
sharks have long been relegated to the fishing
equivalent of the trash heap by the majority of
anglers and casual fishermen. But, these fish are
all excellent gamefish in their own right and, at the
least, jacks and sharks deserve their own
Few fish can go toe to toe with a jack on a pound
for pound level and come out on top. I have
friends and customers who want nothing more than
to go catch jacks, as many as I can put them on. I
have spent many mornings searching out bigger
ones and fishing them until my shoulders and
forearms ached. A jack of 12-15 pounds will make
most people take a break at the close of the
battle and one at or above the 22-25 pound range
is more than many can handle. They screw down
the gas, dig in the fins, and dare you to move them,
plain and simple. What could be better than a fish
that will eat most anything and then make you
sweat to end the fight you just picked?
Ladyfish are easily the most likely fish in the
bays and coastal waters to go airborne multiple
times every hook up. Smaller ones make fast,
burst runs and fight a slashing battle amid the
aerial antics. Big ones above 20-22” are battlers
that can be downright tough to boat on typical
flats tackle. They can throw hooks almost as well
as small tarpon and they add some torque to the
same style of fight that the small ones put out.
Ladyfish are fun.
Sailcats. Sailcats get the least respect of all,
but they love to blow up topwater plugs and fight
like few fish their size. Many anglers who hook
one are certain they’ve tied into a nice snook or
red, only to see the sailcat come alongside the
boat. For someone deliberately hunting snook or
reds, they are often disappointing, but to
someone just out to catch fish and have a good
time they are just as fun as anything else swimming
the same water. Granted, the thick coat of slime
they leave on the line above their heads is a
hassle, but it peels off without much trouble and
the smile most people get out of them is worth the
little effort to get it off the line. More than one
person has insisted on a picture at the end of the
fight with a big one in the 5-8 pound range. Cheap
fun, but good fun!
Sharks are in a class of their own for stamina
and sheer power. I’ve had to finish the fight myself
for some people in the past when they simply
became too sore to continue after trying on a big
one for an hour or more.
This area does not have the best shark fishery I’
ve ever found. For that, I go to Florida Bay, but
the fishery here is very good during some parts of
the year. There is an equal or better chance of
finding a shark or two than there is of finding a
tarpon willing to eat, which is to say, good enough
to make it worth trying! For someone strictly
looking to find a test of strength and endurance,
without preference for what gives it to him or her, I
recommend trying the sharks. The fishing is
generally easier and less demanding, right up until
the time the fish eats the bait. Of course, the lack
of competition for the same fish is also a welcome
respite from the tarpon fishing!
Different sharks have different styles, but all of
them are strong fighters. Lemons and blacktips
like to run and fight a bit faster battle, though
bigger ones of both species will settle down into a
slugfest. Bulls and hammerheads are just raw
power. They run, but not overly fast, just a long
methodical trip away from whatever is pulling on
them. When they anchor themselves below the
boat late in the fight, it can take a long time to
work them to the surface.
That’s my case for a little respect to the
undesirables crowd. If you want to look for one
of them instead of the more commonly sought
after fish, I won’t look at you like you’re wasting
my time. I don’t mind a bit and finding big jacks and
sailcats is challenging on most days.
|14 lb jacks have a way of making grins when the brawl is over . . .
|. . . but then, so do 3 lb jacks.
|Winter time jacks make you forget all
about the chill in the air.
|The angler who caught this 6 lb sailcat insisted
on a picture of it, he just didn't want to hold it!
|Blacktips are probably the best pure gamefish of the nearshore shark
clan. This one got a more than happy reception when he came aboard.
|An 8 ft lemon shark that dumped nearly 300 yards of line against a
nearly locked drag. The fish took over 40 minutes to boat with an
experienced angler at the reel.