Fishing

The following information was compiled using several Florida Information Web Sites. We hope it is helpful.

 

Blue Marlin

Description: color cobalt blue on top shading to silvery white on bottom; upper jaw elongated in form of spear; dorsal fin pointed at front end; pectoral fin and anal fin pointed; lateral line reticulated (interwoven like a net), difficult to see in large specimens; no dark spots on dorsal fin; body covered with embedded scales ending in one or two sharp points.

 

Where found: OFFSHORE, a blue water fish.
Size: largest of the Atlantic marlins, common to 11 feet, known to exceed 2,000 pounds.

Florida Record: 980 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: all of trophy size are females; males do not exceed 300 pounds; make trans-Atlantic migrations; spawning procedures unknown; feeds on squid and pelagic fishes, including blackfin tuna and frigate mackerel.

Longbill Spearfish

Description: color of body dark blue shading to silvery, white underneath; dorsal fin bluish, others brown-black; two dorsal fins, the first lengthy, its front forming a peak; two anal fins, the anus well in front of the first; upper jaw prolonged into spear, its cross secttion round.

Where found: OFFSHORE in deep water.

Size: relatively small species.

Florida Record: 61 lbs.

Remarks: uncommon; available data indicate that spearfish matures at 2 years of age and rarely lives past 4 to 5 years; they are pelagic and feed at or near the surface, mainly on fishes and squid.

Sailfish

Description: color dark blue on top, brown-blue laterally, silvery white underbelly; upper jaw elongated in form of spear; first dorsal greatly enlarged in the form of a sail, with many black spots, its front squared off, highest at its midpoint; pelvic fins very narrow, reaching almost to the anus; body covered with embedded scales, blunt at end; lateral line curved above pectoral, then straight to base of tail.

Where found: OFFSHORE species, in south Florida associated with waters near the Gulf Stream; off the Panhandle near the 100 foot fathom line.

Size: common to 7 feet.

Florida Record: 116 lbs.

Remarks: rapid growing species, reaching 4 to 5 feet in a single year; swims at speeds up to 50 knots; feeds on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic fishes and squid.

White Marlin

Description: color of body dark blue to chocolate brown, shading to silvery white underbelly; noticeable spots on dorsal fin; upper jaw elongated in shape of spear; body covered with embedded scales with a single sharp point; tips of first dorsal, pectoral, and first anal fins rounded; lateral line curved above pectoral fin, then going in straight line to base of tail.

Where found: OFFSHORE, a blue water fish.

Size: common to 8 feet.

Florida Record: 161 lbs. Remarks: uses its bill to stun fast-moving fishes, then turns to consume them; spawning procedures unknown; ranges throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean; feeds on squid and pelagic fishes.

Bluefish

Description: color blue or greenish blue on back, sides silvery; mouth large; teeth prominent, sharp, and compressed; dorsal and anal fins nearly the same size; scales small; lateral line almost straight.

Where found: young usually INSHORE spring and summer, moving OFFSHORE to join adults fall and winter; strong migration of northeast Atlantic stock to Florida east coast in winter.

Size: most west coast catches under 3 pounds, much larger on east coast.

Florida Record: 22 lbs., 3 ozs. Remarks: travels in large schools, following schools of baitfish; cannibalistic; all members of a given school about the same size; spawning occurs OFFSHORE in spring and summer.

Bonefish

Description: silvery color with bluish or greenish back; slender, round body; snout long, conical, aiming downward and overhanging lower jaw; dark streaks between scales on upper half of body and faint crossbands extending down to lateral line; extremities of dorsal and caudal fins shaded with black.

Where found: primarily INSHORE fish inhabiting shallows of the Florida Keys; found in shallows often less than 1 foot deep, usually over lush grass flats, occasionally over white sand.

Size: 3 to 5 pounds.

Florida Record: 15 lbs., 6 ozs. Remarks: travels in loose schools; roots out shrimp, shellfish, crabs, and fish from the bottom; spawns offshore, eggs hatching into ribbon-like larvae that metamorphose into fish-like form at about 2 inches and move inshore.

Cobia (ling)

Description: long, slim fish with broad depressed head; lower jaw projects past upper jaw; dark lateral stripe extends through eye to tail; first dorsal fin comprised of 7 to 9 free spines; when young, has conspicuous alternating black and white horizontal stripes.

Where found: both INSHORE and NEARSHORE inhabiting inlets, bays, and among mangroves; frequently seen around bouys, pilings, and wrecks.

Size: common to 30 pounds.

Florida Record: 103 lbs., 12 ozs. Remarks: spawns in spring and early summer; feeds on crabs, squid, and small fish.

Dolphin

Description: bright greenish blue above, yellow on sides, with capability of flashing purple, chartreuse, and a wide range of other colors; body tapers sharply from head to tail; irregular blue or golden blotches scattered over sides; anterior profile of head on adult males is nearly vertical; head of females more sloping; the single dark dorsal fin extends from just behind the head to the tail; anal fin margin concave and extending from anus to tail.

Where found: OFFSHORE in warm waters.

Size: common to 30 pounds.

Florida Record: 77 lbs, 12 ozs.

Remarks: one of the fastest-growing fish, thought to live no more than 5 years; swimming speed is estimated at 50 knots; spawns in warm ocean currents throughout much of the year; young found in sargassum weed; feeds on flying fish and squid.

