“No fish for me,” squealed his little daughter.
Well, how about veal parmigiana? asked the father.
“Great,” exclaimed the little gal.
You might guess what happened next. My friend quietly substituted thinly cut amberjack steaks for the veal and went to work filling the kitchen with the best of culinary sights and smells.
The admittedly sneaky switch worked like magic. “That’s the best veal parmigiana I’ve ever had,” announced my buddy’s daughter.
Well, that was many years ago and I rather hope that the girl, now middle-aged, won’t read this and come out swinging. (Actually, I think she was told about the deception later the same night.)
Anyway, one point is that amberjack, contrary to much fishing lore, is excellent eating, especially the upper two-thirds of the fillets. And certainly the amberjack is one of the ocean’s toughest fighters, providing super sport.
Another plus in better times was that you could always count on catching one over wrecks as a “day saver” when other fish were afflicted with lockjaw.
The greater amberjack stocks held up fine through the ’70s because there was no big commercial market for them.
Then the exploitation hammer slammed down.
Having decimated other fish populations, commercial fishermen suddenly went after AJ’s with powerful hydraulic gear as markets blossomed for the same fish that so many people had ignored. Blackened amberjack under other names was red hot in Atlanta, for instance.
In just a dozen years, the commercial take shot from around 150,000 pounds to two million.
Even some of the market hunters themselves admitted they were overfishing the AJ’s in spawning aggregations.
Soon, recreational anglers were amazed to find that the big fish they took for granted were few and far between.
Nowadays, the fish have come back in many places, but it still has been another sad story of undue commercial influence. The continuing mismanagement of amberjack is covered by Editor Jeff Weakley in our conservation section this month.
Once again, we urge fishing conservationists to fight over-exploitation. We must maintain abundant stocks and limit use of them to a sustainable number, allocated to the most overall benefits.