- Although the flesh of the almaco jack is considered quality table fare, the species has been associated with ciguatera poisoning, a seldom fatal stomach irritation.
- The almaco jack is susceptible to tapeworm parasites in the caudal peduncle area, but the meat can be eaten safely if affected portions are cut away.
Greater amberjack (Seriola)
The greater amberjack is the largest of the jack species, as well as the most sought after. They take their name from the amber colored stripe that runs along the sides of their body. They are probably the most widely recognized jack species in the Atlantic because of their close proximity to the major population centers along the Atlantic coast of the United States.
Greater amberjack are an olive-brown or green-blue color above the lateral line, though they can sometimes appear purple. Below the lateral line coloration is silver-white. A dark olive-brown stripe runs diagonally from the mouth to the first dorsal fin. These stripes are often referred to as fighter stripes and tend to become brighter when they are excited, such as when feeding or fighting. A wide stripe, amber in color, runs horizontally the length of the body, though it disappears upon death. The fins have a dusky hue or a yellow tint; this is especially true for the dorsal fins.
Greater amberjack have a slender, elongated oval form that culminates in a v-shaped tail fin, which enables fast swimming. The head is short and pointed and the mouth possesses small teeth aligned in bands with 12 to 15 gill rakers. The eyes are relatively small.
The first dorsal fin is relatively short and has six or seven spines linked by a membrane. The second dorsal fin is composed of one spine and 29 to 35 soft rays. The spines on each of the dorsal fins are sharp and somewhat fragile. The anal fin consists of three spines and 19 to 22 soft rays. The first two of these spines are detached and may have a skin-like covering.
Greater amberjack are sometimes confused with bluefish and yellowtail. However, the amberjack tail is more concave than that of the bluefish, and they have fewer gill rakers than the yellowtail.
The favored foods of greater amberjack include small fish, such as bigeye scad, as well as crabs, squid and a variety of crustaceans and invertebrates. They consume 2.5 to 3 times their body weight each year.
Greater amberjack are found in subtropical waters in every major ocean throughout the world, yet the largest concentration is found in the western Atlantic Ocean. They are particularly abundant from North Carolina to Florida and around the islands of the West Indies. However, they can be found as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Brazil. There are also large populations around Bermuda and in the Gulf of Mexico. In the eastern Atlantic, they are found from approximately the southern British coast to Morocco to South Africa, including the Mediterranean Sea.
In the Pacific Ocean, greater amberjack can be found off the coast of southern Mexico, the Hawaiian Islands, the islands of Micronesia, the Philippines, Japan and China. In the Indian Ocean they are prolific from South Africa along the southwest coast of Africa and into the Arabian Gulf.
Greater amberjack are generally a migratory species that roam the edges of major currents, though there are areas of permanent populations, especially around the islands of the Caribbean Sea. They are primarily an offshore species that prefers various structures located on the sea bottom, such as reefs, shipwrecks, buoys and oil derricks. They will occasionally venture inshore to shallow coastal bays, but mostly reside in water from 60 to 250 feet deep. Some large greater amberjack have been known to seek water as deep as 600 feet.
Greater amberjack will congregate in schools, although this tendency decreases as they grow larger. Young greater amberjack clearly form small schools, but middle age fish generally congregate in loose, small groups. The oldest specimens are primarily solitary.
- Amberjack are at best considered a fair food fish. Though there is a commercial fishery, most amberjack are consumed by fishermen.
- They are considered a potential source of the dangerous ciguatera poisoning, so removing the bloodline from a fillet is recommended prior to eating. They can be grilled, fried, broiled or baked.