Atlantic Croaker

Description: inferior mouth; 3 to 5 pairs of small barbels on chin; silver-gray or bronze body with dark oblique wavy bars or lines; iridescent especially on head; preopercle strongly serrated.

Where found: generally found north of Tampa Bay on the west coast and north of Cape Canaveral on the east coast; young fish found in estuaries; older fish (2 to 3 years) inhabit deep OFFSHORE waters during the winter months and move into bays and estuaries during the spring, summer and fall.

Size: usually less than 2 pounds.

Remarks: during spawning becomes bronze or yellow in color; spawning apparently occurs OFFSHORE in fall; longevity 2 to 4 years.

Black Drum

Description: high arched back; 10 to 14 pairs of chin barbels; gray or black colored body in adults; young have 4 to 6 vertical bars; has cobblestone-like teeth capable of crushing oysters; scales large.

Where found: INSHORE fish common to bays and lagoons; bottom dweller often found around oyster beds; also OFFSHORE.

Size: common to 30 pounds.

Florida Record: 93 lbs.

Remarks: largest member of the drum family; spawns NEARSHORE in winter and early spring; feeds on oysters, mussels, crabs, shrimp and occasionally fish; longevity to 35 or more years.

Red Drum

Description: chin without barbels; copper bronze body, lighter shade in clear waters; one to many spots at base of tail (rarely no spots); mouth horizontal and openng downward; scales large.

Where found: juveniles are an INSHORE fish, migrating out of the estuaries at about 30 inches (4 years) and joining the spawning population OFFSHORE. Size: one of 27 inches weighs about 8 pounds.

Florida Record: 51 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: red drum are an INSHORE species until they attain roughly 30 inches (4 years), then they migrate to join the NEARSHORE population; spawning occurs from August to November in NEARSHORE waters; sudden cold snaps may kill red drum in shallow, INSHORE waters; feeds on crustaceans, fish and mollusks; longevity to 20 years or more.

Sand Sea Trout

Description: pale body color, yellow above, silver to white below; one or two prominent canine teeth usually at tip of upper jaw; inside of mouth yellow; no well-defined black spots on back; 10 to 12 soft rays in anal fin; no chin barbels.
Where found: a Gulf species that may occur in the Atlantic waters of extreme south-eastern Florida; adults predominantly found INSHORE residing in bays and inlets but may move OFFSHORE during winter months; young occur INSHORE in shallow bays.

Size: usually less than 1 pound (10 to 12 inches).

Remarks: matures during first or second year; prolonged INSHORE spawning season extends through spring and summer; feeds mainly on small fish and shrimp.

Silver Sea Trout

Description: pale straw colored above, silvery sides and white below; no distinctive pigmentation, although faint diagonal lines may be present on upper body; 8 to 9 rays in the anal fin; large eyes; short snout; one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw; lower half of tail longer than upper half.

Where found: most common over sand or sandy mud bottoms OFFSHORE along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida; migrates into bays during cold months.

Size: usually no more than 1/2 pound (less than 10 inches).

Remarks: smallest seatrout; spawns OFFSHORE in deep water during spring, summer and fall; feeds on small fish and shrimp.

Spotted Sea Trout

Description: dark gray or green above, with sky blue tinges shading to silvery and white below; numerous distinct round black spots on back, extending to the dorsal fins and tail; black margin on posterior of tail; no barbels; no scales on the soft dorsal fin; one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw.

Where found: INSHORE and/or NEARSHORE over grass, sand and sandy bottoms; move into slow-moving or still, deep waters in cold weather.

Size: common to 4 pounds on west coast, larger on east coast.

Florida Record: 15 lbs., 6 ozs.

Remarks: matures during first or second year and spawns INSHORE from March through November; often in association with seagrass beds; lives mainly in estuaries and moves only short distances; adults feed mainly on shrimp and small fish; prefers water temperatures between 58 and 81 degrees F and may be killed if trapped in shallow water during cold weather; longevity 8 to 10 years.

Silver Perch (Yellowtail)

 Description: color silvery with yellowish fins; no spots; no chin barbels; no prominent canine teeth at tip of upper jaw; preopercle finely serrated; 5 to 6 chin pores; mouth terminal.

Where found: INSHORE in seagrass beds, tidal creeks and rivers, and marshes.

Size: small, not exceeding 9 inches.

Remarks: spawning takes place in shallow, saline portions of bays and other INSHORE areas, peaking between May and September; matures by second or third year (by 6 inches); adults eat crustaceans and small fishes; may live to 6 years.

Weakfish

Description: dark olive or blue-green back; sides covered in tones of blue, purple, lavender, gold and copper; irregular diagonal rows of vaguely-defined dark spots appear above the lateral line; 1 to 2 prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw; black margin on tip of the tongue; pelvic and anal fins yellow; pectoral fins olive on outside, yellow underneath; mouth yellow inside.

Where found: an Atlantic coast fish, possibly found in the extreme southeastern Gulf; adults move INSHORE and north during warm months inhabiting the surf, inlets, bays, channels and estuaries; adults move OFFSHORE and south during cold months; juveniles inhabit estuaries which serve as nurseries.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds.

Remarks: may mature as early as age 1; spawns in NEARSHORE or estuarine areas between April and October; schooling fish; feeds primarily on shrimp and fish.

