Is jack crevalle a good eating fish?

Quick Answer

Jack crevalle can make for decent eating, especially when prepared properly. They have a moderate flavor and firm texture when very fresh. However, they are notorious for spoiling quickly, so extreme care must be taken when handling and cooking them. Many anglers release jack crevalle due to their mediocre table fare and strong fighting abilities.

What is jack crevalle?

Jack crevalle, also known as common jack, black jack, or jack, are a species of large, predatory fish found in warmer coastal waters around the world. They belong to the jack and pompano family Carangidae and can reach sizes over 30 pounds. Adults have a elongated, torpedo-shaped body with a forked tail. Their most distinctive feature is a high, blunt forehead. Coloration is dark blue or green on the back, transitioning to silvery sides and a white belly.

Jack crevalle are aggressive predators that hunt in schools. They feed on small fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. Schools of jacks will rush bait balls, attacking from all angles and forcing prey to the surface. Their powerful jaws and sharp teeth make short work of most small fish.

The IUCN Red List categorizes jack crevalle as Least Concern. They are abundant throughout their extensive range and face no major widespread threats. However, they are considered a nuisance in some areas, as they will feed on commercial bait fish and target anglers’ catches. Their populations are stable overall though.

Are jack crevalle good to eat?

Jack crevalle are edible, but their quality as a food fish is questionable. Here are the main pros and cons regarding their culinary merits:


  • Moderate, mild flavor – Jack crevalle don’t have a strong “fishy” taste and pick up seasonings well.
  • Firm texture – The meat holds together well and is not mushy.
  • No size limits – Smaller individuals can be better eating than larger fish.
  • Abundant – Easy to catch many in some regions, so they can provide ample fillets.
  • Inexpensive – Not a highly valued seafood, so costs are low.


  • Perishable – Flesh spoils extremely quickly. Must be chilled immediately.
  • Parasites – Jacks are prone to dangerous parasites if not thoroughly cooked.
  • Difficult cleaning – Scales and skin can be very tough to remove.
  • Strong flavor – Larger, older fish can have a gamey, fishy taste.
  • Dense texture – The flesh can be quite tough if not cooked properly.

So in summary, jack crevalle do offer decent, edible fillets in some situations, namely when they are very fresh and smaller in size. But they have some distinct drawbacks that limit their overall quality. Many anglers opt to release them after a fight rather than keeping them for dinner.

Preparing and cooking jack crevalle

Proper handling is extremely important with jack crevalle to yield the best results for the table. Here are some tips:

  • Keep the fish alive until ready to fillet if possible. This ensures the freshest meat.
  • Use a sharp fillet knife. Jacks have tough skin that must be cut through.
  • Chill the fillets as soon as they are off the bones. Keep near freezing if not cooking immediately.
  • Soak in brine or acidic marinade to help tenderize and kill parasites.
  • Discard any discolored portions of the flesh.
  • Cook thoroughly to at least 145°F internal temperature.

Jack crevalle fillets take well to most cooking methods. Moist heat techniques help tenderize the dense meat. Consider these preparation ideas:

  • Grilling – Cook over high heat just until opaque. Brush with olive oil and seasoning.
  • Broiling – Broil 4-5 minutes per side until cooked through.
  • Baking – Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes wrapped in foil with butter.
  • Pan searing – Cook skin-side down first in hot pan then finish in oven.
  • Blackening – Coat in Cajun spice mix and cook in a very hot skillet.
  • Frying – Use light breading and fry in oil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
  • Stewing – Simmer in a tomato or wine-based stew for added moisture.
  • Smoking – Ideal for large fillets. Helps tenderize and adds flavor.

Stews, chowders, and tacos are good ways to use jack crevalle meat. Their firmness holds up in soups well. When fresh, jack crevalle can be quite tasty when cooked properly. Just take care to follow safe handling and preparation.

Taste and texture

When perfectly fresh, jack crevalle have a moderately mild flavor with no strong fishy or muddy tastes. The meat is lean with a moderate oil content. Properly prepared fillets will have a firm, steak-like texture that holds together well. The density requires adequate cooking times to become tender.

However, the eating quality deteriorates rapidly after the fish dies. The flesh becomes much softer and begins taking on a gamey, pungent flavor. Canned or frozen jack crevalle will often have a noticeable fishy or ammonia-like taste. Any discolored portions should not be eaten, as decomposition has set in.

Younger, smaller jack crevalle generally provide better eating. As they grow larger and older, their muscles become much firmer and dense, leading to excessive toughness. The strong flavors also become more pronounced. But even smaller jacks are unlikely to provide delicate, flaky fillets like high-end food fish. The texture remains quite dense and meaty.


