What You Might Catch on the Southern Comfort IV
Fishing along the southern coast of Florida offers a wide variety of fish to catch.
Click the names below to learn more about that fish!
Nothing speaks a good day of Drift Fishing like a knock-down, drag out with a Wahoo! The Wahoo’s body is elongated and covered with small, scarcely visible scales; the back is an iridescent blue, while the sides are silvery, with a pattern of vertical blue bars. These colors fade rapidly at death. The mouth is large, and both the upper and lower jaws have a somewhat sharper appearance than those of Kingfish or Spanish Mackerel. Wahoo can swim up to 80 mph and are one of the fastest fish in the sea. They mostly feed on smaller fish and squid.
- Found Where: These are primarily solitary fish and can usually be found offshore in and around rocky ledges or 20-30 foot dips in the sea floor. Wahoo’s can travel in pods at times and if they do, they can be spotted over artificial reefs and wrecks in a hundred feet plus of water within a few miles from the coastline.
- Food Value: Wahoo is a white, delicate fish and highly regarded by many gourmets! Excellent eating!
- Florida Record: 139 pounds
- Techniques: Trolling and Drift Fishing deep water ledges, wrecks or reefs
Mutton Snapper are a beautifully colored whitish-gray or yellow toned with greenish or yellowish-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; and a dark spot on side underneath dorsal fin. Mutton Snapper spawn June through August; feeds on crustaceans and small fish.
- Found Where: Mutton Snapper are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean along the Florida Coastline. These fish are generally near shore or offshore on coral or rocky reefs and wrecks.
- Food Value: This is an excellent mild-tasting fish that can be broiled or baked.
- Size: Offshore catches common 3 to 6 pounds
- Florida Record: 30 pounds, 4 ounces
- Techniques: Still Fishing, Casting or Drifting.
A Florida saltwater fishing guide will earn his keep during Kingfish season. Kingfish are iridescent bluish green on the back; sides silvery, streamlined body with tapered head; no black pigment on front of dorsal fin; lateral line starts high and drops sharply below the second dorsal fin; young fish often have yellow spots like those of the Spanish mackerel. Kingfish are a 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 small fish and squid.
- Found Where: Offshore fishing and nearshore occasionally taken from piers running into deep water.
- Food Value: Tastes fantastic when broiled or smoked
- Florida Record: 90 pounds
- Size: Averages 10-20 pounds but not uncommon to get a 25-40 pounder in the warmer waters or summer
- Techniques: Trolling, Drift Fishing, and Still Fishing
Back and upper sides olive to bluish with yellow spots; lower sides and belly with alternating narrow, longitudinal pink and yellow stripes; prominent mid-lateral yellow stripe begins at mouth and runs to tail, broadening as it passes the dorsal fins tail fin is yellow and deeply forked. Found mainly in tropical waters; spawns in midsummer; rarely exceeds 30 inches and 5 pounds in size; feeds on small fish and invertebrates.
- Found Where: Juveniles INSHORE on grass beds and back reefs; adults NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE over sandy areas near reefs.
- Food Value: Delicious when kept fresh!
- Size: Common to 3 pounds
- Florida Record: 8 pounds, 9 ounces
- Techniques: Still fishing over wrecks or reefs; Drift Fishing.
Fishing for Dolphin is a long, beautiful day spent deep in the blue waters off the Florida Coastline. Dolphin are also called Mahi-Mahi. These gorgeous fish are bright greenish blue above, yellow on sides, with capability of flashing purple, chartreuse, and a wide range of other colors. The single dark dorsal fin extends from just behind the head to the tail; anal fin margin concave and extending from anus to tail. Dolphin are one of the fastest-growing fish, thought to live no more than 5 years; swimming speed is estimated at 50 knots; spawns in warm ocean currents throughout much of the year; young found in sargassum weed; feeds on flying fish and squid.
- Found Where: Offshore in warm waters
- Food Value: Out of this world delicious and a true Florida delicacy!
- Size: Common to 30 pounds.
- Florida Record: 81 pounds
- Techniques: Casting, Drifting, and Trolling
Deep sea fishing in Florida often results in a battle with an Amberjack. Amberjack have a 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. Amberjacks are the largest of the jacks and feed on squid, fish, and crustaceans.
- Found Where : OFFSHORE species associated with rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks, typically in 60 - 240 feet of water; sometimes caught NEARSHORE in south Florida; juveniles associated with floating objects and may occur in water less than 30 feet deep.
- Food Value: Wonderful fresh or smoked.
- Size: Common to 40 pounds
- Florida Record: 142 pounds
- Techniques: Casting, Drifting, Still Fishing, and Trolling
A Florida Fishing Charter gem. Cobia are a long, slim fish with broad depressed head; lower jaw projects past 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. Cobia spawn in spring and early summer; feeds on crabs, squid, and small fish. They can often be seen basking in the sun. Cobia are very inquisitive fish, they often come right up to the boat where you can toss just about anything to them and hook up.
- Found Where: Inshore and Offshore inhabiting inlets, bays, and among mangroves; frequently seen around buoys, pilings, and wrecks.