Gulf Flounder

Description: body color brown, its shade depending on color of bottom, with numerous spots and blotches; 3 prominent eye-like spots forming a triangle; one spot on lateral line, one above, one below; numerous white spots scattered over body and fins (albigutta, white-spotted); strong canine-like teeth; caudal fin in shape of wedge, its tip in the middle.

Where found: INSHORE on sandy or mud bottoms, often ranging into tidal creeks; occasionally caught on NEARSHORE rocky reefs.

Size: common to 2 pounds, generally smaller than southern flounder.

Remarks: hatches into usual fish form, but right eye migrates over to left side early in life; a bottom dweller; thought to spawn OFFSHORE; feeds on crustaceans and small fishes.

Black Grouper

Description: olive or gray body coloration with black blotches and brassy spots; gently rounded preopercle.

Where found: OFFSHORE species; adults associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young may occur INSHORE in shallow water.

Size: common to 40 pounds, may attain weights exceeding 100 pounds.

Florida Record: no Florida record because of identity confusion with gag, which are mistakenly called "black grouper."

Remarks: spawns between May and August; protogynous hermaphrodites, young predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; larger individuals generally in greater depths; feeds on fish and squid.

 Gag

Description: brownish gray in color with dark worm-like markings on sides; strong serrated spur at bottom margin of preopercle, less noticeable in large specimens; fins dark, with anal and caudal having white margin. Often confused with black grouper; tail of gag is slightly concave, black is square; gag has white margin on anal and caudal fins, black does not; under 10 pounds, gag's spur on preopercle is distinctive, where black is gently rounded.

Where found: adults OFFSHORE over rocks and reefs; juveniles occur in seagrass beds INSHORE.

Size: common to 25 pounds.

Florida Record: 71 lbs., 3 ozs.

Remarks: forms spawning aggregations in water no shallower than 120 feet in Middle Grounds area, January through March; current reseach to identify similar aggregations off Atlantic coast is ongoing. Young gags are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; feeds on fish and squid.

 Jew Fish

Description: head and fins covered with small black spots; irregular dark and vertical bars present on the sides of body; pectoral and caudal fins rounded; first dorsal fin shorter than and not separated from second dorsal; adults huge, up to 800 pounds; eyes small.

Where found: NEARSHORE often around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.

Size: largest of the groupers.

Florida Record: 680 lbs.

Remarks: spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. NOTE: jewfish are totally protected from harvest in Florida waters.

 Nassau Grouper

Description: color light background with brown or red-brown bars on sides; stripe in shape of tuning fork on forehead; third spine of dorsal longer than second ; pelvic fins shorter than pectorals; black dots around the eyes; large black saddle on caudal peduncle.

Where found: range limited to south Florida; somewhat site specific; smaller individuals NEARSHORE, adults OFFSHORE on rocky reefs.

Size: most catches under 10 pounds.

Remarks: forms large spawning aggregations, making this species highly vulnerable to overharvest. NOTE: all harvest of this species is prohibited.

Red Grouper

Description: color brownish red; lining of mouth scarlet-orange; blotches on sides in unorganized pattern; second spine of dorsal fin longer than others; pectoral fins longer than pelvic fins; squared off tail; margin of soft dorsal black with white at midfin; black dots around the eyes.

Where found: bottom dwelling fish associated with hard bottom; juveniles OFFSHORE along with adults greater than 6 years old; fish from 1 to 6 years occupy NEARSHORE reefs.

Size: common to 15 pounds.

Florida Record: 39 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: spawns in April and May; prefer water temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees F; undergoes sex reversal, young individual females becoming males as they age; lifespan of at least 25 years; feeds on squid, crustaceans, and fish.

Scamp

Description: color light gray or brown; large adults with elongated caudal-fin rays; reddish brown spots on sides that tend to be grouped into lines; some yellow around corners of mouth.

Where found: NEARSHORE reefs off the northeastern coast, and on OFFSHORE reefs in the Gulf.

Size: generally smaller than gags or blacks.

Florida Record: 28 lbs.

Remarks: spawns in late spring; feeds on small fish, squid, and crustaceans; undergoes sex transformation from female to male as it becomes older.

Yellowfin Grouper

Description: color highly variable greenish olive or bright red with longitudinal rows of darker black blotches over entire fish; outer one third of pectoral fins bright yellow; lower parts of larger fish with small bright red spots.

Where found: OFFSHORE on reefs off southern portions of Florida.

Size: common to 20 pounds.

Florida Record: 34 lbs., 6 ozs.

Remarks: undergoes sex reversal from female to male in latter part of life; specific name translates to "venomous," alluding to the fact that this fish, perhaps more frequently than other groupers, is associated with ciguatera poisoning; feeds on fish and squid. 

Yellowmouth Grouper

Description: color tan or brown with darker spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines; distinct yellow wash behind the jaws; yellow around the eyes; outer edges of fins yellowish.

Where found: OFFSHORE over reefs and rocks; not as common as scamp in the Gulf; range limited to southern Florida.

Size: common to 15 pounds.

Florida Record: 28 lbs.

Remarks: undergoes sex reversal, young individuals female, older individuals becoming male; young fish are bicolored, dark above white below; feeds on small fish and crustaceans.

