KNOW YOUR FISH – SPECIES OVERVIEW
Snook are seasonal in Florida waters. They can be found in inlets, backcountry mangroves and flats. Snook on light tackle and fly rod are a favorite method for serious anglers. Snook like live bait best like shrimp, crabs and fingerlings but will take artificials and flies.
Speckled trout are a river, backwater and flats favorite. They are good eating and are fun to catch on live shrimp under a popper cork. Speckled trout hit surface lures in the mornings, and bucktails jigs really anytime of the day! Drift fishing across a grass flat- watch out!
Pound for pound -Permit are among the hardest fighting fish in Florida’s salt waters! They can grow over thirty pounds and are a sought out by light tackle specialist. Permit eat small crustaceans like shrimp, crab and sand fleas. The Permit, is a relative of the Jacks and relatively a common catch from Wreck fishing in South Florida. They can also be sight fished on Florida’s Flats.
The barracuda is one of the most under appreciated game fish in Florida. They are big (up to 5 feet and 65 pounds), with their explosive strikes is a thrill one won’t forget. They run and they jump and dive- you’re in for a treat with one of these on the line! They can be found just about anywhere in Florida’s saltwater- plentiful in water depths of 3 to 5 feet. They can be caught on a fly or a tube lure on a spinning rig.
There are many varieties of grouper in Florida- and most are tasty and delicious! Grouper are a bottom species that like live bait offerings and can put up a tremendous fight. In hooking and catching grouper it is primarily important in the first moments of battle to get the fish out of the vicinity of his home- be it a Wreck, Reef or other structure, if you do not- they will cut you off for sure! Certain species of grouper, the Goliath or Jew fish (these species must be caught and released), can grow to over six hundred pounds!
Snapper are one of Florida’s most sought after and tasty bottom species. There are a number of snapper varieties and all are good to eat. It takes special tackle and technique to catch these wary fish- they are very sensitive to terminal tackle and presentation of bait. Fluorocarbon leaders are important part of your presentation. Snapper like shrimp, crab and other small crustaceans. Snapper like bottom cover like reefs, wrecks and other structure and can be found in all Florida saltwater bodies.
Bonefish are one of the most popular sport fish on the flats. More has been written about bone fishing that almost any another light tackle species. Sight fishing for bonefish is the most popular method using light tackle and fly. The Keys are home to the largest bonefish species in the world! Bonefish are found on sand and grass flats on both the Ocean (Florida Straits) and Gulf (Florida Bay) sides of the Keys in water as shallow as a few inches. Bonefish feed on small crustaceans like crabs and shrimp. For a thrill of a lifetime go bone fishing!!
Tarpon are one of the most exciting and sought after game fish to be found anywhere! The Tarpon is one of the most remarkable sport fish in the world, when hooked they perform acrobatic jumps which defy belief. Spin or fly casting with lures or live bait (crabs or shrimp) and big flies are effective ways to catch Tarpon. Tarpon are generally cooperative eaters, but their bony jaws make it hard to maintain a hook up, the result is that many fish throw the hook after a few jumps. Tarpon are not good to eat, but they are sure fun to catch!
Dolphin, Mahi Mahi, Dorado. Whatever the name, the dolphin is a mainstay of offshore game species. They have a tremendous growth rate and make excellent table fare. Dolphin are primarily fished by the trolling method with artificial baits. Dolphin like pink and red and blue and white trolling skirts over fresh ballyhoo. Dolphin are a pelagic striking fish, meaning- if you get into a school you may be able to make your days catch in one sitting!
The Marlin is perhaps the best known of the offshore fighting billfish next to the sailfish, the difference is you can catch marlin over several hundreds of pounds- the largest are over a thousand pounds. There are several species of marlin, the black, the white, the blue and the striped. These are heavy duty warriors that take special gear and large artificial or natural baits. A Marlin catch is a lifetime accomplishment and to be envied by every angler. Marlin are found in nearly every ocean worldwide. Marlin fishing is strictly a catch and release proposition!
Cobia are a very tasty fish! They are migratory and can be found swimming near and around the friendly giant Manta Ray. Cobia will respond to lures thrown tipped with ballyhoo and are primarily sight fished from the tower of an ocean going boat. Cobia can become very large and can really put up a bulldog fight!
The Sailfish is a species beloved by the fisherman and Captain alike. These fish are acrobatic and present themselves at trolled bait with bill noodling in the air behind the bait, then striking with a slash and run! This is strictly a catch and release fishery. Sails are caught by kite, light spinning tackle, on fly and stand up rod and reel. Truly a great game fish and most anglers’ first time bill fish. They will eat any trolled ballyhoo with or without a skirt.
The don’t call it a Wahoo for nothing! When this top predator takes your bait, you will know it! The first run is a reel screamer! Wahoo are delicious on the plate and amazing underwater athletes, they seldom jump like other species but they can burn the line off of a reel and put the fear of God in any angler! Wahoo like dark lures trolled at high speed- eight to twelve knots. They are a toothy fish, so care needs to taken when brought on board. Wahoo can weigh up to one hundred pounds!
The kingfish is the poor man’s Wahoo; they have saved the day on many a charter. Kingfish are an aggressive pelagic species and love trolled bait or a pinfish drifted along the beach rigged with a circle hook and a trailing stinger treble. These fish can weight up to 70 pounds, and usually run in schools of twenty to thirty pound fish. Streaked, seasoned with Italian dressing and then grilled these fish can be tasty fare.
Night time swordfishing has become one of the most popular offshore fishing adventures South Florida has to offer. These are mysterious looking bill fish that live in the deep waters of both the Atlantic and Gulf waters. They can grow to enormous size! Swords love squid and are fished with a luminescence chemical light attached near the bait and at great water depths.
Great place for additional information on Florida Fish Species