Sunday, May 6, 2012

Jacks, lost? But not forgotten

Lately, I've been reminiscing. Because of all the bait we have in the river and outside the jetties.
I've be looking in my photo albums and seeing a change. The photos that caught my attention right away were of memorable light tackle catches of Jack Cravelle's, by customers in the spring time.

-Serious light-tackle catch along heavy structure.

And it got me thinking. Especially after the last few Jetty trips. Where Pogies are the bait of choice. Because they're so numerous.

-Your average Jetty Jack

It seems like years ago, you could always count on catching a handful of decent sized Jacks by simply pitching live pogies up to the jetty rocks.

And sometimes you didn't even have to do that. Drifting along the rocks with some heavy Gator spoons, just cast to the pockets along the rocks, let the spoon sink a second and burn it back to the boat. You'd catch either a Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, or Jack Crevalle. The Jacks were always the favorites, though. 

Those tight schools of Pogies out there would have marauding packs of big Jacks streaking through them. These fish would be big. I'd go from Pogie pod to Pogie pod, looking for the Jacks, and rip a large top water through the bait. The hook ups were intense, the boating of these Jacks were an angling challenge. Jack Crevalle in the 20-30 pound range, were not uncommon.

While float-rig fishing in April and May, back when we all could fish along the Navy base. The last of the falling tide, a float-rig with a live shrimp would mean hook-ups on Jacks from a few pounds to 10 pounds. And when they'd ball up the bait fish on the point of the carrier basin, my favorite thing to do was to rip a plug through them and have an instant hook-up, minutes from leaving the dock. 

One day, along the Navy Base rocks I was hand feeding the Jacks. I had a bucket of real small dead pogies. And as they came down the bank in a pack. I threw out a handful of the dead baits. And before you knew it. I had the school along side the boat and I was dropping the small dead pogies off the side of the boat feeding individual Jacks that would swirl the surface.

My customers loved hooking up on big Jacks, especially way down the river. They'd be drifting their float-rig behind the boat thinking "Trout". When they'd hook up a large Jack that had me pulling the anchor and following it.

One especially memorable day was when I had three Australian crew members off a yacht that was being worked on at Atlantic Marine. We went float-rig fishing and caught Speckled Trout and Black Drum. Then, as the yacht's Captain used the last of the shrimp in the baitwell, he hooked a giant river Jack. I ended up pulling the anchor and giving chase as he yelled, "It's spooling me, Mate!!".  He caught the fish and it was 20 pounds. Afterwards, he said, "now that's like fishing at home in Australia!"

As of right now, we've only caught a few tiny Jacks. And this time last year, was about the same. Sure, many of my favorite places are off limits. Because fishing there means we're a threat to National Security. So far, I've failed to see any of the big Jacks that make memories, like years ago.

I'll keep looking.  Jack, old friend. You're not forgotten.

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