 

White Grunt

 

Description: body color light bluish-gray, head with horizontal blue stripes, white underbelly; black blotch on preopercle; margin of each scale bronze; large bright orange mouth; scales above lateral line larger than scales below lateral line.

Where found: from SHORE to the outer reef edge or on OFFSHORE hard bottom to 115 feet; most abundant in water less than 80 feet deep; juveniles INSHORE.

Size: most catches 1.5 pounds (15 inches).

Remarks: audible grunting is produced by grinding of the pharyngeal teeth, with air bladder acting as amplifier; spawning occurs on OFFSHORE hard bottoms or reefs from May through June; feeds on crustaceans, mollusks and small fishes.

 

 

American Shad

 

Description: color of back green or greenish blue with silvery sides, white underneath (colors darken when fish enters fresh water to spawn); belly with scutes forming distinct keel; one or more dark spots in a row behind operculum; lower jaw with pointed tip that fits into v-shaped notch in upper jaw.

Where found: OFFSHORE except during late winter spawning run into east coast rivers, notably the St. Johns River.

Size: most catches 2 to 3 pounds; common to 5 pounds.

Remarks: anadromous species, coming into fresh water to spawn; young remain in fresh water to length of 2 to 4 inches, then move out to sea; plankton feeder, but strikes small,bright spoons or flies; their roe (as many as 30,000 in a single female) is prized, the flesh full of fork bones.

 

 

Almaco Jack

 

Description: a deep-bodied amberjack; sometimes darker in coloration; front of soft dorsal and of anal fins high and elongated; body more flattened than banded rudderfish or greater amberjack; no scutes.

Where found: wide-ranging in OFFSHORE waters, not a common catch; young are associated with Sargassum.

Size: usually less than 20 pounds.

Remarks: spawns OFFSHORE, apparently during spring, summer, and fall.

 

 

Banded Rudder Fish

 

Description: fish less than 11 inches long have dark band from eye to first dorsal fin and six prominent bars on body; larger fish are bluish, greenish, or brown; soft dorsal base about twice the length of the anal fin; tail-lobe white tipped.

Where found: NEARSHORE and OFFSHORE over hard bottom, generally in shallower water than other amberjacks; young associated with weed lines or floating debris and may follow sharks and other large fish.

Size: usually less than 10 pounds.

Remarks: adults feed on fish and shrimp; spawns OFFSHORE most of year.

 

 

Blue Runner

 

Description: color light olive to bluish green above; silvery gray to golden below; frequently black spot on operculum; readily distinguished from crevalle jack by lack of black blotch on pectoral fin; tail tips blackish.

Where found: juveniles found OFFSHORE; adults NEARSHORE in schools, but sometimes ranging INSHORE as well.

Size: usually less than 1 pound (11 inches).

Florida Record: 7 lbs.

Remarks: matures by 9 to 10 inches; spawns OFFSHORE from January through August; young form schools associated with floating objects, and have been observed living inside the bell of jellyfish; adults feed on fish, shrimp, and squid.

 

Crevalle Jack

 

Description: color bluish-green to greenish-gold back and silvery or yellowish belly; soft dorsal and anal fins almost identical in size; prominent black spot on operculum (gill cover); black spot at the base of each pectoral fin; no scales on throat.

Where found: common in both INSHORE waters and the open sea.

Size: usually 3 to 5 pounds.

Florida Record: 51 lbs.

Remarks: tolerates a wide range of salinities; schools corner a school of baitfish at the surface and feed with commotion that can be seen at great distances; feeds mainly on small fish; peak spawning occurs OFFSHORE from March through September.

 

 

Greater Amberjack

 

Description: dark stripe (variably present) extends from nose to in front of dorsal fin and "lights up" when fish is in feeding mode; no scutes; soft dorsal base less than twice the length of the anal fin base.

Where found: OFFSHORE species associated with rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks, typically in 60 - 240 feet of water; sometimes caught NEARSHORE in south Florida; juveniles associated with floating objects and may occur in water less than 30 feet deep.

Size: common to 40 pounds.

Florida Record: 142 lbs.

Remarks: largest of the jacks; thought to spawn OFFSHORE throughout most of the year; feeds on squid, fish, and crustaceans.

 

 

Lesser Amberjack

 

Description: olive green or brownish black and silver sides; dark band (variably present) extends upward from eye; juveniles have split or wavy bars on sides; proportionately larger eye and deeper body than greater amberjack.

Where found: NEASHORE and OFFSHORE, apparently living deeper than other Seriola (commonly 180 - 410 feet deep).

Size: usually under 10 pounds.

Remarks: smallest of the amberjacks; believed to spawn OFFSHORE; adults eat fish and squid.

 

Cero

 

Description: color of back iridescent bluish green; sides silvery, yellow spots forming lines above and below a bronze stripe from pectoral fin to base of tail; front of first dorsal fin is bluish black; lateral line curves gradually to base of caudal fin.

Where found: NEARSHORE and OFFSHORE fish occurring mainly in south Florida, especially over coral reefs and wrecks.

Size: common to 5 pounds.

Florida Record: 15 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: unlike other mackerels, does not stray far from south Florida waters; spawns OFFSHORE in midsummer; feeds on small fish and squid.

 

King Mackerel

 

Description: color of back iridescent bluish green; sides silvery, streamlined body with tapered head; no black pigment on front of dorsal fin; lateral line starts high and drops sharply below the second dorsal fin; young fish often have yellow spots like those of the Spanish mackerel.

