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Can You Eat Jack Fish?

Although Jack fish are extremely bony, they can be eaten if you take the time to prepare them properly.

Jack Fish

These fish, which are found in warm waters along the Southern U.S. coast, are often considered “junk” fish, but if you don’t mind picking a few bones out of your mouth while you’re eating a Jack fish, you will find that they are pretty delicious.

So, the answer to can you eat Jack fish is yes, but you do need to be careful about bones.

Do People Eat Jack Fish?

While Jack fish can be safely eaten, they’re not a popular fish to eat because they take a long time to clean due to their bony structure. Moreover, the meat can be of poor quality, especially that of older fish.

grilled jack fish

While there are some restaurants that serve Jack fish, you’ll mostly find them used as a base for fish oil or fishmeal rather than as a main dish. When they are cooked for food, they are often battered and fried.

Additionally, there are many bones in a Jack fish, which makes it a pain to clean one. This is one reason why they are often found on restaurant menus rather than as a fish used for a camping meal.

Commercially purchased Jack fish have already been cleaned, so they don’t have to do the dirty work of bleeding them, filleting them, and removing the bones.

About Jack Fish

Jack fish are also referred to as bluefin fish, and they’re very common in reefs and along shorelines.

a school of jack fish swimming

They have bright blue fins and are predators that eat just about anything. Adult Jack fish can measure up to four feet in length and weigh as much as 70 pounds.

However, most catches are no longer than two feet, so, while they can yield a lot of meat, most do not. They’re also a popular game fish, as they’re difficult to catch.

Jack Fish Flavor

Since Jack fish are one of the fastest fish in the ocean, their meat is very dark, which is indicative of the blood flowing through the fish’s body as it swims.


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Darker meat has a fishier flavor than white meat, so Jack fish are probably best reserved for people who prefer their seafood on the fishy side. It does depend on the species of Jack fish that you eat, though, as the yellow Jacks aren’t as gamey tasting as others.


People who really enjoy eating Jack fish say it can taste like beef or even steak, but it must be prepared properly to get this flavor, which is why it’s almost never described in this way.

The fish must be bled immediately after it’s caught, while it’s still alive. Then, it must be iced right away to preserve the freshness. As you fillet the fish, trim as much of the darkest meat away from the lighter meat as possible.

Eating Jack Fish Raw

The smaller Jack fish are often consumed raw, especially as ceviche. This is because the smaller fish have whiter, more tender meat that does not taste as fishy as the meat from older, larger fish.

a single whole jack fish

Jack fish do have a variety of nutrients in them, like potassium and calcium, that disappear when they are cooked. To get these nutrients, you have to eat this fish raw.

More Information

Older and larger Jack fish are at risk for carrying the ciguatera toxin, which can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in extremities, dizziness, muscle pain, and other symptoms within six to eight hours after consumption.

school of jack fish

For this reason, it is recommended that you only eat Jack fish that are smaller than about five pounds. While the risk of death from ciguatera poisoning is very low, the symptoms are not comfortable, so do your best to avoid this toxin.

Final Thoughts

Jack fish are becoming more popular as entrees in restaurants worldwide, but the effort required to clean them makes them less attractive to everyday fishermen.

Moreover, the flavor can be strong, so people who aren’t seafood lovers may not enjoy this selection. If you do enjoy strong-tasting fish, give the Jack fish a try. You might like it even better than steak!

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