Oligoplites Saurus



Coral Reefs, Sand, Inshore, Nearshore

8 - 10 pounds

10" - 14"


Also Known As: Leathercoat, Leatherjacket, Needlejack, Runner, Zapatero, Jack, Shoemaker

Leatherjacket (Oligoplites Saurus) Fish Description

The leatherjacket is a long, silvery fish that is about 10-11 inches long. It has a blue-green body that may have a yellow tinge, and the skin is ridged with many short grooves that give it a leathery look.

This particular species is often misidentified as two other breeds - a longjaw leatherjack that possesses a more protruding jaw, and a shortjaw leatherjack, which has a jaw akin to its namesake.

As it matures, the leatherjacket will shift its diet. The young will begin feeding on ectoparasites and fish scales when acting as a parasite itself. Once they are fully mature, a leatherjacket will have a diet consisting of small fish like anchovies, and will also consume shrimps, mysids, and macroalgae. 

Leatherjackets are not usually fished for human consumption and have no real commercial contribution, but they have a good flavor for those that know how to handle this fish.


Interesting Facts About the Leatherjacket 

  • This game fish’s darkened dorsal and anal fin spines are linked to poisonous glands that can inflict significant pain that can last for days. 
  • Young leatherjackets have been seen adorning a “leaf-mimic” position, wherein they float on the water’s surface with their heads pointed downward and their tails bent upwards


Leatherjacket Size

The leatherjacket is a large fish that has been observed to be between 10 inches at a minimum and to grow to 14 inches in length. The highest weight recorded is at 10.1 ounces.


Leatherjacket Habitat & Distribution

The leatherjacket’s natural habitat in the western Atlantic Ocean ranges from Maine in the United States to the northern tip of the Gulf of Mexico and has also been spotted south of Uruguay. Sightings have also occurred in the eastern Pacific Ocean, from California in the United States, and Mexico to Ecuador.

The leatherjacket can be located inshore, on sandy beaches, inlets, and bays. It shows a preference for murky and muddy conditions. They do congregate in populous schools that move rapidly and can jump out of the water. When breeding in early spring to midsummer, they prefer shallow inshore spots.


Leatherjacket Fishing Technique

Leatherjackets are considered to be fast nippers and can skillfully get the bait off the hook. They are accessible at any time all year round. The most popular fishing approach is bait fishing, whether on a small boat or the shore.

A #1 to #3/0 hook size range with a shank length of 8 to 12 would fit with any angler posting in an estuary. Based on the depth of the water and the presence of a current, the size of the sinker is your preference. Let the sinker build a scarcely visible bend in your rod, but do not let it rest on the bed's bottom. The style of leader is also your choice, whether it's a knot or a swivel.

It is important to use small bait, and anglers will be pleased that almost anything will work. Prawns, squid, and worms work quite well. If using fillets, make sure the pieces are small and salted - tuna, mullet, or slimy mackerel are excellent options.

If you’re lucky enough to happen by a school, leatherjackets will nip at anything. Using oily and fleshy baits such as prawn, salmon, garfish, and mussels would guarantee you a catch.

Use a short leader and rig, so you can feel even the smallest bites quickly and give your bait a good jig off the bottom from time to time. A light 1-3 or 2-4 kilo spin rod that is 7 feet long would work well, paired with a light 1000-2500 reel and a 4-pound line and leader. Due to their sharp teeth, you can expect thinner lines to get cut occasionally.