Living Sanibel: Blue Runner and Crevalle Jack found around the islands
Sometimes mistaken for bluefish and vice versa, the blue runner is a member of the jack family. Aside from being roughly the same size on the Gulf coast, however, the blue runner has little in common with the bluefish. The blue runner lacks the teeth of the bluefish and is nowhere near as aggressive. It feeds on small fish, shrimp, and other invertebrates.
Cut blue runner is an excellent bait for shark, tarpon, and mangrove snapper. Locally, the blue runner is the favored baitfish for king mackerel, where it is often slow trolled over artificial reefs and hard bottom. Light tackle and no more than 20-pound leader are all that is required to catch this attractive little fighter. It is seldom taken for food, but is reported to be excellent eating, though, like many jacks, tends to be oily and have a darker meat.
Its distribution is limited to the subtropical Atlantic, from western Africa to the Caribbean and north to Nova Scotia.
Commonly referred to as “jack,” this is a frequent catch found almost anywhere in the waters surrounding Sanibel and Captiva. An aggressive fighter known to readily take surface plugs, spoons, and almost any kind of live or frozen bait, the jack is a popular sport fish, and for good reason. Its fight is typified by deep powerful runs and long, extended battles, especially with fish 10 pounds and above. Unlike ladyfish, the jack never jumps.
A schooling predator, the jack often attacks baitfish in canals, driving them against the seawalls and turning the water into a boiling froth. During these events almost any jig or spoon cast into the feeding jacks will result in an instant strike. The jack feeds predominantly on minnows and smaller fish, taking in crustaceans and invertebrates with far less frequency.
Mature jacks are heavily preyed upon by shark, tarpon, marlin, and other large finfish. Juveniles are taken by wading birds, as well as large snook and cobia. Tolerant of salinity changes, the jack roams far up the Caloosahatchee all the way to the Franklin locks. It is one of the most populous fish in the Atlantic Ocean, ranging from Newfoundland to the southern tip of Africa.
There have been confirmed reports of jacks weighing more than 32 kilograms (70 pounds). A jack this size should not be eaten, however, since it is prone to ciguatera poisoning. Smaller fish are sometimes taken as table fare, but have a dark, oily flesh. The jack is excellent in fish stew and is very popular in India where its firm flesh is used in fish curry. In Florida, however, the jack is more popular as a testy game fish than a food fish.
This is an excerpt from Living Sanibel – A Nature Guide to Sanibel & Captiva Islands by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.