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Jew Fish

SCIENTIFIC NAME : Epinephelus itajara

OTHER NAMES: Spotted Jewfish, Great Grouper.

RANGE: Occurs throughout Florida and the Bahamas.

HABITAT: Juveniles to around 100 pounds frequent mangrove creeks and bays of Southwest Florida, especially the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park. Adults can be found at a variety of depths, from holes and channels of coastal waters out to offshore ledges and reefs; also around pilings of bridges and under deepwater docks and piers.

DESCRIPTION: This is by far the largest of the Groupers, but at any size, there's no mistaking a Jewfish. Juveniles are brilliantly marked with a series of irregular dark brown bars against a light brown or gray background, extending from head to tail. Numerous black spots are usually present as well on head, sides and fins. Adults have the same pattern but in more subdued shades of brown that are not so brilliantly contrasted. The tail is round, as are the posterior, dorsal, anal and pectoral fins.

SIZE: Traditionally seen in many sizes from a few pounds to 500 pounds. Reported to reach half a ton. The really huge fish are rare anymore, but slowly returning. World and Florida records 680 pounds.

FLORIDA RECORDS : 680 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: Small ones excellent and big ones darn good which was the main reason for their precipitous decline and total closure in Florida in the 1980s.

GAME QUALITIES: Inshore juveniles are great battlers. Some very big ones have been caught on very light lines in shallow water after being coaxed away from obstructions, but the giant Jewfish around deep wrecks defy the heaviest sporting tackle.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Bait casting, spinning and even fly tackle make acceptable match-ups for the inshore fish, which will and often do hit the full range of lures and flies that are used by Snook casters. Again, though, it takes all the muscle you and your tackle can come up with to battle Jewfish of 100 pounds or more. Best natural baits are live Snapper, live Jack and live Catfish inshore; live or dead large fish for offshore giants including Bonito and Amberjack up to 15 pounds or more. 

FISHING TECHNIQUES: Drifting; Still Fishing.


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