Where found: NEARSHORE and OFFSHORE, occasionally taken from piers running into deep water.

Size: common to 20 pounds.

Florida Record: 90 lbs.

Remarks: schooling fish that migrates fom south Florida waters in winter to more northerly waters in spring; Gulf population thought to be separate from Atlantic population, with considerable mixing in winter from Cape Canaveral past Key West; spawns in midsummer OFFSHORE; feeds on small fish and squid.

 

 

Spanish Mackerel

 

Description: color of back green, shading to silver on sides, golden yellow irregular spots above and below lateral line; front of dorsal fin black; lateral line curves gently to base of tail.

Where found: INSHORE, NEARSHORE and OFFSHORE, especially over grass beds and reefs; absent from north Florida waters in winter.

Size: average catch less than 2 pounds (20 inches).

Florida Record: 12 lbs.

Remarks: schooling fish that migrates northward in spring, returning to southerly waters when water temperature drops below 70 degrees F; spawns OFFSHORE, spring through summer; feeds on small fish and squid.

 

Fantail Mullet

 

Description: color olive green with blue tints on back, shading to silvery sides, white below; anal and pelvic fins yellowish; dark blotch at base of pectoral fin; inverted V-shaped mouth; insertion of second dorsal over that of anal fin.

Where found: INSHORE, occuring along beaches in the fall.

Size: small mullet, less than 1 pound.

Remarks: spawns in NEARSHORE or possibly INSHORE waters during spring and summer; juveniles occur INSHORE; feeds on algae, small crustaceans and detritus.

 

 

Striped Mullet

 

Description: color bluish-gray or green above, shading to silver on sides with distinct horizontal black barrings, white below; fins lightly scaled at base, unscaled above; blunt nose and small mouth; second dorsal fin originates behind that of the dorsal fin.

Where found: INSHORE.

Size: roe mullet common to 3 pounds but in aquariums known to reach 12 pounds or more.

Remarks: adults migrate OFFSHORE in large schools to spawn; juveniles migrate INSHORE at about 1 inch in size, moving far up tidal creeks; frequent leapers; feeds on algae, detritus and other tiny marine forms.

 

 

Florida Pompano

 

Description: greenish gray on back, shading to silvery sides; fish in dark waters showing gold on throat, pelvic, and anal fins; deep flattened body with small mouth; no scutes; 22 to 27 soft dorsal rays; 20 to 23 soft anal rays; origin of anal fin slightly behind origin of second dorsal.

Where found: INSHORE and NEARSHORE waters, especially along sandy beaches, along oyster banks, and over grassbeds, often in turbid water; may be found in water as deep as 130 feet.

Size: usually less than 3 pounds.

Florida Record: 8 lbs, 1 oz.

Remarks: spawns OFFSHORE between March and September; feeds on mollusks and crustaceans, especially sand fleas; local movements are influenced by the tide, and seasonal movements are influenced by temperature.

 

Palometa

 

Description: grayish-blue-green on top of head and along the back; bright silvery sides; yellow on breast; elongated dorsal and anal fins; dusky or black with bluish edges; deep body, with four narrow bars high on the sides, and traces of a fifth fin nearer the tail; no scutes.

Where found: in clear water along sandy beaches and bays, occasionally found over reefs; most common in south Florida.

Size: rarely over 1 pound, reported to 3 pounds.

Remarks: thought to spawn OFFSHORE in spring, summer, and fall; has shown rapid growth in mariculture experiments; readily strikes small artificial lures.

 

 

Permit

 

Description: color gray, dark or iridescent blue above, shading to silvery sides, in dark waters showing golden tints around breast; small permit have teeth on tongue (none on pompano); no scutes; dorsal fin insertion directly above that of the anal fin; 17 to 21 soft anal rays.

Where found: OFFSHORE on wrecks and debris, INSHORE on grass flats, sand flats, and in channels; most abundant in south Florida, with smaller specimens from every coastal county.

Size: common to 25 pounds.

Florida Record: 51 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling crabs, shrimp, small clams, and small fish.

 

 

Sheepshead

 

Description: basic silvery color; with 5 or 6 distinct vertical black bands on sides, not always the same on both sides; prominent teeth, including incisors, molars, and rounded grinders; no barbels on lower jaw; strong and sharp spines on dorsal and anal fins.

Where found: INSHORE species around oyster bars, seawalls and in tidal creeks; moves NEARSHORE in late winter and early spring for spawning, gathering over debris, artificial reefs and around navigation markers.

Size: INSHORE, 1 to 2 pounds; OFFSHORE, common to 8 pounds.

Florida Record: 12 lbs., 2 ozs.

Remarks: feeds on mollusks and crustaceans such as fiddler crabs and barnacles; famed nibblers, prompting the saying that "anglers must strike just before they bite."

 

 

Bank Sea Bass

 

Description: pale olive or brassy brown in color with indistinct black blotches that form vertical barrings (the blotch above pectoral fin darker); wavy blue lines on head; lips purplish-blue; caudal fin tri-lobed on adults; edge of nape unscaled.

Where found: OFFSHORE in deep water with rocks and reefs.

Size: usually 0.3 pound (8 inches).

