fishon.gif (8756 bytes)


GULF OF MEXICO FISH SPECIES

 

CREVALLE JACK: (Caranx hippos)


Other Names: Jack Crevalle, Crevally
Habitat: Crevalle jacks have variously been described as coastal pack wolves. The biggest Jacks often cruise in pairs and are usually found in or near major inlets and around offshore wrecks and reefs.
Description: Deep, compressed body. Blunt head with yellowish breast, white underside and black spot on rear edge of gill cover. Hard scutes forward of sickle-shaped tail.
Size: 10 to 12 pounds. World records 57 pounds.
Food Value: Poor by most tastes. Most of the meat is dark red and of strong flavor.
Game Qualities: Few fish can out-pull a Crevalle of equal size. The fight is unspectacular but dogged, the usual pattern being a long first run. Jacks use their flat sides to good advantage when waging a tug-o-war.
Baits: Fresh and frisky live fish. Top water plugs and fast-whipped jigs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



GREATER AMBERJACK: (Seriola dumerili)


Other Names: Amberfish, AJ, Coronado, Cavilia
Habitat: Adults are common at various depths, ranging from reefs several hundred feet deep to fairly shallow wrecks and reefs. Artificial reefs and wrecks all along the Gulf Coast often harbor huge schools of smaller Amberjack, and many Gulf wrecks are home to big ones as well.
Description: Overall brownish or goldish. Heavy body. No scutes forward of tail fin. Dark oblique line through the eye that ends at the dorsal fin.
Size: Over deep wrecks and reefs is 30-60 pounds. World record 155 pounds, 10 ounces.
Food Value: Excellent, smoked or fresh.
Game Qualities: A strong, punishing fighter that powers deep and defies lifting. Fairly long runs can also occur early in the fight. A great deal of stamina matches their strength. Novices may fight Amberjack of average size for an hour or longer.
Baits: Live and frisky fish. Surface plugs, spoons and jigs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Trolling.



SHEEPSHEAD: (Archosargus probatocephalus)


Other Names: Convict Fish
Habitat: Areas of rocky bottom, from far up coastal creeks and rivers, to well offshore. Loves dock and bridge pilings, artificial reefs and any other structure that wears barnacles and/or harbors crabs. Forages for crustaceans, at times, on shallow soft-bottom flats in the manner of Redfish or Bonefish.
Description: Black vertical bands stand out against dull white, gray or yellowish background. The mouth is full of massive, protruding teeth that give the fish its name, and distinguish it from the juvenile Black Drum, the only fish with which it is likely to be confused. Spines of the dorsal and anal fins are heavy and sharp.
Size: Less than a pound to 4 pounds. World record 221 pounds, 4 ounces.
Food Value: One of the best, thanks in great part to its shellfish diet.
Game Qualities: Not an aggressive strike; very tough on light tackle. Pulls hard and uses flat shape to advantage.
Baits: Small crabs, live or fresh-dead shrimp.
Type of Fishing: Still Fishing.



SPOTTED SEATROUT: (Cynoscion nebulosus)


Other Names: Trout, Speckled Trout, Spec
Habitat: Widely distributed throughout bays, jetties and passes and the surf. Found in shallower water from spring through fall, go to deeper water in winter. Most commonly caught from spring through fall on shallow grassy flats and in grass-lined channels and holes. During cold snaps, they run up coastal rivers.
Description: Streamlined shape; large mouth with prominent canine teeth; color grayish-black with silvery sides and many prominent black spots on sides. Background may be quite dark, or gold, when fish are in back bays or streams.
Size: Usually 1-3 pounds. World record 17 pounds, 7 ounces.
Food Value: A table favorite.
Game Qualities: Not exceedingly strong or active, but a hard striker on a variety of baits and quite sporty on light gear. Showy, surface-thrashing fighter but not a long runner. Sometimes jumps.
Baits: Live shrimp, pinfish or strips of cut mullet or pinfish. Bail-tail jigs, swimming and top water plugs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



SAND SEATROUT: (Cynoscion arenarius)


Other Names: White trout, Sand Trout
Habitat: Most are caught in deep portions of bays and channels on the Gulf. Generally prefers hard sand or shell bottom, but sometimes mixes with Speckled Trout on grass flats.
Description: This fish is tan or yellowish above and silver below. No spots. Canine teeth present.
Size: Usually one-half to one pound; rarely exceeds 2. World record 4 pounds, 5 ounces.
Food Value: Tasty panfish.
Game Qualities: Short runs. Fun, but no challenge.
Baits: Shrimp live or dead and small strips of fish or squid. Leadhead jigs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



