OUTDOORS: Amberjacks make impression for 2002

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 29, 2002


Will 2002 be remembered as the year of the “AJ”?

Sure we have seen a lot of top 10 record speckled trout, had several other state records for little known species set, seen our near shore oil platforms invaded by mangrove snappers and we are only a little better than halfway through the year. But what seems to be the biggest and most pleasant surprise to Louisiana anglers this season has got to be the arrival of huge schools of Amberjacks looking for a fight.

And when hooked up they can sometimes be more than some offshore fishermen bargained for. And for some strange reason, catching the stingy limit of one, minimum size of 28 inches to the fork of the tail, has not been much of a problem.

Amberjacks are known for their strong powerful downward runs that make winching up even the smaller 20-30 pounders a workout. The really big boys that can get up to the state (130.50 pounds) and world record class (155 pounds, 10 ounces) will test even the strongest and fittest of anglers. Along the Louisiana coast, Amberjacks can be found at oil platforms and over wrecks anywhere from several hundred feet deep to fairly shallow water. They are most often caught with heavy tackle using 50-pound test line or larger.

Although if you have a lot of time and a big line spool on your reel, they can be landed using spinning gear. The biggest challenge in landing an Amberjack is not finding them and getting them to take a hook, it is turning these bruisers before they can break or cut the line after pulling it through rig structures.

No Louisiana fly fisherman has yet managed to land one and place in the fly division record books. They will bite on artificial baits but are caught best with cut bait, whole dead baits and the most effective way is to live hook a hardtail, pinfish, large croaker or other Gulf of Mexico baitfish.

When cut into fillets or steaks, the white flesh of Amberjack is excellent fried, broiled, baked or grilled.

Redheads are models for 2003

A redhead has been chosen to be duck hunting’s equivalent to Playboy’s centerfold. And artists nationwide will be immortalizing redheads on canvas in hopes of making duck hunting history. That is because redheads, ducks that is, both male and female (that should satisfy the politically correct-minded) have been chosen to grace the 2003 Louisiana Waterfowl Conservation Stamp. Along with a basic hunting license, the stamp is required of hunters aged 16-59 and is also a favorite of collectors.

Each year a contest is held to select an artist’s conception of a chosen bird to grace the stamp. Entries will be accepted Oct. 21-25. To enter, an artist must submit an original, unpublished work, along with a signed and notarized artist’s agreement and $50 entry fee.

Entries should be addressed to Robert Helm, LA Waterfowl Conservation Stamp Program, LDWF, 2000 Quail Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70808.

A panel of judges with experience in waterfowl biology and/or artistic method will select the winning design on Oct. 30. Judging will be based on accuracy of form, color, size, proportion, color, posture, accuracy of detail in plumage, eyes, feet and bill; appropriateness, accuracy and detail in depiction of bird habitat; attractiveness and creativity in composition, subject, background and lighting; and suitability for reproduction as stamps and prints.

The redhead are classified as “diving ducks” as opposed to “puddle ducks” because of their ability to complete submerge in deep water to feed on aquatic plants or clams and crustaceans.

They are a little smaller than mallards, the males having a red head, black breast and gray back and white belly. Hens have tawny brown heads and bodies.

They are a common winter visitor to Louisiana’s marshes and open lakes and bays. Louisiana has become the number one harvest state for redheads in the Mississippi Flyway.

DON DUBUC is the outdoors reporter for L’Observateur.