Remarks: undergoes sex change, starting life as female, changing to male after three or four spawning seasons; feeds on the bottom, taking squid, crustaceans, and small fish.

 

Black Sea Bass

 

Description: basic color dark brown or black; dorsal fin has rows and stripes of white on black; large males have iridescent blue and ebony markings, and fatty hump in front of dorsal fin; females may have indistinct vertical barrings; topmost ray of caudal fin much elongated in adults; caudal may be tri-lobed; sharp spine near posterior margin of gill cover.

Where found: structure-loving fish, associated with reefs and rubble OFFSHORE; smaller specimens often found INSHORE finger channels.

Size: common to 1.5 pounds (13 inches).

Florida Record: 5 lbs., 1 oz.

Remarks: spawns January through March; protogynous hermaphrodites, older females becoming breeding males; omnivorous bottom feeders, diet including small fish, crustaceans, and shellfish.

 

Rock Sea Bass

 

Description: color olive-brown or bronze, with dark blotches forming vertical bars; dark black blotch on middle of dorsal fin base; tip of lower jaw purplish; bright blue and orange stripes and markings on head and fins; fully scaled nape; tail tri-lobed in adults.

Where found: OFFSHORE; differs from other sea basses in that it is often found on sandy or muddy bottoms.

Size: small species rarely more than 10 inches.

Remarks: spawns January through March; young adults are predominently female, transforming into males as they grow older; maximum size about 10 inches.

 

 

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

 

Description: long and flattened snout; white trailing edge of pectoral; black-edged dorsal and caudal fins, especially when young; may have small whitish spots on sides; furrows in lips at the corners of the mouth; outer margin of teeth notched; second dorsal fin originates over middle of anal fin; brown to olive-gray in color with white underside; slender body.

Where found: INSHORE species, even found in surf; also common in bays and estuaries; adults occur OFFSHORE.

Size: small species, 2 to 4 feet.

Remarks: mature adults between 2 and 2.75 feet long; 4-7 newborns range from 9 to 14 inches in length; adults feed on small fish and crustaceans.

 

 

Bonnethead Shark

 

Description: broadly widened head in the shape of a shovel; only slight indentation of anal fin; front of head not notched at midline; gray or grayish-brown in color.

Where found: INSHORE species found in bays and estuaries.

Size: commonly 3 to 4 feet.

Remarks: matures at about 3 feet in length and bears 6 to 12 young at one time; feeds chiefly on crabs and other crustaceans.

 

 

Sandbar Shark

 

Description: broadly widened head in the shape of a shovel; only slight indentation of anal fin; front of head not notched at midline; gray or grayish-brown in color.

Where found: INSHORE species found in bays and estuaries.

Size: commonly 3 to 4 feet.

Remarks: matures at about 3 feet in length and bears 6 to 12 young at one time; feeds chiefly on crabs and other crustaceans.

 

 

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

 

Description: fifth gill slit shorter than 4 preceding ones and located posterior to pectoral fin base; flattened head extending to hammer-like lobes on each side; distinct indentation of the front margin of the head at its midpoint; second dorsal fin longer than tail; gray-brown to olive in color with white underbelly; teeth smooth-edged; pectoral fins tipped with black on the undersurface; tips of first and second dorsal lobes and caudal also may have dusky tips; pelvic fin with nearly straight hind margin.

Where found: both OFFSHORE and INSHORE.

Size: common to 6 feet and can reach 14 feet.

Remarks: predatory fish, feeding mainly on fish, squid, and stingrays; male matures at about 6 feet in length.

 

 

Shortfin Mako Shark

 

Description: lunate tail with similarily sized lobes; lateral keel at the base of the tail; deep blue back and white underside; underside of sharply pointed snout white; origin of first dorsal entirely behind base of pectoral fins; second dorsal fin slightly in front of anal fin; slender, recurved teeth with smooth edge.

Where found: OFFSHORE fish often seen near the surface.

Size: commonly 6 to 8 feet (200 to 300 pounds).

Florida Record: 911 lbs, 12 ozs.

Remarks: active, strong swimming fish known for leaping out of the water when hooked; feeds on mackerel, tuna, sardines, and some much larger fish.

 

 

Blackfin Snapper

 

Description: color generally red, with yellowish caudal, anal, and pelvic fins; distinctive and prominent dark comma-shaped blotch at the base of the pectoral fins, which gives the fish its common name; anal fin rounded; no black spot on side underneath dorsal fin.

Where found: adults OFFSHORE near continental shelf.

Size: common to 20 inches, larger adults seeking deeper waters.

Remarks: sometimes marketed as red snapper; feeds on smaller fishes.

 

Cubera Snapper

 

Description: color dark brown or gray, may have a reddish tinge; broad-based triangular tooth patch on roof of mouth with a posterior extension; despite its specific name, which translates to "blue-fin," the fins have only a slight tinge of blue; canine teeth in both jaws very strong; one pair of canines enlarged and visible even when mouth is closed.

Where found: juveniles INSHORE in grass beds; adults OFFSHORE or NEARSHORE over wrecks, reefs, and ledges.

Size: common to 40 pounds.

Florida Record: 116 lbs.

Remarks: the largest of the snappers, ranging to 125 pounds; not common anywhere in its range; feeds on fishes and larger crustaceans; in the Keys, spawns during later summer.