RED DRUM: (Sciaenops ocellatus)


Other Names: Redfish, Rat Reds (undersized), Bull Reds (oversized), Drum
Habitat: Most popular fishing areas are along shell bars and rocky or grassy shorelines and on shallow flats, where they are usually fished by sight. Reds also forage in the surf of outside beaches nearly everywhere on the Gulf Coast especially in the fall. They roam into coastal rivers and creeks at any time of year, and in winter swarm into them, seeking warmer water.
Description: Usually bronze or reddish with white underside, but sometimes quite pale all over. Prominent ringed spot or several spots at base of tail fin; occasionally, without the spot. Silhouette is similar to black drum and colors can sometimes be confusing in very large fish, but the redfish has no chin barbels and the black drum never has the tail spot.
Size: Caught from less than a pound to 10 or 12 pounds; 30-pounders are not rare. World record 94 pounds, 2 ounces.
Food Value: Redfish up to around 10 pounds rank among the favorite fish of most anglers.
Game Qualities: Fine gamester. Strength, stamina and fairly long, bullish runs are its trademarks.
Baits: Redfish are ravenous feeders that will take live baitfish (minnows, pinfish, finger mullet, etc), crabs, shrimp and also dead or cut baits from the same source.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



BLACK DRUM: (Pogonias cromis)


Other Names: Drum, Striped Drum
Habitat: Like Redfish, small Drum forage along shell bars, shorelines and on shallow flats. Big fish stick mostly to inside channels and surf.
Description: Somewhat similar to the Redfish in shape, but usually distinguishable by color, and always by the fact that the Drum has barbels, or feelers on the underside of the lower jaw. Juvenile Drum have black vertical stripes on dusky white sides, as do Sheepshead. Black Drum lack the prominent sheep-like teeth that give the Sheepshead its name. The stripes fade with age and adult Drum are usually blackish above and white below, although some develop a decidedly bronze hue.
Size: Drum over 100 pounds have been caught and specimens weighing 30 to 50 pounds are not rare in many areas. Striped juveniles generally weigh 1-15 pounds. World record 113 pounds 1 ounce.
Food Value: Drum to about 6 or 8 pounds are as tasty as Redfish. Larger ones become quite coarse.
Game Qualities: Strong, bullish fight, but not so tough as the Redfish, size for size.
Baits: Cut fish, squid, shrimp, or crabs. Slowly worked jigs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Still Fishing.



GULF FLOUNDER: (Paralichthys albigutta)


Other Names: Flat Fish, Flounder
Habitat: The flounder is an ambush feeder and will wait patiently for something to eat that comes by its ambush spot. Running tidal water in small cuts or rocky areas are excellent places to find flounder. They sometimes bury themselves under sand or silt as they wait for food to enter their area. Prime fishing season is during the "flounder run" in the fall. Gigging is a popular method for taking flounder. This is done by either wading with a bright light (Coleman lantern) and "gigging" or spearing the fish with a (multi pronged) gig as it lays waiting for its dinner. Special flat bottom boats, with an air motor and bright lights, are also used for gigging flounder.
Description: It has a laterally compressed body (fish lies on its side rather than on the abdomen) and always looks up. Brown or olive background, liberally marked with both dark blotches and white spots; there are three prominent eye-like spots (ocelli). The down side is white.
Size: It averages 1-3 pounds, tops is 5 or 6. World record 6 pounds, 4 ounces.
Food Value: One of the best.
Game Qualities: Moderate runs. Fun on light gear.
Baits: Taken mostly with live fish bait, Finger Mullet are favorites. Also will hit live or dead shrimp and cut baits.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.