Jack crevalle are a relatively nutritious fish, though not exceptional. A 3.5 ounce serving of cooked fillet contains:

  • Calories: 119
  • Protein: 23g
  • Fat: 2g
  • Saturated Fat: 0.4g
  • Sodium: 74mg
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: 0.4g
  • Vitamin D: 231 IU
  • Calcium: 15mg
  • Iron: 0.5mg
  • Potassium: 449mg

They are a lean protein source and provide a decent amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The vitamin D content assists with calcium absorption for bone health. Jack crevalle offer similar overall nutrition to other medium-fat fish like tilapia and catfish.

However, jack crevalle and other carangids have been reported to cause Ciguatera fish poisoning in some cases. This results from accumulation of marine toxins in their flesh from eating contaminated prey. Thorough cooking helps reduce risks, but caution should be exercised, especially with large fish from tropical or subtropical waters.

Price and availability

Jack crevalle are not a highly valued commercial or recreational species. They are abundant in warm waters worldwide, including:

  • Western Atlantic Ocean from Cape Cod to Brazil
  • Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea
  • Pacific Ocean along Central America and down to Peru
  • West Africa
  • Mediterranean and Black Seas
  • South Asia
  • Australia and many South Pacific islands

Their numbers provide easy access for anglers. Jack crevalle are regularly taken as bycatch in commercial fisheries as well. But dedicated fishing efforts for them are rare.

As a result, jack crevalle are inexpensive to purchase when found in markets, typically $2-4 per pound. They may even be used as baitfish in some areas rather than sold for human consumption. Whole fish usually sell for $1-1.50 per pound.

Availability is sporadic due to their reputation as a low-value species. Interest in jack crevalle as a food fish is growing though, especially for fish tacos and charcoal-grilled preparations. This is slowly increasing commercial supply in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Parasites and food safety

Jack crevalle pose some health concerns due to parasites if not handled and cooked properly. Like many predatory fish, they may harbor a variety of parasitic worms and organisms in their flesh.

Common parasites found in jack crevalle include:

  • Roundworms – Anisakis simplex larvae
  • Tapeworms – Hepatic and intestinal cestodes
  • Flukes – Cardicola and Lecithochirium species

These can lead to gastrointestional illness if ingested alive. However, they are killed by sufficient cooking or freezing. The FDA recommends cooking jack crevalle to an internal temperature of 145°F for at least 15 seconds to destroy any parasites and pathogens.

Jack crevalle also have risks of scombrotoxin (histamine) poisoning if not immediately chilled after catching. Bacteria can rapidly multiply, resulting in high histamine levels that cause illness. Keeping the meat very cold helps prevent this.

Eating jack crevalle raw, undercooked, or spoiled should be avoided completely. Their typically large size requires extra care to ensure parasites have been killed and no decomposition has begun in the thick fillets. Take appropriate food safety measures when preparing jack crevalle.

Fishing tips

Jack crevalle put up an impressive fight on rod and reel, making them a popular sport fish. Here are some tips to catch them:

  • Inshore flats, harbors, and surf zones hold jack crevalle hunting for baitfish.
  • Look for surface activity like diving birds to find feeding schools.
  • Jacks will hit a variety of natural baits like live shrimp, baitfish, and cut fish chunks.
  • Spoons, plugs, spinnerbaits, and fly tackle also work well.
  • Use strong leaders – their sharp teeth can bite through lines.
  • Target mornings and evenings when they are actively feeding.
  • Boats allow access to hunting packs farther offshore.

Jack crevalle over 10 pounds will put a good bend in the rod. Use heavy spinning or baitcasting tackle with 20-40 lb test. Their runs can spool lighter lines quickly. Set the hook fast before they spit the bait.

Remember to be cautious handling jack crevalle due to their blood-sucking teeth. Use pliers to remove hooks and keep hands clear of the mouth. Overall, jack crevalle offer exciting sport fishing opportunities in warmer regions worldwide.


Jack crevalle are a readily available coastal game fish in tropical and subtropical waters around the globe. They can offer decent table fare, especially when smaller in size and prepared carefully soon after catching. However, caution is warranted due to their propensity for spoilage and parasites. Many anglers opt to practice catch and release fishing for jack crevalle, as they put up an aggressive fight but rank low in culinary quality. Those interested in eating them should take extreme care with chilling, cleaning, and cooking jack crevalle fillets to avoid foodborne illnesses. When handled properly, their lean, firm meat takes well to a variety of cooking methods and makes a nutritious protein source. But there are certainly better-tasting fish to target for the dinner plate.

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