Holle Abee has long experience fishing, crabbing, and hunting in the Southern US.
The Atlantic spadefish much resembles a large angelfish, like the ones seen in aquariums, only the spade is much larger and lacks the long, wispy, thread-like fins of the angel.
The spadefish is silvery gray, with several black vertical stripes. They're native to the east coast of the US, especially in nearshore and inshore waters of the southeastern states, where they're often called "angelfish." Young spades can be found in shallow waters, especially around piers and other structures. Older, larger fish are found feeding near reefs and wrecks in deeper water.
Spadefish feed on jellyfish, clams, and shrimp. The best baits used to catch them include small strips or pieces of shrimp and clams. If you can get some ball jellyfish, use little pieces to attract the spades. Don't worry - this type of jelly doesn't sting.
Use 15-20 pound test line, with a 30-pound leader attached. Spadefish have small mouths, so use a 1/0 hook and small bits of bait.
If you're in a boat, watch the surface for spadefish circling near the surface. Once the wary fish are spotted, cast beyond them and retrieve your bait through them. Don't get too close - you'll scare them away. Since they travel in schools, you're likely to have more than one hookup.
Once the fish takes your bait, set the hook quickly once the line becomes tight. If you're fishing in deep water for adult specimens, they could weigh up to ten pounds. And that's ten pounds of muscle and determination! Their flat shape aids them in putting up a heck of a fight!
Younger spadefish are usually abundant around piers. To catch one, lower your hook next to a piling, and try fishing at different depths until you locate the fish. Even a smaller spadefish, like those in the 1-3 pound category, are great fun to catch and will put up a challenging fight.
Spadefish are excellent table fare. Their flesh is mild and flaky, and the skin usually comes off easily. They're good fried, broiled, and grilled.