This subtropical fish is found year-round along American Atlantic coasts from the Carolinas south to Brazil, including Bermuda and the Caribbean Sea. It also ranges around Florida and along the Gulf of Mexico all the way south through the Yucatan Peninsula. In the eastern Atlantic Greater Amberjack hug the central-western African coastline from Cape Verde to Angola, before beginning again from South Africa north to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. Populations continue along Indo-Pacific coastlines through and past northern Australia and northward throughout Japan. In the Pacific Greater Jacks populate island coastlines all the way east to Hawaii.
The Greater Amberjack’s body is slender and tight, marked by a dark striped extending from the nose to the front of a small, first dorsal fin. This stripe is not always immediately conspicuous, but is known to “light up” when the fish is in feeding mode. This fish is typically brownish or bluish-gray on top with silvery white sides that are often adorned with a pale yellow stripe. Young Jacks display up to five dark vertical bands and transparent fins. Rows of tiny teeth run along the upper and lower jaws. Females grow larger and live longer than males. Sexual maturity is reached at 4 to 5 years of age, with a maximum life span of at least 17 years. This largest of all Jack species commonly reaches 40 pounds, with the IGFA record a whopping 155 pound, 10 ounce monster caught off Challenger Bank, Bermuda.
Greater Jacks are believed to spawn offshore near reefs and shipwrecks, usually during early spring. Juveniles congregate in schools at depths less than 30 feet, mostly remaining near floating objects and growing more independent with age. Though sometimes caught near shore, solitary adults are most frequently found in 60-240 feet of water, patrolling rocky reefs, wrecks, and debris. These fish are opportunistic feeders relying on a diet of squid, crustaceans, and other migrating fishes, including scad and sardines. Juveniles feed mainly on plankton and other small invertebrates.
Greater Jacks are long-time favorites of anglers across the world, and highly-regarded as good fighters, once hooked. Although tapeworms are a common bane to these fish, they are not harmful to humans and can be removed before cooking. This fish is becoming increasingly more popular as a meal due to great flexibility in being prepared many different ways. Greater Amberjack can be fried, broiled, baked, or grilled – the perfect reward for a good battle.