The term jack fish refers to a wide variety of fish species that belong to the Carangidae family.
They are fast swimming fish that live in enormous schools, dwelling in habitats such as reefs, seagrass beds, bays, sandy flats, estuaries, etc.
Though they are mainly marine fish found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide, some can also be found in the areas where the water is brackish – a mix of salty and fresh water.
Many are popular gamefish among anglers as well as a common attraction in larger public aquariums.
Read on as we explore the different types of jack fish and the distinctive features that set them apart.
Types of Jack
- Crevalle Jack
- Greater Amberjack
- Lesser Amberjack
- Florida Pompano
- African Pompano
- Blue Runner
- Bar Jack
- Yellow Jack
- Horse-Eye Jack
- Rainbow Runner
- Leather Jack
- Almaco Jack
- Banded Rudderfish
The Crevalle jack (Caranx hippos) are abundantly present in Florida waters and the Greater Antilles, from deep reefs to offshore coasts.
Their bodies are deep and compressed with a blunt head and a black spot on the gill cover.
They have a forked tail and are yellow with white bellies, weighing an average of 25 lbs and reaching 2 feet long.
The greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) is also called Cornado or amberfish. They commonly dwell in several hundred feet deep reefs and shallow waters of the Caribbean, Florida, and the Bahamas Sea.
These jack fish are golden-brown with a heavy body. A dark brownish line runs from the eye to the dorsal forked fin.
Their average size ranges from 60-to 80 pounds, but they can weigh up to 200 lbs.
The lesser amberjack (Seriola fasciata) is similar to the greater amberjacks, dwelling in the same habitat as the latter.
However, they are not as common as the greater amberjacks and can be seen swimming around the rubbles and the weed lines.
They look the same as greater amberjacks, except being much smaller in size, never exceeding more than 1 foot, and weighing up to 25 lbs.
Also known as the great pompano, the permit jack (Trachinotus falcatus) is typically found in the inlets, passes, and serfs of the Bahamas and the Caribbean Seas. They are spotted in abundance in Gulf wrecks and South Atlantic reefs.
They are silver-hued with no scutes on the body and yellowish bellies. The size of the permit jack fish ranges from 25-to 35 pounds on average and never exceeds one foot.
The Florida Pompano (Trachinotus carolinus) dwells throughout the Florida waters from the surfs, ocean piers, bays, and near the channels.
Like permits, the Florida pompano also has silver bodies, pale bellies, dark dorsal fins, and other yellowfins.
Their head is usually rounded with no scutes on the body. The average weight of the Florida pompano is 2 pounds, which can grow up to 8 pounds.
Also known as the threadfish and Cuban jack, the African pompano (Alectis ciliaris) is abundant in shallow reefs throughout the lower half of the Atlantic coast, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas seas.
They are large flattened fishes with sloped, steeply heads and pearly-silver sides.
The name threadfish refers to their dorsal and anal fins, which are elongated and threadlike, and are usually lost as the fishes grow in size.
Their average size ranges from 20 to 35 pounds, sometimes growing up to 55 pounds.
The blue runner (Caranx crysos) is commonly known as the blue or hardtail jack. They live inshore the deep reefs in the waters of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean seas.
Their appearance is similar to the crevalle jacks, but their heads are more gently rounded. They are usually steel-blue or pale green, with scutes running from the tail to the head.
Their average weight ranges from 1-2 pounds and can grow up to at least 4 pounds, and are typically 1.15 feet long.
The bar jack or caranx ruber dwells in the coral reefs and clear grassy flats of the Caribbean and the Bahamas seas, sometimes in South Florida.
Its body is black and bright blue on the top, with silver sides and a thin purple stripe running from head to tail. It grows about 15-18 lbs heavy and is 1.5 feet long.
The yellow jack (Caranx bartholomaei) is similar to the bar jacks, dwelling in the same regions as the latter. Unlike the crevalles, the yellow jack’s body is more streamlined with more radiant and colorful hues.
Steel-blue from the top and yellow from the belly and sides, the yellow jack’s fins are bright yellow, often resembling the yellowtail snapper when seen from above.
Its average size ranges from 6 to 15 lbs, reaching a maximum of 30 lbs.
The horse-eye jack (Caranx latus), also called Ojo Gordo or big eye jack is native to the coastal areas and the seamounts of Southern Florida.
Its body is similar in shape to the crevalle jack, except for the heads, which are not blunt.
Their color is also different from the crevalles, which are black and gray from the top and silverish from the sides and belly, with yellowish-black fins.
As the name suggests, horse-eye jacks have huge bulging eyes. As large game fish, they can grow up to 3.31 feet long and weigh as much as 29 lbs.
Also called the Spanish Jack, the rainbow runner (Elagatis bipinnulata) is more common in the Cay Sal banks of the Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean seas. Their bodies are slender with pointed heads and no scutes at all.
Their color is very radiant, with blue and yellow stripes all over the body. Their size varies from 16 to 22 pounds and can grow as long as 6 feet.
The leather jack fish (Oligoplites Saurus) dwells widely throughout the Florida waters, especially in the Greater Antilles, in bays, or coastal rivers.
Like the rainbow runners, they are smaller in size, not more than 1 foot, and their bodies are also slender and long, with pointed heads and large jaws.
Their shiny leather-like skin is green from the top and silver from the belly and the sides. These fish can cause very painful punctures because of their highly sharp dorsal and anal fins.
The pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) lives in the offshore waters of Florida. As their name suggests, they are often seen accompanying sharks and other large fish in the water, just like a pilot. They have slender-shaped bodies with tapering heads.
The entire body is marked with black stripes, including the fins. The size of the pilotfish does not grow more than 2 feet.
The Almaco Jack (Seriola revoliana) lives along with the greater amberjacks in the reefs and wrecks of Florida, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean waters.
They appear similar to the greater amberjacks, but their bodies are more compressed and deep with sickle-shaped and elongated fins. Their average size ranges from 20 to 30 pounds.
The lookdown jacks (Selene vomer) are often called horseheads because of their sloping, concave-shaped heads.
They are native to the shallow coastal waters of the Bahamas and the Caribbean seas, frequently gathering near the shore at night.
They are silver in color, and their size is almost equal to the size of an average hand, not growing more than 2 pounds.
The banded rudderfish (Seriola zonata) are commonly called slender amberjacks. They reside in coastal habitats, preferring reefs, wrecks, and deeper channels.
Their appearance resembles a lot to pilot fish because of the dark bands on their bodies.
However, the banded rudderfish also have a dark line running through the eye to the tail, which a pilot fish lacks. Their size ranges from 1 to 2 feet.
All the types of jack fish are mostly captured and raised in aquaculture, and they are an excellent species for fish sports.
Even though commercial fisheries catch millions of jack fish for retail sale, they are not so commonly sold for eating, as their meat is of poor quality.
Instead, they are often used as supplements like fish oil and similar products.