Tags Fish Guide


Tags Fish Guide
IT GOES without saying that any member of the Seriola family is capable of putting up a pretty tough fight, and the amberjack is no exception. This is perhaps the most global of the family with a worldwide sub-tropical and tropical distribution and a series of separated populations.

Given that amberjacks are frequently solitary fish they tend to be a bycatch encountered when targeting schooling species such as samson fish in the south of Western Australia or mackerel and trevally in our northern waters.

In the southern regions of the east coast of the United States Seriola dumerili are called greater amberjack and are highly valued as a sport fish. They notably take up residence on man-made structures such as oil and gas rigs. Interestingly in America anglers are permitted to tie up to these rigs to fish, yet here in WA we are required to stay away from them for fear we are saboteurs … go figure.

My first and only amberjack came from 120 metres of water just north of Rottnest Island and it fought every metre to the boat but, not prizing their reported eating qualities, I released it. I suspect most amberjacks taken locally get released.

It really is disappointing that amberjacks cannot be targeted successfully on a regular basis because they are truly impressive looking fish. If they could be targeted I for one would be chasing them.

The three species within the Seriola family – amberjack, samson fish and yellowtail kingfish – are not always easy to identify as all three can school together and are quite similar in appearance.

Amberjack look more streamlined in appearance compared to samson fish, which resemble them most closely. The yellow stripe along the body also tends to be more prominent with amberjacks.

But the most reliable way of identifying an amberjack is the dorsal ray count – amberjack having 29-35, whereas samson fish have 23-25 and yellowtail kingfish have 31-34.

Amberjacks can be found in other parts of the world up to 60 kilos in weight, but the Australian Anglers Association record sits at 39.5kg. Perhaps it is an indication of their abundance in WA waters that only one game fishing record exists for amberjacks caught here. Although I suspect quite a few fish get released unidentified.

For local anglers a good amberjack would be 15kg and a big fish is over 20kg.

Amberjacks can be found in waters from Albany in the south up as far as the Rowley Shoals, off Broome, in the north. They are generally found in offshore waters and along the Continental Shelf, unlike samson fish and yellowtail kingfish, that prefer slightly shallower water.

Described in some research papers as being both pelagic and demersal, amberjacks are solitary or they can be found in small groups. They can most commonly be caught around deepwater wrecks, and around reefs and islands.

Breeding and migration
As with so many popular angling species very little is known about the breeding and migration of amberjacks, although some overseas research indicates that they spawn in spring and summer.

Just about the only thing that could be accurately said about the growth and reproductive characteristics of amberjacks is that they are extremely fast growing, mature early, have very high fecundity, and wide distribution.

Amberjacks are not found in large schools and are not known to be targeted by commercial operators – there are currently no identifiable threats.

Tackle and bait
I suppose the odd amberjack gets taken from the rocks at times, but by far the majority are caught by boat anglers so again I will confine myself to talking about this aspect of fishing. And given that just about all amberjacks in WA are taken when targeting other species the gear used to catch them should be appropriate to the target species.

Short rods that provide good leverage against a deep running amberjack, with solid overhead reels, are generally favoured.

Monofilament lines up to 24kg and braid as high as 37kg are used if fishing deep in difficult terrain.

Popular live baits for amberjacks are herring and slimy mackerel. However, amberjacks aren’t too fussy and they will take mulies, squid, octopus and cut fish baits.

For deepwater jigging a strong jig or heavy spin stick up to 2.2m in length is needed. Reels should be able to withstand enormous strains when loaded with braid line up to 37kg.

Amberjacks can also be taken trolling lures of all types, with lures that run deep being the preferred option. Hooks and split rings need to be extremely strong for these critters too.

Fishing method
Perhaps one of the most reliable ways to catch amberjacks, if there is such a thing, is by using berley. Anchor near a wreck, or dropoff, and use berley to bring the fish to you. Like samson fish, amberjacks love a berley trail. Remember to keep the berley trail flowing and don’t lose sight of the fact that if you start catching fish it’s because the berley trail is working, so you need to keep it working.

A floating bait or a live bait out the back of the boat on a float rig is a productive way to catch, although in deeper water baits nearer the bottom will prove more successful.

In northern waters trolling lures along deep ledges and dropoffs can produce the odd fish, and the mackerel bycatch can be fun too.

The most successful lures are deep diving bibbed or bibless minnow styles.

In southern waters trolling will also take the odd amberjack, but they are mostly encountered fishing deep when chasing samson fish or demersal species.

The heavy gear used for jigging for samson fish would deal with most amberjacks you are likely to encounter.

And just like samson fish, if you’re releasing your fish support it with two hands while you lift it from the water, take your photographs quickly and then spear it back into the water – amberjacks are just too good to lose even one.

References: Marine Fishes of North-Western Australia by Gerry Allen and Roger Swainston, Australian Fisheries Resources by Kailola, Williams, Stewart, Reichelt, McNee and Grieve.
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