BLUEFISH: (Pomatomus saltatrix)


Other Names: Blue, Chopper, Anchoa
Habitat: Many are caught each summer by anglers drifting shallow grass beds for Speckled Trout. Runs of giant Blues from 8 pounds to occasionally 20 or more, sometimes occur offshore, usually in late summer or fall, but these are unpredictable.
Description: Color is steel blue or dark green above, shading to silvery white below. Dark spot usually shows at base of pectoral fin. Large mouth with prominent teeth. Forked tail.
Size: Averages 1-3 pounds in most coastal waters of Florida, with catches to 6 or 7 pounds always possible. During runs of big fish, generally in the spring, blues as heavy as 20 pounds or so. World record 31 pounds, 12 ounces.
Food Value: Small Bluefish make fine table fare if broiled or pan-fried soon after being landed the same day if possible.
Game Qualities: Outstanding fighter at all sizes. Strong runs and frequent jumps.
Baits: Any popular live bait and cut fish, squid. Noisy surface plugs, jigs, spoons and swimming plugs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



COBIA: (Rachycentron canadum)


Other Names: Ling, Crab Eater, Lemonfish, Bacalao
Habitat: Ling are migratory fish, moving into warm waters during the summer. Cobia like shade and hide under buoys, platforms, anchored shrimpboats or anything that provides shade, even floating debris. General fishing season is April thru September.
Description: In the water, Cobia look very much like sharks. The usual color is brown or dark gray above, whitish on the underside, with a dark stripe running from gills to base of tail. The striped appearance is more vivid in juveniles. Several rather sharp finlets on the dorsal surface extend from behind the head to the dorsal fin.
Size: Common from 20 to 50 pounds; sometimes up to 80 pounds, and possibly to 100 or more. World record 135 pounds, 9 ounces
Food Value: Excellent, broiled, fried or smoked.
Game Qualities: A strong but unpredictable fighter. Usually clicks off fairly long, fast runs, and can fight deep with great stamina; however, many individuals put on lackluster fights if not pressured too hard saving their best efforts for after they are boasted!
Baits: Live Pinfish, Mullet, Cigar Minnows, Shrimp, and Crabs. Dead fish or squid are good too.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



TARPON: (Megalops atlanticus)


Other Names: Silver King, Sabalo
Habitat: Most fishing efforts for Tarpon are directed at live-baiting in channels and river mouths.
Description: Green or steel above, silver on sides and belly. Deep, thick body; forked tail. Long trailer at end of dorsal fin.
Size: From 12 inches or less to about 75 pounds, on average, although big fish of 100 to 150 pounds are numerous in many areas. World record 283 pounds, 4 ounces.
Food Value: None.
Game Qualities: Famous for the spectacle and frequency of its jumps. Giant Tarpon don't quite match the acrobatics of the smaller ones, but they leap frequently enough in shallow water, and with even more fury.
Baits: Dead mullet. Spoons, lipped plugs and swimming plugs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



TRIPLETAIL: (Lobotes surinamensis)


Other Names: Drift Fish, Leaf Fish, Black Fish
Habitat: The Tripletail is a true world traveler, drifting with ocean currents and often spotted by dolphin fishermen in weedlines or alongside floating debris. Many are found closer to shore in most coastal areas during warm months, and also in larger bays usually hanging around markers or trap floats.
Description: Deep, somewhat rounded shape gives it the appearance of an oversize panfish. Color varies but is usually brownish and mottled. Head is concave above the mouth. Name derives from similarity and near juxtaposition of the dorsal, caudal and anal fins, resembling three tails.
Size: Most run 2-12 pounds; but rare catches reach 30 or more. World record 42 pounds, 5 ounces.
Food Value: One of the best.
Game Qualities: Despite its clumsy looks, the Tripletail is a good gamefish in all respects. It willingly strikes artificial lures and its fight is characterized by short, frantic runs and startling jumps. Big ones in deep water are also good at bulldogging. Like Cobia with which they frequently share the shade of a navigation structure Tripletail are adept at fouling lines.
Baits: Live shrimp and small fish. Strip baits and dead shrimp. Plastic and bucktail jigs, mirror lures.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



LADYFISH: (Elops saurus)


Other Names: Ten-Pounder, Skipjack, Chiro
Habitat: Ladyfish occur from the open sea off beaches and shorelines. They seem to have no preferred surroundings, but follow wherever good feeding conditions take them whether over shallow flats or in deep holes and channels. They love to feed at night and are common around lighted areas of piers and docks. They often gather in large schools.
Description: A slender, silvery fish with deeply forked tail and large, scoop-shaped lower jaw. Said to be mistaken at times for the Bonefish, but the error is difficult to conceive of, given the big mouth and jumping ability of the Ladyfish.
Size: Usually 1-2 pounds. World record 5 pounds, 14 ounces.
Food Value: Edible but not very appetizing; many bones and flesh is mushy.
Game Qualities: One of the wildest acrobats, always getting off spectacular and frequent jumps. Larger ones are strong pullers and can uncork surprisingly long runs.
Baits: Small live fish or shrimp or cut strips. Jigs and small topwater plugs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



