Indentifying Greater Amberjack & Lesser Amberjack

  • Both the Greater Amberjack and the Lesser Amberjack are good eats. The minimum size limit for a Greater Amberjack is 28" to the fork, and you're only allowed one. The Lesser AJ has a slot size of not less than 14" or more than 22", and you're allowed five. The lesser AJ always seem to be that size, and when they're around they do turn out to be Lesser AJ not small Greater Amberjack. But it still pays to know the difference if you run into a picky FWC officer. Generally speaking if you see something looking like an Amberjack it's legal to shoot, not often you're going to run into the forbidden 6", if you do it will usually be a Greater AJ that's just short of 28".



    The main difference between the two amberjacks is the greater amberjack is longer than the lesser amberjack. In fact, the greater amberjack is four times longer than it is deep (side height); while the lesser amberjack is only about 3-1/2 times longer than deep, not counting the fins. If a ruler and calculator aren't handy and you really want to know, lift up the gill and count the finger shaped projections from the first gill. If it's a greater amberjack there are about 20 of these; in the lesser amberjack there are about 25.

  • I was told by an old and experienced spearo that the way to ID the Greater AJ vs. the Lesser AJ is to look at the black line/stripe that runs from the dorsal fin towards the eye of the fish. If the line ends at the eye is a lesser AJ but if the line goes past the eye then its a Greater AJ. I am only saying what I was taught, it could be wrong but I've been using this to ID the fish for the longest without any issues.

  • Biological description for lesser amberjack:

    The lesser amberjack occurs in the Eastern and Western Atlantic Oceans. In the Atlantic, it is found from Massachusetts to Brazil. This is a benthopelagic species, primarily found in depths of 55-130 m (180-427 ft). Maximum reported size is 68 cm (27 in) FL. It feeds on squids and fishes.

    Lesser amberjacks don't usually venture into water less than 100 feet in depth and the largest ones stay exclusively in deeper water, sometimes over 600 feet.

    The diagonal dark bar through the eye may stop short of the dorsal fin. It extends to the dorsal fin in the greater amberjack.

    Davie Peguero

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