Elops saurus, the ladyfish, is one of the great species of Gulf game fish. They offer lots of fun but not much table value. Many consider them junk fish, but serious anglers and guides find them game with light tackle or fly rods.
Bait pods are now showing up in near shore big Bend waters, and are being chewed up by Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish. Mackerel are fun to catch (use steel leaders and small jigs like the “Flowering Floreo”) and good to eat (Broiled or grilled, Greek-style, with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper). Bluefish, in my opinion, are fun to catch, tear up lots of tackle, but have marginal value at the table (Although they’re better than going hungry, if bled and cooked Greek-style the night you catch them!).
Ladyfish (Elops saurus), on the other hand, have NO food value, except when cut for redfish bait or used whole for their distant cousins, the tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). Anglers at Steinhatchee, Suwannee, Cedar Key, Yankeetown, Keaton Beach and St. Marks recently found acres of ladies and they provided lots of fun. They’ll eat almost any bait, usually the flashier and faster-retrieved the better. And these “poor man’s tarpon” are just as quick to throw a hook as the real thing. I’d say about 20% make it to the boat where they “mark their territory” on the gunnels. Schools of ladyfish will often be fed upon by big tarpon, making them good practice and a place to look for the big fish. We didn’t see any last week, but we plan to keep looking and to keep a big spinning rod rigged and ready.