Termed “reef donkeys” by recreational anglers, greater amberjack (Seriola dumerili) have a reputation for their stubborn fight. The species inhabits both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; in the western Atlantic, its range extends from Nova Scotia south to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
Juvenile greater amberjack school around Sargassum mats in the Gulf of Mexico. These seaweed mats provide food and shelter for the young amberjack, which are easy prey for seabirds and larger fish. Sub-adult and adult greater amberjack inhabit seafloor structures, such as reefs, rocky outcrops and wrecks, in depths of 60-240 feet. They feed on crustaceans, squid and other reef fishes.
The greater amberjack is the largest of the jack species. Fully grown greater amberjack can measure up to 6 feet in length, and studies report that they can live up to 15 years. They are most commonly found up to approximately 40 pounds, but can weigh up to 200 pounds. Females are larger in size, and live longer than males. Both sexes mature at around 3 to 4 years of age, and peak spawning occurs during March-April in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico greater amberjack stock is managed by NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. The stock is currently considered to be overfished and undergoing overfishing, and has been under a rebuilding plan since 2003.
The fishery is dominated by recreational landings, and fixed closed seasons have been implemented in federal waters for the recreational fishery from Nov. 1-April 30 and June 1-July 31. These closed seasons protect the population during peak spawning while still allowing for spring and fall harvest.