Mule Skinners


Mule Skinners

By Capt. Gus Cane


Known as reef donkeys or mules because of their stubborn, tenacious fighting ability, amberjack are a prized catch in the South Atlantic and Gulf waters. Sometimes reaching triple-digit weights, AJs are a challenge on the rod and excellent on the grill. Here are three top ways to put more in the cooler the next time you head offshore:

  1. Height Advantage

Amberjack prefer structure that rises up in the water column. Artificial reefs and wrecks with high relief will hold more fish than those that are low to the bottom. A series of towers in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which serve as training markers for US Air Force fighter jets, are well known as amberjack havens. The towers rise vertically from the bottom, and the fish congregate around the cylindrical shapes, often near the surface. Sunken ships with towers or rigging intact will also attract AJs because of the higher relief.


  1. Fakes are Tops

Although amberjacks will eat a frisky live bait like a blue runner or a butterflied dead bait at times, many AJ fanatics choose to go with lures. Heavy metal butterfly jigs ranging in weight from three to five ounces that drop quickly through the water column are effective. The jigs are worked in an erratic fashion back to the surface. The best action comes when the lure is retrieved vertically, however, which limits the presentation to fish directly under the boat. Heavy bucktail jigs allow more water coverage and the bucktail fibers pulse seductively as the lure is retrieved through the water. Some anglers opt to add large soft-plastic curly tails to bucktail jigs but doing so will slow the rate of retrieve. Large surface chugger lures (five inches or larger) are another proven AJ killer. It’s best to remove the standard treble hooks and replace with a single in-line hook, though. Amberjack will often smash a plug so violently that it is swallowed deep into the throat and a powerful animal thrashing around the boat with treble hooks is a recipe for trouble.  Bending the barb down on the in-line hook also makes it easier to release undersized fish.


  1. Speed Demons

Regardless of the lure, amberjack love fast-moving food. So rip that jig through the water once it reaches the strike zone. AJs compete with each other, and a moving target stirs the appetites. Speed is important when casting a chugger too, but only after getting the fish’s attention. Do that by popping the lure extremely hard after it settles on the surface to create a commotion. The inquisitive “donkeys” will rise to the surface and try to out-swim their schoolmates to eat the plug. Fly anglers can get in on the action too using a bait-and-switch approach. One angler tosses a hookless chugger to get the fish fired up. As the lure is pulled away, the fly is a ready substitute. Amberjack are suckers for big flashy Deceivers and popper flies.

Mule Skinners


Carolina Skiff’s 24 Ultra Elite center console is a good vehicle for anyone who would like to target amberjack on reefs and wrecks. With its overall length of 23 feet nine inches and 96-inch beam, it has the chops to run offshore comfortably and back. A 78-gallon fuel capacity ensures plenty of range. The large console comes standard with hydraulic steering and helm, a stainless steel Power Grip steering wheel and quick disconnect windshield. This model is also equipped with the Ultra leaning post with backrest, 100-quart removable cooler and plenty of rod/bait storage. Notable upgrades include a raw water washdown system, electric head with nine-gallon holding tank and AM/FM Bluetooth radio with all the popular plugs.

See the full line of Carolina Skiff and Sea Chaser boats at With 60 different options and models, you can use the Build A Boat feature. On the website, you can find a dealer, request a catalog and more. Check out the loyal following of Carolina Skiff fans and owners on Facebook.



Original Source: Sportsmans



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