This long, slim sport fish exhibits a broad, depressed head and jutting lower jaw, and dark lateral stripes extend eye to tail. Cobia grow to an average of 30 pounds and are found in inlets, bays, among mangroves and around buoys, pilings, and wrecks.
A black lateral line marks the Common Snook. Its silvery body displays a high, divided dorsal fin, sloping forehead, large mouth, protruding lower jaw and yellow pelvic fin. Found along inshore coastal areas, mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and on reefs and pilings, catches typically range from five to eight pounds.
Brownish-gray with dark markings on sides, the Gag Grouper displays a serrated spur at the bottom of its preopercle. Its dark anal and caudal fins have a white margin. Like the Black Grouper, young are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow, commonly up to 25 pounds.
Weighing in at 800 pounds, the Goliath is the largest of the Grouper family and is protected from harvest by law. The fish has unusually small eyes, its head and fins are covered with small black spots, and dark bars are prominent on its sides. These fish are often found hanging out around reefs, docks and on ledges.
Gray (Mangrove) Snapper
Dark brown or gray with reddish-orange spots along the sides, Mangrove Snapper feature
two conspicuous canine teeth in the upper jaw and dark or reddish dorsal fin borders.
A dark horizontal band from snout through eye is prominent when they are young. Adults, which normally grow to 10 pounds, occupy coral or rocky reefs.
Commonly weighing in at 40 pounds, the Greater Amberjack is the largest of its genus.
It is typically spotted around rocky reefs, debris and wrecks. A dark stripe extends from nose
to dorsal fin and “lights up” when the fish is feeding on its diet of squid, fish and crustaceans.
The Barracuda is a sleek, silvery predatory fish. Small black blotches can be found on its lower side, and diagonal dark bars on its green-hued upper side. Barracuda grow up to 6’ and 100 pounds. This lightning-fast swimmer should be treated with caution. Attacks on people have occurred, and the flesh of larger fish can be toxic.
Hogfish (Hog Snapper)
The Hogfish’s deep, strongly compressed body grows to 3’ and usually displays as reddish hues. A large dark spot sits at the base of its soft dorsal fin and its mouth is protrusible. The entire head nape is purplish-brown in large males, and a dark crescent marks the base of the caudal fin.
The Permit is gray with blue blending into silvery sides, and sometimes reflects golden tints around the breast. It features more than two dozen soft dorsal and anal rays. A small Permit has teeth on its tongue; an adults commonly grows up to 40 pounds. Permit are found around wrecks and debris, on grass or sand flats and in channels.
Redfish (Red Drum)
One of Florida’s most popular sport fish, Redfish have a copper-bronze body with 1 to many spots at the base of the tail. In winter, redfish are found in seagrass, over muddy or sandy bottoms, or near oysters bars. Redfish chase shrimp, crabs, mullet, pinfish, and killifish.
Brownish-red with a scarlet-orange mouth, the Red Grouper is a bottom-dwelling fish that commonly grows to 15 pounds. Blotches on its sides appear, and the fish has a second spine of dorsal fin longer than its others. Its squared-off tail features a margin of soft dorsal black with white at its midfin, and black dots around the eyes.
The dark green or grey Spotted Seatrout has distinct spots scattered on its body, prominent canine teeth and an elongated soft dorsal fin that has no scales. Seatrout can be found inshore near seagrass meadows, mangrove-fringed shorelines, and deep holes and channels above oyster bars. Small Seatrout eat large amounts of shrimp and crustaceans while larger Seatrout prefer to feed on mullet.
Famed nibblers, Sheepshead grow up to eight pounds, feeding on mollusks and crustaceans. They are identified by five or six distinct vertical black bars on silvery sides, with prominent teeth and sharp spines on dorsal and anal fins. Smaller Sheepshead are found around oyster bars, seawalls and tidal creeks, gathering in spring to spawn over rocks, reefs and navigation markers.
The Tomtate is an important food source for larger reef fishes. A commonly used baitfish, it reaches 10″-11” and a pound in weight. Featuring light coloring overall and a yellow to brown stripe from head to tail fin, the Tomtate also touts a bright orange mouth. A black blotch at the base of its tail fin fades away in larger specimens.
The White Grunt is known for its audible “grunt,” produced by grinding the pharyngeal teeth, with its air bladder acting as amplifier. This species is bluish-gray with a head of horizontal blue stripes, a white underbelly and a black blotch on its preopercle. Like the Tomtate, the White Grunt has a large bright-orange mouth. Catches average 1.5 pounds.