Dilzon’s Guide to Winning at Black Jack

April 27
Big news this week was the Tarpon in the cuts, thanks to Louis Caliz who landed a 150 pounder early in the week, and by Friday, had also boated a 60 and an 80 pounder as well. Good work Louis. Almost exciting as Louis’ Tarpon was the manatee that my sideman “Carne Dulce”, Todd and Michelle Oxner and I saw, just north of Costa Maya Resort. I haven’t seen a manatee in a few years and seeing one is a very potent sign for the natural health of Ambergris Caye. Outside the reef was a washout with the strong blustery trade wind closing fishing. Inside the reef continued the Grunt bonanza with occasional Porgy and Mutton Snapper caught. I did see 12-year-old Shandany Bradley nail a bucketful of six-inch barracuda from the Island Ferry dock using cut bait and his neighbors borrowed Bait Runner. Other than these few standout anglers I’d have to say last week was like going gibnut hunting in a taco stand - the conditions just weren’t right. Strong easterly trades kept the offshore action down. That’s the bad news, the good news is: the seas are flattening out, and I am going to add to my fish well a hand of Black Jack this week. Just you watch and see. So here I go again talking about fish that only I seem to be able to catch. This will all change tomorrow because I am about to tell you my secrets of winning at Black Jack.

Nothing that comes from the ocean tastes more like prime tenderloin than Black Jack.
Why fish Black Jack? Because there is absolutely, positively nothing that comes from the ocean that tastes more like prime tenderloin than Black Jack. No “taste just like chicken” about it. Gastronomically speaking, this animal seems more closely related to the Angus than Horeseyed, Bar or Amber. The flesh of a black jack resembles that of blue fin tuna with the taste and consistency of the best cut of beef you’ve ever tasted. I cook this fish like I cook a good cut of steak. It looks like a steak, it tastes like steak, must be…..wrong…..it’s fish…..its Black Jack.

Catching a BlackJack is well worth the fight!
Black Jack is caught in depths between 400 feet and 2000 feet. They are caught sporadically all over the Caribbean basin and Western Atlantic.

There are no commercial fisheries targeting this species. When I am serious about catching Black Jack first I get on a spot and immediately go to work fishing out all the incidentals such as the yellow eyed red snapper (see article two weeks ago). Once I’ve removed this species from the area I start baiting with big sardines. I’ve found about five inches is the best size for Black Jack. Put me in 400 feet of water after I’ve cleaned out all the other deep water fish, give me a couple of hard core fisherman like Todd, Michelle, Sterling and my good friend and fishing partner “Carne Dulce” and you can bet your life we are going to win at black jack.

Black Jack is a very unusual looking Jack. The best way I can describe him is as a cross between a bar jack and a hog snapper. His mouth and nostrils sit way out in front and low on his face. His skin looks normal but is as thick as manatee hide.

Black Jack fights hard from the bottom to the surface and if the bottom happens at 2000 feet you’ve got a hell of a fight on your hands. Like an amberjack, the black jack fight starts with one gear stripping, reel smoking, gut busting run and then right when you think you’ve worn him out he orientates him self sideways to the strain of the angler and does that all the way to the boat. You pull, he pulls. It’s a hard fight to win but one worth fighting. These fish are true smash mouth, belly busters when it comes to fight. In fact I’d put a Black Jack, pound for pound against the meanest of Blue Marlin in any ocean any day of the week.

Do you feel lucky?…play black jack…its a gamble to target this fish because they are hard found and hard caught…but on the grill, are well worth the gamble. Captain Dilzon Murcia is the project manager for Island Ferry and owner operator of Dilzon Charters, a sport fishing charter business. To catch the fish featured this week, and other large fish, call Dilzon at 620-6118 or drop by the Island Ferry office and schedule your next fishing adventure.

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