RED SNAPPER: (Lutjanus campechanus)


Other Names: North American Red, Red Snapper, Genuine Red, Snapper, Pargo Colorado
Habitat: Red Snappers are regarded as one of the best tasting of all fish and they support substantial commercial and recreational fisheries throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Although larger red snappers generally stay in deeper offshore waters, juveniles stray toward shore, ocassionally even being caught around jetties. Snappers of all sizes tend to congregate around some type of underwater structure. Oil rigs, ship wrecks and reefs all provide fishermen with excellent snapper fishing.
Description: Overall deep rosy red with a dark fringe around the dorsal and caudal fins.
Size: Common from 5 to 15 pounds. Usual maximum is about 20 pounds, although the Red Snapper can rarely run as high as 30 or 40 pounds. World record 50 pounds, 4 ounces.
Food Value: Excellent at all sizes.
Game Qualities: A hard-fighting fish that uses strong, head-shaking tactics rather than long runs.
Baits: Snappers are opportunistic carvivores that normally feed on crab, squid, shrimp and small fish. The preferred bait of most snapper fishermen is squid. Since snappers are bottom dwelling fish, heavy weights are needed to get the baits down through the maze of trigger fish and spadefish which live in the water column about the reefs.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



VERMILLION SNAPPER: (Rhomboplites aurorubens)


Other Names: Beeliner, Mingo, Cajon
Habitat Offshore on irregular, reeflike bottom in waters ranging from 80 to 350 feet deep. most Vermilion Snappers are caught from April through November.
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.
Size: Average less than a pound, may rarely reach 5 pounds. World Record 7 pounds.
Food Value: Delicious fried, baked, and broiled. The roe is excellent pan fried in butter or broiled
Game Qualities: Poor. Most are caught on too-heavy tackle at considerable depth not a sporting combination for a small fish
Baits: Small crabs, shrimps, squids, small fishes, and fish eggs. Small jigs worked slowly near the bottom.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



GRAY SNAPPER: (Lutjanus griseus)


Other Names: Mangrove Snapper, Black Snapper, Mango, Caballerote
Habitat: At a size of 10 or 12 inches, nearly all Gray Snapper make their homes in deeper waters and are fished mostly over reefs, artificial reefs, wrecks and Gulf ledges, although big ones can also be caught in deep channels and passes along the coast.
Description: Gray or greenish above and light on the underside, usually with an overall reddish hue that can range from coppery to bright brick red. Obvious black line runs from the snout through the eye to just below the dorsal fin. This line darkens when the fish feeds or gets excited.
Size: Grays can average 2-6 pounds in deep water, and reach perhaps 20 pounds or more. World record 17 pounds.
Food Value: Excellent up to a pound or so. Large ones are stronger in taste but still very good.
Game Qualities: The little fellows can be easy to catch on dead shrimp or cut bait, but as they grow they become more difficult to fool. It's generally necessary to trim down the size of hooks, leaders and terminal tackle. When hooked, Gray Snappers make strong runs, then wage a bulldogging battle all the way to boatside.
Baits: Live shrimp, minnows, crabs, cut shrimp, squid, or baitfish.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.



KING MACKEREL: (Scomberomorus cavalla)


Other Names: Kingfish, Sierra, Cavalla
Habitat: Roam in schools, close to shore or many miles out, sometimes near tide lines, oil platforms, reefs, and anchored shrimp boats. Fishing season is generally May through October.
Description: Adults are heavy bodied, with large mouth and razor teeth. Elongated body is greenish-gray above but mostly silvery and unmarked, except in juveniles, which have spots.
Size: 20 pounds to 50 pounds. Potential is up to 75 pounds. World Record 90 pounds.
Food Value: Depends on taste of the individual. Flesh is rich and oily. Fine broiled or smoked.
Game Qualities: Kings are about as fast as Wahoo, although they seldom get that acknowledgment. Regardless, they are strong and sizzling fighters at any size.
Baits: Bait strips or live bait, including shrimp. Spoons or nylon jigs.
Type of Fishing: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



SPANISH MACKEREL: (Scomberomorus maculatus)