 

Dog Snapper

 

Description: color brown with a bronze tinge, lighter on sides; canine teeth very sharp, one pair notably enlarged, visible even when mouth is closed; in adults, pale triangle and a light blue interrupted line below the eye; no dark spot on body underneath dorsal fin.

Where found: large adults OFFSHORE over coral and rocky reefs; juveniles associated with estuaries.

Size: large snapper, attaining 30 pounds.

Remarks: spawns from spring through fall; known as night feeder; taking fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans.

 

Grey Snapper

 

Description: color dark brown or gray with reddish or orange spots in rows along the sides; dark horizontal band from snout through eye (young only); two conspicuous canine teeth at front of upper jaw; dorsal fins have dark or reddish borders; no dark spot on side underneath dorsal fin.

Where found: juveniles INSHORE in tidal creeks, mangroves, and grass beds; adults generally NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE on coral or rocky reefs.

Size: offshore catches common 8 to 10 pounds.

Florida Record: 16 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: spawns June through August; feeds on crustaceans and small fish.

 

Lane Snapper

 

Description: color silvery-pink to reddish with short, irregular pink and yellow lines on its sides; diffuse black spot, about as large as the eye; the dorsal fin centered above the lateral line; outer margin of caudal fin blackish.

Where found: juveniles INSHORE over grass beds or shallow reefs; adults OFFSHORE; most common in south Florida.

Size: usually less than 1 pound.

Florida Record: 6 lbs., 6 ozs.

Remarks: spawns March through September; sexually mature at 6 inches; feeds on bottom, taking crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.

 

 

Mahogany Snapper

 

Description: color graysh-olive with a reddish tinge; conspicuous dark spot, about the size of the eye, below the soft dorsal fin, 1/4 to 1/2 of it below the lateral line; the large eye and caudal fin are bright red; lower margin of the preopercle has prominent spur with strong and sharp serrations.

Where found: NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE in clear, highly saline water, usually over reefs.

Size: relatively small snapper, common to 15 inches.

Remarks: the Spanish name, ojanco, refers to its large eyes; a night feeder, with diet of smaller fishes.

 

  

Mutton Snapper

 

Description: color olive green on back and upper sides, all fins below the lateral line having reddish tinge; bright blue line below eye, following contour of operculum; anal fin pointed; small black spot below dorsal fin; V-shaped tooth patch on

Where found: an INSHORE species associated with grassbeds, mangroves, and canals; larger adults occasionally found on OFFSHORE reefs.

Size: common to 15 pounds.

Florida Record: 27 lbs., 6 ozs.

Remarks: spawns in July and August; feeds on fish, crustaceans, and snails.

 

Queen Snapper

 

Description: color of back and upper sides red; silvery body long and slender; dorsal fin distinctly notched; large eyes; caudal fin deeply forked; no dark lateral spot.

Where found: OFFSHORE over rocky reefs of the continental shelf to 450 feet; young suspend at mid-depths.

Size: small species, usually less than 20 inches.

Remarks: little is known, but it is reported that adults live at depths greater than 400 feet.

 

  

Red Snapper

 

Description: color pinkish red over entire body, whitish below; long triangular snout; anal fin sharply pointed; no dark lateral spot. S

Where found: OFFSHORE on the continental shelf, more plentiful off the panhandle than in south or middle Florida.

Size: to 20 pounds.

Florida Record: 46 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: juveniles occur over sandy or mud bottoms and are often taken in shrimp trawls; adults may live more than 20 years, and attain 35 pounds or more; sexual maturity attained at age 2; spawns June to October; feeds on crustaceans and fish.

 

Schoolmaster

 

Description: color olive gray on upper sides with yellow tinge, sometimes with reddish tinge around head; long triangular snout; eight pale vertical bars on the side of the body; yellow fins; blue stripe below eye, becoming interrupted in adults; no dark lateral spot.

Where found: juveniles in grassy flats; adults NEARSHORE especially around elkhorn coral reefs; large adults sometimes found on continental shelf.

Size: usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: spawns in July and August; attain sizes of 8 pounds and 24 inches; slow grower; feeds on crustaceans, small fishes, and gastropods.

 

Silk Snapper

 

Description: back and upper sides pinkish red, shading to silvery sides with undulating yellow lines; pectorals pale yellow; back edge of caudal fin blackish; anal fin pointed; no dark lateral spot.

Where found: OFFSHORE over rocky ledges in very deep water; most common in south Florida.

Size: usually less than 5 pounds.

Remarks: little is known.

 

Vermilion Snapper

 

Description: color of entire body reddish, with a series of short, irregular lines on its sides, diagonal blue lines formed by spots on the scales above the lateral line; sometimes with yellow streaks below the lateral line; large canine teeth absent; orientation of mouth and eye give it the appearance of looking upward; no dark lateral spot.

Where found: suspends at mid-depths over rocky reefs OFFSHORE.

Size: usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: spawns April to September, females maturing at 3 to 4 years of age; grows slowly; attains weight of 6 pounds and length of 24 inches; feeds on small, swimming crustaceans and mollusks.

 

Yellowtail Snapper

 

Description: back and upper sides olive to bluish with yellow spots; lower sides and belly with alternating narrow, longitudinal pink and yellow stripes; prominent midlateral yellow stripe begins at mouth and runs to tail, broadening as it passes the dorsal fins; caudal fin yellow and deeply forked; no dark lateral spot.

