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Home / Fishing / Fish Species


  • Spotted Seatrout
  • Weakfish
  • Sand Seatrout
  • Silver Seatrout
  • Red Drum
  • Black Drum
  • Atlantic Croaker
  • Silver Perch
  • Spot
  • Northern Kingfish
  • Southern Kingfish
  • Gulf Kingfish
  • The Croaker Family
    Despite the unglamorous name, the Croaker family encompasses many of Florida's most popular game and food fish, including the two that would head any list of statewide inshore favorites - the Spotted Seatrout and the Redfish. Moreover, all these fish are cooperative strikers, good gamesters and tasty table fare. And most of them are routinely caught by shorehound anglers as well as boaters. None of the fish covered in this section are common in the Bahamas or Caribbean Islands.

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    spottedseatrout.gif (28014 bytes)

    (Cynoscion nebulosus)
    OTHER NAMES: Trout, Speckled Trout, Speck
    RANGE: All Florida coasts.
    HABITAT: Spotted Seatrout can be caught in virtually any of Florida's inshore waters, from the outside surf to far up coastal rivers, and, at times, in fairly deep Gulf water. Most commonly caught from spring through fall on shallow grassy flats and in grass-lined channels and holes. During cold snaps, they run for up coastal rivers.
    DESCRIPTION: Streamlined shape; large mouth with prominent canine teeth; color gray or silvery with many prominent black spots on sides. Background may be quite dark, or gold, when fish are in back bays or streams.
    SIZE: Usually 1-2 pounds; common on both coasts to about four pounds. Largest fish, both in average size and maximum size, come from East Central region, where fish to 10 pounds are taken at times and where potential is to 15 pounds or more. Gulf Coast trout are considered large at 5-8 pounds, but can top 10. World and Florida records 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.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Spinning, baitcasting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting. Best natural baits are live shrimp, live baitfish and strips of cut Mullet or Pinfish. Most popular lures are bait-tail jigs, swimming plugs and topwater plugs. Poppers are productive flyrod lures over the flats; large streamers work in all waters
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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    weakfish.gif (29343 bytes)

    (Cynoscion regalis)
    OTHER NAMES: Gray Trout, Northern Trout
    RANGE: From North Florida, south to Cape Canaveral; stragglers perhaps to Fort Pierce on the East Coast.
    HABITAT: Most fishing for Weakfish takes place in the Jacksonville area and Port Canaveral. This species prefers deeper water, as a rule, than its spotted cousin; channels, deep holes, basins and harbors.
    DESCRIPTION: Silhouette similar to the spotted seatrout, but markings take the form of irregular wavy lines instead of spots. Prominent canine teeth.
    SIZE: Average is 1-3 pounds. Does not grow as large in Florida as in northeastern states, although fish over 5 pounds are possible. World record 19 pounds, 2 ounces; Florida record 10 pounds.
    FOOD VALUE: Very good.
    GAME QUALITIES: Less of a surface brawler than the Speckled Trout, but gives a good account of itself on light gear.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Spinning and baitcasting; fly fishing usually difficult. Weakfish bite best on live shrimp, but will take live baitfish and strips of fish. Best lures are jigs, worked slow and deep
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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    sandseatrout.gif (28635 bytes)

    SAND SEATROUT "White Trout"
    (Cynoscion arenarius)
    OTHER NAMES: Sand Trout
    RANGE: All Florida coasts.
    HABITAT: Most are caught in deep portions of bays and channels on the Gulf Coast, but are preset on the Atlantic side as well. Generally prefers hard sand or shell bottom, but sometimes mixes with Speckled Trout on grass flats.
    DESCRIPTION: Often confused with the Silver Trout (see next), and both can be confused with the Weakfish (previous) but note that, with rare exception, the Weakfish is found in the Atlantic and both the others in the Gulf. 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: Smaller ones with skin on are tasty panfish. Those over a pound or so produce mild-flavored fillets.
    GAME QUALITIES: Short runs. Fun, but no challenge.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning tackle is best. Favored baits are shrimp, live or dead, and small strips of fish or squid. Small leadhead jigs are tops as artificials.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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    silverseatrout.gif (31790 bytes)

