Greater amberjack are found Gulfwide, from nearshore waters out to depths of 300 feet and occasionally deeper. They come nearer to land in the southern part of the Gulf. Greater amberjacks are usually found near reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, and in the northern Gulf of Mexico, offshore oil and gas platforms.
The greater amberjack has a bluish-brown back, and a wide amber-brown stripe down the length of each side. A dark bar extends diagonally from the dorsal fin through each eye. Unless it is a very large specimen, it is easily confused with several other species. They may be distinguished from each other by the number of gill rakers, the length of the anal fin base, and the numbers of spines and rays in the dorsal fin. Gill rakers are the finger-like extensions projecting forward from the front gill arch. Greater amberjacks have 11-19 gill rakers, a long anal fin base, 7 dorsal fin spines, and 30-34 dorsal fin rays. Lesser amberjacks have 21-24 gill rakers, a long anal fin base, 8 dorsal fin spines, and 29-32 dorsal fin rays. Almaco jacks have 21-26 gill rakers, a long anal fin base, 7 dorsal fin spines, and 28-31 dorsal fin rays. Banded rudderfish have a short anal fin base, 12-16 gill rakers, 8 dorsal fin spines, and 34-39 dorsal fin rays.
Greater amberjacks are aggressive predator fish that prowl the water column near obstructions from the surface to the bottom, although they spend much of their time in the upper water column. They may occur singly or in small groups, feeding on a wide variety of fish, including herring, scads and little tunny. Crabs and squid are taken as well. The larger fish are usually females, as research indicates that males may not live much beyond 7 years of age, while females can live to 15. Both sexes grow at the same rate and are old enough to spawn at 2 to 3 years of age and 34-40 inches and 24-28 pounds. Spawning takes place offshore. Amberjacks are powerful fighters. A large one will test an angler’s endurance.
Very good, especially when grilled or broiled. Amberjacks occasionally have infestations of tapeworms encysted in the muscles ahead of the tail. Although the worms are harmless to humans, these areas may be cut away and discarded.