Other Names: Sierra
Habitat: Largely coastal and roam in large schools, relatively close to shore, but roams offshore at times. Fishing season is generally May through September, August is prime.
Description: Dark above with silvery sides. Many spots, which are both yellow and brown. The body is proportionately deeper than with juvenile King Mackerel, and the yellow spots appear rounder and brighter, but if in doubt, the only true identifier is the lateral line, which tapers rather gently from front to back with no severe dip.
Size: Common at 1-7 pounds. World record 13 pounds.
Food Value: If you like rich, rather dark fillets, they are great broiled or skinned and fried. Good smoked, too.
Game Qualities: Outstanding on light tackle; very fast runs.
Baits: Small silvery baitfish, squid, live shrimp and drifted strips. Silver spoons or white nylon jigs.
Type of Fishing: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



BLACK GROUPER: (Mycteroperca bonaci)


Other Names: Bonaci Arara Aguaji
Habitat: Blacks of many sizes are commonly found around the edges of reefs, from about 30 feet of water out to the deepest dropoffs. Even big fish, however, may roam to much shallower patch reefs, especially in cooler seasons.
Description: Overall color is dark gray. Markings are blacker than those of the Gag, and form box-like patterns. Fins are black; their edges also black or deep blue.
Size: Frequently exceeds 50 pounds in weight and can top 100. World record 114 pounds.
Food Value: Excellent.
Game Qualities: Considered best of the Groupers.
Baits: Frisky, live fish (pinfish, blue runners). Large cut bait.
Type of Fishing: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



GAG GROUPER: (Mycteroperca microlepis)


Other Names: Gray Grouper, Grass Grouper, Copper Belly, Black Grouper
Habitat: Both juveniles and adults frequent around structure at virtually any fishable offshore depth.
Description: Gray or light brown with wavy markings on the side that generally do not form boxes or circles. Edges of fins are bluish. Color deepens to dark brown shortly after removal from water.
Size: 10-20 pounds. World record 80 pounds, 6 ounces.
Food Value: Excellent; firm white flesh.
Game Qualities: An aggressive striker and hard fighter at all depths.
Baits: Live baitfish (pinfish, mullet). Leadhead jigs. Deep diving plugs for trolling.
Type of Fishing: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.



GRAY TRIGGERFISH: (Blistes capriscus)


Other Names: Common, Triggerfish, Common Turbot, Cucuyo
Habitat: Mostly found well offshore.
Description: Uniform dark gray in color, sometimes with darker blotches on the sides, especially in smaller fish.
Size: Averages 1-3 pounds. World record 13 pounds, 9 ounces.
Food Value: Excellent. Many consider Triggerfish fillets to be tasty. They are, however, more difficult to clean because of their tough skins.
Game Qualities: The small mouth of the Triggerfish makes them difficult to hook, but once they are on a line they put up an outstanding fight against light tackle.
Baits: Shrimp and any cut bait. Plastic lures.
Type of Fishing: Drifting; Still Fishing.



ATLANTIC SPADEFISH: (Chaetodipterus faber)


Other Names: Striped Angelfish, Chrivita Chiva
Habitat: Likes a variety of structure. Common around navigation markers and pilings in deep channels and sometimes well offshore.
Description: Deep, rounded body. First rays of posterior, dorsal and anal fin are long and pointed. Color: black vertical bands on a grayish white background. Bands may be vague or almost missing in large specimens.
Size: Averages 2-3 pounds. World record 14 pounds.
Food Value: Good.
Game Qualities: Difficult to hook, but a strong, Jack-like fighter.
Baits: Shrimp and cut fish.
Type of Fishing: Still Fishing.



BLACKTIP SHARK: (Carcharhinus limbatus)


Other Names: Small Blacktip
Habitat: Occurs from the open sea to the coast.
Description: Gray above, white below. Tips of dorsal and pectoral fins are black, as is the lower lobe of the caudal fin. Short snout and stout body. Dorsal fin begins at a point above the rear portion of the pectoral fin.
Size: Common from 5-30 pounds; seldom reaches 100 pounds, but reported to 200 or more. World record 270 pounds, 9 ounces.
Food Value: Very good.
Game Qualities: Pound for pound, probably the scrappiest of sharks. Wages a wild battle on light tackle, marked by long runs and frantic jumps, especially in shallow water.
Baits: Shrimp and any sort of cut bait.
Type of Fishing: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.