    (Cynoscion nothus)
    OTHER NAMES: Silver Trout
    RANGE: All Florida coasts, but more plentiful in the upper half of the state.
    HABITAT: Basically, this is a fish of open water, but most of them are caught by Florida anglers during colder seasons, when they invade the deep channels of harbors and bays.
    DESCRIPTION: Similar in appearance to, and often confused with, the White Trout (preceding), but is smaller and of a decidedly more silvery hue overall.
    SIZE: Average is 6 to 10 inches; an occasional fish may reach or slightly exceed one pound.
    FOOD VALUE: A fine panfish, but seldom large enough to make filleting worthwhile. Best prepared by scaling and drawing, then pan-frying.
    GAME QUALITIES: Generally too small to put up much resistance, but can put a bend in a light spinning rod when being hauled up from deep water.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning tackle with small hooks and pieces of shrimp or cut fish. Willingly hit leadhead jigs. A tandem rig works very well - made by using a very small jig as a trailer behind a larger one that sinks faster. Combine the two by tying a foot of light monofilament line to the eye of the front jig, then tying the eye of the smaller jig to the other end.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing.

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    reddrum.gif (32848 bytes)

    "Redfish" (Sciaenops ocellatus)
    OTHER NAMES: Red Bass, Channel Bass, Drum
    RANGE: All Florida coasts.
    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 and along the upper half of the East Coast, especially in the fall. Adults move offshore to spawn and are sometimes encountered in open water in large schools. 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, and the potential in Florida is about 60. World record 94 pounds, 2 ounces; Florida record 51 pounds, 8 ounces.
    FOOD VALUE: Redfish up to around 10 pounds rank among the favorite fish of most anglers. Red portions of flesh do not have objectionable taste when fresh. Large Redfish are protected at this writing, and not the best of fare anyway.
    GAME QUALITIES: Fine gamester. Strength, stamina and fairly long, bullish runs are its trademarks.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: All kinds of casting tackle, including fly, are successfully used on Redfish of all sizes. Surf rods and light-to-medium saltwater outfits are good for beach, bridge, pier and offshore fishing. Redfish are ravenous feeders that will take live baitfish, crabs and shrimp, and also dead or cut baits from the same sources. Live shrimp and minnows make the very best baits for shallow coastal fishing; live Pinfish, small Mullet or similar baitfish for angling in deeper water. Most productive artificials are weedless spoons, plastic-tail jigs and topwater plugs, but many swimming plugs also work. Large streamers and poppers do the job for fly fishermen.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

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    blackdrum.gif (43852 bytes)

    (Pogonias cromis)
    OTHER NAMES: Drum, Striped Drum
    RANGE: All Florida coasts.
    HABITAT: Surf and estuarine areas. Most consistently productive fisheries for big Drum are found in the St. Marys River estuary of the northeast coast, the Indian River, Tampa Bay and the Suwannee River estuary. 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 (which see). Only novices will be confused, however, because 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; Florida record 93 pounds.
    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.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Surf tackle and saltwater boat rods are used when targeting big fish, but even the lunkers can be caught rather easily on spinning and casting tackle with a bit of patience. Fly fishing is a challenge. Any sort of crustacean, from shrimp to cut blue crab to whole small crab, makes fine bait for Drum. Cut fish and squid work fairly well. Drum are not avid lure-chasers but can be taken on slowly worked jigs in deep water, and by carefully presented streamer flies and jigs on the flats.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing.

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    atlanticcroaker.gif (42746 bytes)

    (Micropogonias undulatus)
    OTHER NAMES: Croaker, Hardhead
    RANGE: Occurs statewide but is more common in the upper half of Florida.
    HABITAT: Likes sand or shell bottom. It's a regular catch in many surf areas but also can be caught from sloughs and channels of inside waters, particularly those with soft bottom.
    DESCRIPTION: Similar to the Black Drum in outline, but a much smaller fish. Overall silvery or gold background with sometimes indistinct wavy lines on upper sides. Like the Black Drum, it has small barbels on underside of lower jaw.
    SIZE: Averages a pound or less, but sometimes reaches 3 pounds, or perhaps slightly more. World and Florida records 3 pounds, 12 ounces.
    FOOD VALUE: Small ones make good panfish; some are large enough to provide fillets. Either way, the flesh is of a mild flavor.
    GAME QUALITIES: Scrappy on very light tackle but, unfortunately, many are taken on heavy surf gear. Against a light line, they run fairly well and can also use the waves to good advantage in the surf.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning or baitcasting; light surf outfits. Top baits include live and dead shrimp, sand fleas, fiddler crabs, cut squid, cut fish. Croakers will also take small jigs. The combination of a little jig with a bit of shrimp on the hook is deadly.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing

