Almaco Jack

Almaco Jack

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.

American Shad

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - American Shad

Color of back green or greenish blue with metallic lustre; silvery sides, white underneath 9 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.

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Atlantic Sharpnose Shark

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 inderside; slender body.

Where Found:

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

Size:

A small species, 2 – 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.

Atlantic Croaker

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Atlantic Croaker

Inferior mouth; 3 to 5 pairs of small barbels on chin; silvery-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.

Atlantic Spadefish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Atlantic Spadefish

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 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.

Banded Rudderfish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Banded Rudderfish

Fish is less than 11 inches long; has 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 shark and other large fish.

Size:

Usually less than 10 pounds.

Remarks:

Adults feed on fish and shrimp; spawns OFFSHORE most of the year.

Bank Sea Bass

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Bank Sea Bass

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 pounds ( 8 inches).

Remarks:

Undergoes sex change, starting life as a female, changing into male after 3 or 4 spawning seasons; feeds on the bottom, taking squid, crustaceans, and small fish.

Black Grouper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Black Grouper

Olive or gray body coloration with black blotches and brassy spots; gently rounded preopercle. 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.

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. 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 older; larger individuals generally in greater depths; feeds on fish and squid.

Black Sea Bass

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Black Drum

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; large scales.

Where Found:

Structure-loving fish, associated with reefs and rubble OFFSHORE; smaller specimens often found in INSHORE finger channels.

Size:

Common to 1.5 Pounds ( 13 inches ).

Remarks:

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

Black Drum

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Black Drum

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; large scales.

Where Found:

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

Size:

Common to 30 pounds.

Remarks:

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

Blackfin Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Blackfin Snapper

Color generally red, with yellow caudal, anal, and pelvic fins; distinctive and prominent dark comma-shapped 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 cintinental shelf.

Size:

Common to 20 inches, larger individuals seeking deeper waters.

Remarks:

Sometimes marketed as red snapper; feeds on smaller fish.

Blue Runner

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Blue Runner

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 dark 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).

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.

Blue Marlin

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Blue Marlin

Color cobalt blue on top shading to silvery white on bottom; upper jaw elongated in form of spear; dorsal fin and 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 imbedded 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.

Remarks:

All of trophy size are females; males do not exceed 300 pounds; make trans-Atlantic migration; spawning procedures unknown; feeds on squid and pelagic fish, including blackfin tuna and frigate mackerel.

Bluefish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - BlueFish

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.

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

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - BoneFish

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.

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.

Bonnethead Shark

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - BonnetHead Shark

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.

Cero

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Cero Mackerel

Color of black iridescent bluish green; sides silvery; yellow spots forming lines above and below a bronze stripe from pectoral fin to base of the tail; front of first dorsal 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.

Remarks:

Unlike other mackerel, does not stray far from Florida waters; spawns OFFSHORE in midsummer; feeds on small fish and squid.

Cobia

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Cobia

Long, slim fish with broad depressed head; lower jaw projects passed 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 OFFSHORE inhabiting inlets, bays, and among mangroves; frequently seen around buoys, pilings and wreaks.

Size:

Common to 30 pounds.

Remarks:

Spawns in spring and early summer; feeds on crabs, squid, and small fish.

Common Snook

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Common Snook

Distict black 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.

Remarks:

Spawns primarily in summer; cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60° F; can tolerate wholly fresh or saltwater; schools along shore and in passes during spawning season; feeds on fish and larger crustaceans.

Crevalle Jack

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Crevalle Jack

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.

Remarks:

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

Cubera Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Cubera Snapper

Color dark brown or gray, may have a reddish tinge; broad-based triangular tooth patch on roof of mouth without posterior extension; despite its specific name, which translates to “blue-fin”, the fin have only a slight tinge of blue; canine teeth on both jaws very strong; one pair of canines enlarged and visible even when mouth is closed.

Where Found:

Juveniles INSHORE in grassbeds; adults OFFSHORE or NEARSHORE over wrecks, reefs, and ledges.

Size:

Common to 40 pounds.

Remarks:

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

Dog Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Dog Snapper

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

Where Found:

Large adults OFFSHORE over coral and rocky reefs; juveniles associated with estuaries.

Size:

Large snapper; attaing 30 pounds.

Remarks:

Spawns from spring through fall; known as night feeder; taking fish, mollusks, and crustaceans.

Dolphin

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Dog Snapper

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

Where Found:

OFFSHORE in warm waters.

Size:

Common to 30 pounds.

Remarks:

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

Fantail Mullet

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Fantail Mullet

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 fin over that of the anal fin.

Where Found:

INSHORE, occurring 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, detritus.

Fat Snook

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Fat Snook

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 snook.

Where Found:

INSHORE species found in mangrove habitiat; found commonly in fresh water; 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.

Florida Pompano

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Pompano

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 bars, and over grassbeds, often in turbid water; may be found in water as deep as 130 feet.

Size:

Usually less than 3 pounds.

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.

Gag Grouper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Gag Grouper

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; most noticeable differences are brassy spots on 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 distincive, where black is gently rounded.

Where Found:

Adults OFFSHORE over rocks and reefs; juveniles occur in seagrass beds INSHORE.

Size:

Common to 25 pounds.

Remarks:

Forms spawning aggregations in water no shallower than 120 feet in Middle Grounds area. January through March; current research to identify similar aggregations off the Atlantic coast is on going. Young Gags are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; feeds on fish and squid.

