Lookout for Lookdown

Fishermen are junkies and sometimes we just need to go fishing. No matter the species or size of fish hooked, it’s always nice to feel something pull back. In the case of the laterally compressed body of a lookdown, fights can be thrilling on ultra-light tackle. I’m aware the pound-for-pound reference is played out and no one really likes to admit they enjoy targeting and catching small fish, but with their unique shape lookdown have the ability to change direction in an instant with quick bursts of speed that keep anglers coming back for more.


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A member of the jack family, lookdown are commonly found in schools throughout inshore shallows around much of the entire Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast. Cruising shorelines, areas of live bottom, jetties, piers, inlets and docks, these odd looking fish often tempt fate when anglers least expect, although they’re always pleasantly welcomed because they are such unique and out of the ordinary catches.

When swimming in formation, lookdown avoid predation by presenting themselves as a confusing mass of flash and glare. The tight schooling pattern also helps increase individual swimming efficiency.

Silvery fish with brassy highlights and faint vertical bars that fade as they mature, lookdown are easy to distinguish and don’t grow very large, with the IGFA All-Tackle World Record captured in Flamingo coming in at a less than monstrous 4 lb. 12 oz. Similar to other jack species, lookdown have a thin profile, but surpass any of their kin in regards to thinness with their wafer-like body. When swimming in formation, lookdown avoid predation by presenting themselves as a confusing mass of flash and glare. The tight schooling pattern also helps increase individual swimming efficiency.

While you might not think much of these miniscule fish, they are actually quite interesting and the focus of a recent research project funded by the US Navy. With strategies borrowed from the wild, researchers are working to create the most effective and convincing underwater camouflage. While flounder and game fish that relate close to the bottom blend in with the substrate below, certain species that swim in open water environments are known to have the ability to manipulate light in an effort to better blend with their surroundings.

Until this recent study it was believed that shiny fish with silvery sides, like permit, jack and bonefish, used their shimmer to simply reflect light like a mirror. However, a research team from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Portland uncovered some incredible findings about lookdown and how they take open water concealment to a whole new level.

With highly reflective scales, it is believed lookdown can actually manipulate reflected light to match surrounding polarization conditions. This biological camouflage strategy is called polaro-crypsis, and with this ability lookdown can effectively match the light environment of open water at all times of the day no matter the angle of the sun. Scientist have already discovered that numerous species of marine inhabitants are sensitive to polarization light levels and have the ability to see structure in light—something humans cannot. This new camouflage reflection strategy provides lookdown with a significant advantage and further reinforces how intelligent and adapted the ocean’s inhabitants really are.

In the wild, lookdown are commonly encountered in a wide range of inshore venues and really have no boundaries. With that being said, one of the best places to target lookdown is around underwater dock lights. At times, snook fishing can be a frustrating endeavor and with experience chasing snook around dock lights you’ve surely seen the silvery silhouette of lookdown cruising around the orb of glowing underwater lights. When fishing dock lights stealth is critical in both your approach and presentation. Remember that underwater dock lights magnify all kinds of terminal tackle, so it’s best to avoid what’s unnecessary. Opt for line to leader knots instead of swivels and scale down your leader to fresh 10 lb. fluorocarbon. Start by casting into the orb of light, but don’t ignore the darker shadows on the outskirts of the light. They may not be as glamorous as snook, but give lookdown the opportunity to strike and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.

No matter the venue, tackle selection remains the same. Lookdown often attack silversides, anchovies, glass minnow, tiny shrimp and crabs, so as long as your offering isn’t too large it should get the attention you seek. Since they have relatively small mouths it will be in your best interest to fish baits and flies no larger than 3-inches. The smallest live shrimp you can find are great for enticing a wide variety of ultra-light targets, as are tiny streamer flies and small crappie jigs. The DOA Tiny Terror Eyz and the MirrOdine Mini also work well.

Larger specimen actually provide a decent fillet comparable to that of a legal pompano, but their thin profile yields equally thin fillets and requires a precise cut with a razor sharp knife. It’s best to simply enjoy their beauty and release these prize lightweights. The impressive maneuverability and weird pulling power achieved by placing their thin frames broadside to the direction of force make them a fish you’ll enjoy catching time after time. Good luck and take pleasure in the pull!