Jacks are one of the hardest fighting inshore species in the world and make for a superb light tackle species. Found all over the globe in warm coastal waters, jacks are incredibly diverse and have a huge range. They can be found from Nova Scotia to Uruguay in the Atlantic Ocean and from California to Australia in the Pacific Ocean. The jack family, carangidae, includes jack crevalle, horse eye jacks, African pompanos, bluefin trevally, and the giant trevally which is the largest of all.
These different species of jacks all vary in appearance but have common traits like sloping foreheads and big crescent shaped tails. The IGFA lists Atlantic and Pacific jack crevalle as two different species although their markings and physical appearance are nearly identical, right down to the black spots on the pectoral fins and gill plate. The bluefin trevally is the most beautiful of the jack family and is easily identifiable with its turquoise spots and blue fins. The giant trevally and the African pompano both have visible curved lateral lines but can be distinguished by the steep forehead and dorsal fin of the African pompano.
Jacks typically travel in large schools and inhabit reefs and other inshore structures. They can be found around rocky islands or reefs during the day while at night they can often be seen entering harbors, marinas, and channels to feed. Jacks are incredibly diverse as they can tolerate different salinities from offshore reefs to the high saline waters of flats to brackish water near river mouths and mangroves. They’ve even been known to enter into freshwater rivers along the coast and a few lucky anglers have been surprised by them inside the Panama Canal. Most jacks are in the 15-30 lb range while jack crevalle can reach up to 50 lbs and the giant trevally can top out at over 100 lbs.
WHAT THEY EAT: Jacks are voracious hunters and will eat at any opportunity. They primarily eat other pelagic and inshore species but they will also eat crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans. They are almost exclusively a game fish as their dark red meat is not craved by most anglers.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Jacks are considered an inshore light tackle species. They are often found near river mouths, reefs, and rocky islands. Trolling with live bait will almost always produce bites, but few things beat the excitement of seeing them explode on the surface after your popper. When you find a school of feeding jack you can also fly fish for them.