Goliath Grouper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Goliath Grouper

Head and fins covered with small black spots; irregular dark vertical bars present on the sides of body; pectoral and caudal fins rounded; first dorsal fin shorted than and not separated from second dorsal; adults hugh, upto 800 pounds; eyes small.

Where Found:

NEARSHORE 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.

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.

Gray Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Gray Snapper

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.

Remarks:

Spawns June through August; feeds on crustaceans and small fish. Also known as “Mangrove Snapper”.

Greater Amberjack

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Greater Amberjack

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 associate with floating objects and may occur in water less than 30 feet deep.

Size:

Common to 40 pounds.

Remarks:

Largest of the jacks; thought to spawn OFFSHORE throughout much of the year; feeds on squid, fish, and crustaceans.

Gulf Flounder

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Flounder

Body color brown, its shade depending on color 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; 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 title 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 fish.

King Mackerel

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - King Mackerel

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

Where Found:

Size:

Common to 20 pounds.

Remarks:

Schooling fish that migrates from 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 fish and squid.

LadyFish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - LadyFish

Terminal mouth; slender body; small scales; last dorsal ray not elongated; head small and pointed.

Where Found:

Size:

2 to 3 pounds.

Remarks:

Known to spawn OFFSHORE; ribbon-like larvae very similar to Albula and Egalops, peaking in fall; adults feed predominantly on fish and crustaceans; leaps when hooked.

Lane Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Lane Snapper

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.

Remarks:

Spawns March to September, sexually mature at 6 inches; feeds on the bottom, taking crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.

Lesser Amberjack

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Lesser Amberjack

Olive green or brownish back and silver sides; dark band (variably present) extends backward and upward from eye; juveniles have split or wavy bars on sides; proportionately larger eye and deeper body than Greater Amberjack.

Where Found:

NEARSHORE 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.

Longbill Spearfish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Longbill Spearfish

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 section round.

Where Found:

OFFSHORE in deep water.

Size:

Relatively small species. Largest caught approximately 61 pounds.

Remarks:

Uncommon; available data indicate that the 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 fish and squid.

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.

Silk Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Silk Snapper

Back and upper sides pinkish red, shading to silvery sides with undulating yellow lines; pecorals 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 is south Florida.

Size:

Usually less than 5 pounds.

Remarks:

Little is known.

Silver Sea Trout

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Silver Sea Trout

Pale straw colored above, silvery sides and white below; no distinctive pigmentation, although faint diagonal lines may be present on upper body; 8 to9 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 the 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.

Silver Perch

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Silver Perch

Color silvery with yellowish fins; no spots; no chin barbels; no prominent canine teeth at tip of 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 fish; may live to 6 years.

Spanish Mackerel

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Spanish Mackerel

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

Where Found:

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

Size:

Average catch less than 2 pounds (20 inches).

Remarks:

Schooling fish that migrate northward in spring, returning to southerly waters when water temperatures drop below 70° F; spawns OFFSHORE, spring through summer; feeds on small fish and squid.

Spotted Sea Trout

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Spotted Sea Trout

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 mud bottoms; move into shallow waters in cold weather.

Size:

Common to 4 pounds on west coast, larger on east coast.

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° F, and may be killed if trapped in shallow water during cold weather; longevity 8 to 10 years.

Striped (Black) Mullet

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Color bluish-gray or green above, shading to silver on sides, with indistinct 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 anal fin.

Color bluish-gray or green above, shading to silver on sides, with indistinct 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 anal 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 title creeks; frequent leapers; feeds on algae, detritus, and other tiny marine forms.

Swordfish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Swordfish

Color of back variable, black, grayish blue, brown, metallic purple, or bronze; sides dusty; 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 worldwide species in temperate and tropical; known to frequent depths of 400 to 500 fathoms; also has been seen basking at the surface.

Size:

Once averaged 200 pounds, but over harvest has reduced size of commercially caught swordfish to average 48 inches.

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.

Swordspine Snook

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish -

Smallest of the snooks; profile slightly concave; prominent lateral line outlined in black ( not solid ), extends 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 as far north on the 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 habitats serve as nursery areas for young; rare on Florida’s west coast; prefers only slightly brackish of fresh water.

Tarpon Snook

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Tarpon Snook

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 fins 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.

Tarpon

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Tarpon

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 sides; may be brownish gold in estuarine 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 catches 40 – 50 pounds.

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 the surface; feeds mainly on fish and large crustaceans.

Vermillion Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Vermilion Snapper

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 a weight of 6 pounds and length of 24 inches; feeds on small, swimming crustaceans and mollusks.

Weakfish

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Weakfish

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, inlet 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.

White Marlin

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - White Marlin

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 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.

Remarks:

Uses its bill to stun fast-moving fish, then turns to consume them; spawning procedures unknown; ranges throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean; feeds on squid and pelagic fish.

White Grunt

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - GruntBody color light bluish-gray, head with horizontal blue stripes, white underbelly; black blotch on peropercle; margin of each scale bronze; large bright orange mouth; scales above leteral 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 fish.

Yellowfin Grouper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Yellow Fin Grouper

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.

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

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Yellow Mouth Grouper

Color tan or brown with darker spots; spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines; distinct yellow was 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

Remarks:

Undergoes sex reversal, young individuals female, older individuals becoming male; young fish are bi-colored, dark above white below; feeds on small fish and crustaceans.

Yellowtail Snapper

Southwest Florida Saltwater Fish - Yellow Tail Snapper

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.

Remarks:

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