Where found: juveniles INSHORE on grassbeds and back reefs; adults NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE over sandy areas near reefs.

Size: common to 3 pounds.

Florida Record: 7 lbs., 5 ozs.

Remarks: found mainly in tropical waters; spawns in midsummer; rarely exceeds 30 inches and 5 pounds in size; feeds on small fish and invertebrates.

 

  

Fat Snook

 

Description: deeper body than other snooks; color yellow-brown to green-brown above, silvery on sides; black lateral line extends onto tail; mouth reaches to or beyond center of eye; usually no dusky outer edge on pelvic fin, as in other snooks; smallest scales of all snooks.

Where found: INSHORE spcies found in mangrove habitat; found commonly in fresh waters; occurs more in interior waters (as opposed to estuarine waters) than other snook.

Size: a small species, rarely more than 20 inches.

Remarks: usually found in fresh water; mangrove shorelines serve as nursery grounds for young.

 

Common Snook

 

Description: distinct lateral line; high, divided dorsal fin; sloping forehead; large mouth, protruding lower jaw; grows much larger than other snooks; pelvic fin yellow.

Where found: from central Florida south, usually INSHORE in coastal and brackish waters, along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and bridges; also on reefs and pilings NEARSHORE.

Size: most catches 5 to 8 pounds.

Florida Record: 44 lbs., 3 ozs.

Remarks: spawns primarily in summer; cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees F; can tolerate wholly fresh or saltwater; schools along shore and in passes during spawning season; feeds on fish and large crustaceans.

 

Swordspine Snook

 

Description: smallest of the snooks; profile slightly concave; prominent lateral line outlined in black (not solid), extends through caudal fin; color yellow-green to brown-green above, silvery below; giant second anal spine, hence the name; largest scales of all snook.

Where found: occurs in INSHORE estuarine habitats from south Florida to as far north on east coast as St. Lucie River.

Size: usually less than 1 pound (12 inches).

Remarks: full-grown adults are less than 12 inches long; mangrove shoreline habitat serves as nursery area for young; rare on Florida's west coast; prefers only slightly brackish or fresh water.

 

Tarpon Snook

 

Description: only snook with 7 anal fin rays (others have 6); lower jaw curves upward; compressed body; prominent black lateral line extends through tail; tips of pelvic fin reach beyond anus.

Where found: INSHORE in south Florida; frequently in fresh water.

Size: usually less than 1 pound (12 inches).

Remarks: maximum size of 16 to 18 inches; feeds on small fish and larger crustaceans; young are nurtured along mangrove shorelines; rare on Florida's west coast.

Atlantic Spadefish

 

 

Description: silvery with 4 to 6 black vertical bands on each side which sometimes become obscure in larger fish; deep, flattened body; separated first and second dorsal fins; concave caudal fin; anterior rays of second dorsal fin and anal fin elongated.

Where found: INSHORE and NEARSHORE, around natural and artificial reefs, and especially near navigation markers in 15 to 20 feet of water.

Size: most catches less than 2 pounds, known to reach 15 pounds.

Remarks: spawns in spring and summer; travels in large schools; small juveniles almost totally black, known to drift on their sides and mimic floating debris; feeds on crustaceans, small encrusting invertebrates, and may nibble on tentacles of jellyfish.
 

Swordfish

 

Description: color of back variable, black, greyish blue, brown, metallic purple, or bronze; sides dusky; underbelly dirty white; long, flat, sword-like upper jaw; lacks scales, teeth, and pelvic fins; single keel on each side of body in front of tail; first dorsal fin high, rigid and short; large eyes.

Where found: OFFSHORE species worldwide in temperate and tropic waters; known to frequent depths of 400 to 500 fathoms; also has been seen basking at the surface.

Size: once averaged 200 pounds but overharvest has reduced size of commercially caught swordfish to average of 48 inches.

Florida Record: 612 lbs., 12 ozs.

Remarks: large swordfish are all females, males seldom exceeding 200 pounds; except when spawning, females believed to prefer water cooler than that favored by males; feeds on squid, octopus, and pelagic fishes of all kinds.

 

Ladyfish

 

Description: terminal mouth, slender body, small scales; last dorsal ray not elongated; head small and pointed.

Where found: INSHORE fish, in bays and estuaries; occasionally enters freshwater, occurring in tidal pools and canals; often forms large schools and harasses bait at the surface.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds.

Florida Record: 4 lbs., 10 ozs.

Remarks: known to spawn OFFSHORE, ribbon-like larvae very similar to Albula and Megalops, peaking in fall; adult feeds predominantly on fish and crustaceans; leaps when hooked.

 

  

Tarpon

 

Description: last ray of dorsal fin extended into long filament; one dorsal fin; back dark blue to green or greenish black, shading into bright silver on the sides; may be brownish gold in estuarien waters; huge scales; mouth large and points upward.

Where found: primarily INSHORE fish, although adult fish spawn OFFSHORE where the ribbon-like larval stage of the fish can be found.

Size: most angler catchs 40 to 50 pounds.

Florida Record: 243 lbs.

Remarks: slow grower; matures at 7 to 13 years of age; spawning occurs between May and September; female may lay more than 12 million eggs; can tolerate wide range of salinity; juveniles commonly found in fresh water; can breathe air at surface; feeds mainly on fish and large crustaceans.