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Mahogany Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Mohogany Snapper

Color grayish-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 margine of the preopercle has a 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 a diet of smaller fish.

Mutton Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Mutton Snapper

Colored olive green on back and upper sides, all fins below 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 roof of mouth.

Where Found:

AN INSHORE species associated with grass beds, mangroves, and canals; larger adults occasionally found on OFFSHORE reefs.

Size:

Common to 15 pounds

Remarks:

Spawns in July and August; feeds on fish, crustaceans, and snails.

Nassau Grouper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Nassau Grouper

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 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 hervest of this species is prohibited.

Palometa

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Palometa

Grayish-blue-green on top of head and along the back; bright slivery 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 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

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Permit

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 dorsal rays; 16 to 19 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.

Remarks:

Feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling crabs, shrimp, small clams, and small fish.

Queen Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Queen Snapper

Color of back and upper sides red. lower sides; 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 Drum

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Red Drum

Chin without barbels; copper-brozne body; lighter shade in clear waters; one to many spots at base of tail (rarely no spots); mouth horizontal and opening downward; scales large.

Where Found:

Juveniles are an INSHORE fish; migrating out of the estuaries at about 30 inches (4 years) and joining the spawing population OFFSHORE.

Size:

One about 27 inches weighs about 8 pounds.

Remarks:

Spawning occurs from August to Novermber 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.

Red Grouper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Red Grouper

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 and 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 old occupy NEARSHORE reefs.

Size:

Common to 15 pounds.

Remarks:

Spawns in April and May; prefers water temperatures between 66 and 77°F; undergoes sex reversal, young individuals female, becoming male as they age; lifespan of at least 25 years; feeds on squid, crustaceans, and fish.

Red Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Red Snapper

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

Where Found:

OFFSHORE on the continental shelf, more plentiful off the Panhandle than in south or middle Florida.

Size:

Upto 20 pounds.

Remarks:

Juveniles occur over sandy or mu 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.

Rock Sea Bass

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Rock Sea Bass

Color olive-brown or bronze, with dark blotches forming vertical bars; dark black blotche 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 predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow older; maximum size is about 10 inches.

Sailfish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Sailfish

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

Where Found:

OFFSHORE species, in south Florida associated with waters near Gulf Stream; off the panhandle near the 100-fathom line.

Size:

Common to 7 feet.

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 fish and squid.

Sand Sea Trout

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Sand Sea Trout

Pale body color, yellow above, silver to white below; one or two prominent canine teeth usually at the 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 southeastern 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 (10-12 inches).

Remarks:

Matures during first or second year; prolonged inshore spawning season extends through spring and summer; feeds mainly on small fish and shrimp.

Sandbar Shark

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Sandbar SharkSnout broadly rounded and short; first dorsal fin triangular and very high; poorly developed dermal ridge between dorsal fins; brown or gray in color with white underside; upper and lower teeth finely serrated.

 

Where Found:

NEARSHORE fish typically found at depth ranging from 60 to 200 feet.

Size:

Common to 6 feet.

Remarks:

Both predator and scavenger, feeding chiefly near the bottom on fish and shellfish; migrates long distances; matures at about 6 feet in length.

Scalloped Hammerhead

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Scalloped Hammerhead

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;

Where Found:

Both OFFSHORE and INSHORE.

Size:

Commonly 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.

Scamp

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Scamp Grouper

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.

Remarks:

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

Schoolmaster

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Schoolmaster

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 grass flats; adults NEARSHORE especially around elkhorn coral reefs; large adults sometimes found on continental shelf.

Size:

Usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks:

Spawns July and August; attains sizes of 8 pounds and 24 inches; slow grower; feeds on crustaceans, small fish, and gastropods.

Sheepshead

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Sheepshead

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.

Remarks:

Feeds on mollusks and crustaceans such as fiddler crabs and barnicles; famed nibblers, prompting the saying “anglers must strike just before they bite.”

Shortfin Mako

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Shortfin Mako Shark

Lunate tail with similarly 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 edges.

Where Found:

OFFSHORE fish often seen near the surface.

Size:

Commonly 6 to 8 feet ( 200 – 300 pounds ).

Remarks:

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