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    silverperch.gif (36911 bytes)

    (Bairdiella chrysoura)
    OTHER NAMES: Yellowtail, Sugar Trout, Silver Trout
    RANGE: Inshore waters, mostly in the upper half of Florida. Seems to be more plentiful on the Gulf Coast, especially the Panhandle and Big Bend areas.
    HABITAT: Abundant in coastal rivers and streams during the winter sometimes schooling so thickly that catches could be made by the dozens, or even hundreds, if an angler were so inclined.
    DESCRIPTION: Grayish or steel back, silvery on sides. Fins and tail yellowish. Confused in name and appearance with the Silver Trout (which see), but this is not a Seatrout, although related. Absence of canine teeth is the giveaway.
    SIZE: Up to perhaps 10 inches; common at 4-6 inches.
    FOOD VALUE: An excellent panfish; seldom large enough to fillet. Rolled in meal and deepfried, they are delicious.
    GAME QUALITIES: Too small to provide much sport, but they at least provide some action on many winter days when the sought-after Redfish and Trout are hard to find.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning tackle with small hooks and pieces of shrimp, fish or squid. They readily hit artificials and are easily hooked on very small jigs.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing.

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    spot.gif (44738 bytes)

    (Leiostomus xanthurus)
    OTHER NAMES: Spotted Croaker, Mizzouki Croaker
    RANGE: Common on Atlantic Coast, except south of Palm Beach County. Also found in lesser numbers along most of the Gulf Coast.
    HABITAT: Very common in the surf, also bays and inlets.
    DESCRIPTION: Easily distinguished from other Croakers and similar panfish by its forked tail and prominent spot behind the gill cover. Brassy color with wavy or mottled lines above; fading to white on underside.
    SIZE: Averages 6-8 inches; rarely reaches one pound.
    FOOD VALUE: One of the most popular panfish.
    GAME QUALITIES: Spirited panfish.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning tackle, small hooks, pieces of cut fish, squid or shrimp.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing.

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    northernkingfish.gif (229615 bytes)

    (Menticirrhus saxatilis)
    OTHER NAMES: Northern Whiting
    RANGE: All Florida coasts.
    HABITAT: Surf, channels, passes, inlets and sand bars.
    DESCRIPTION: Dark bars are more vivid than on the Southern Kingfish.
    SIZE: Under 1 pound as a rule; sometimes 2 pounds. World record 1 pound, 4 ounces.
    FOOD VALUE: Good.
    GAME QUALITIES: Scrappy on light tackle.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning, casting and surf tackle. Best baits are sand fleas and pieces of shrimp or squid. Readily hits small jigs and flies. On bright, calm days, Whiting can be sight-fished at the very edge of the surf along many beaches.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing.

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    southernkingfish.gif (32398 bytes)

    (Menticirrhus americanus)
    OTHER NAMES: SouthernWhiting, King Whiting
    RANGE: All Florida coasts; more common to Atlantic.
    HABITAT: Roams sandy bottom. Abundant surf fish.
    DESCRIPTION: Large head with one barbel at tip of lower jaw. Flattened belly. Overall silvery color, tannish on top. Indistinct dark blotches on side.
    SIZE: Usually less than a pound. Sometimes 2 pounds. World record 1 pound, 14 ounces.
    FOOD VALUE: Bland but good.
    GAME QUALITIES: Runs well against very light tackle.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning, casting and surf tackle. Best baits are sand fleas and pieces of shrimp or squid. Readily hits small jigs and flies. On bright, calm days, Whiting can be sight-fished at the very edge of the surf along many beaches.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing.

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    gulfkingfish.gif (30961 bytes)

    (Menticirrhus littoralis)
    OTHER NAMES: Gulf Whiting
    RANGE: This is the common Whiting of the Gulf Coast, but occurs on Atlantic side as well.
    HABITAT: Surf, channels, passes, inlets and sand bars.
    DESCRIPTION: Body shape same as Southern Kingfish, but is silvery all over with no pattern on sides. Tail black-tipped.
    SIZE: Under 1 pound as a rule; sometimes 2 pounds.
    FOOD VALUE: Good.
    GAME QUALITIES: Scrappy on light tackle.
    TACKLE AND BAITS: Light spinning, casting and surf tackle. Best baits are sand fleas and pieces of shrimp or squid. Readily hits small jigs and flies. On bright, calm days, Whiting can be sight-fished at the very edge of the surf along many beaches.
    FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Still Fishing.

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