- Food Value: Excellent. They have a very unique taste that some have to get used to at first.
- Size: Common to 30 pounds
- Techniques: Casting, Drifting, Still Fishing and Trolling.
- Florida Record: 130 pounds, 1 ounce
False Albacore is probably one of the most mistaken fish around. This fish belongs to the Mackerel family and is often confused with the Atlantic Bonito. These fish are usually fighters and love to run lines under boats or out to sea when caught. They have mottled striped backs and silvery bellies. Like tunas, they are streamlined, with a narrow tail base, a forked tail, and a row of small finlets behind the dorsal and anal fins.
- Found Where: This species has a wide range and can be found in the open waters from Maine, south all the way to Brazil and well as some inshore waters.
- Food Value: As fun as these fish are to catch, they make horrible table fare. They are either released when caught or commonly used as bait for other species. Chunks of False Albacore are great for catching Red Snapper or Tuna.
- Size: Common 10-30 pounds
- Florida Record: 35 pounds, 2 ounces
- Techniques: Drift fishing the shallows and trolling
Sailfish are a South Florida Drift Fishing staple and they are our State Saltwater Fish. They are beautiful to see and will give you a decent fight. Sailfish have dark blue coloring on top, brown-blue laterally, silvery white underbelly; upper jaw elongated in form of spear; first dorsal greatly enlarged in the form of a sail, with many black spots, body covered with embedded scales, blunt at end; lateral line curved above pectoral, then straight to base of tail. This is a rapid growing species, reaching 4 to 5 feet in a single year and swims at speeds up to 70 mph. Sailfish feed on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic fishes and squid.
- Found Where: This is an offshore species in south Florida associated with waters near the Gulf Stream. This species is very abundant here in the Atlantic and usually appear year round. Many Sailfish are also found off the Florida Panhandle near the 100 foot fathom line and prefer the warmer, upper layers of the ocean in that area.
- Food Value: “ALL SAILFISH WE CATCH ARE RELEASED SUCCESSFULLY”
- Size: Weight ranges from 30 to 60 pounds
- Florida Record: 126 pounds
- Techniques: Drift Fishing and Trolling
Florida Tuna is a fishing trip to be remembered as they run fast and will put up a good fight. The Blackfin Tuna has a bluish-black back with gray to silver sides and a white belly. A broad, brown stripe is located along the upper portion of the eye. There is a prominent yellow to golden-colored lateral band present on the sides. Small iridescent areas located on the sides of the abdomen are silvery. This area is sometimes marked with vertical rows of pale dots along with slightly elongate spots between these rows. Blackfin Tuna spawning occurs June to September in Florida waters. Various fish, squid, shrimp, crabs, constitute the Blackfin Tuna diet.
- Found Where: Found offshore in warmer water during summer months, on or near the surface usually near offshore reefs, along current lines over reefs and banks.
- Food Value: Excellent. The “filet mignon” of fish and perfect for Sushi!
- Size: Common 10 to 30 pounds
- Florida Record: 45 pounds, 8 ounces
- Techniques: Casting, Drifting, Still Fishing and Trolling.
Charter Boat Fishing trips on the Atlantic Coast of Florida can produce sporadic catches of Spanish Mackerel. Spanish Mackerel have a color of green on the back, shading to silver on sides, golden yellow irregular spots above and below lateral line; front of dorsal fin black; lateral line curves gently to base of tail. Spanish Mackerel are a schooling fish that migrates north in spring and returns to warmer waters of the south when ocean temps. Drop below 70 degrees. They feed on small fish and squid.
- Found Where: Entire South Florida area from the Gulf on to the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Swims over grass beds and reefs; absent from North Florida waters in the winter.
- Food Value: Great broiled or skinned and pan-fried. Also makes a good smoked dip!
- Size: Average catch weighs less than 2 pounds and is about 20-22 inches in length
- Florida Record: 12 pounds
- Techniques: Trolling, Still fishing over wrecks and reefs and drifting.
Grouper are traditionally a Florida deep sea fishing favorite. Most Grouper are 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 with white at mid-fin; black dots around the eyes. Grouper spawn in April and May; preferring water temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees F; feeds on squid, crustaceans, and fish.
- Found Where: Common throughout the South Florida waters from the Atlantic Coastline to the Gulf of Mexico. Bottom dwelling fish associated with hard bottom; juveniles OFFSHORE along with adults greater than 6 years old; fish from 1 to 6 years occupy NEARSHORE reefs.
- Food Value: This fish is a delicious and often a selection that can be found on menus worldwide.
- Size: Common to 15 pounds
- Florida Record: 42 pounds, 4 ounces
- Techniques: Trolling, Still fishing over wrecks or reefs; Drift Fishing.
This Snapper has a Vermillion Red body color, fading to pink on the lower sides, and the silver on the belly. They have fine diagonal to horizontal yellow stripes below the lateral line. It has a more streamlined body shape than most other Snappers. Vermillion Snappers spawn between late April and the end of September and they are a small, relatively slow-growing fish. They often swim in large schools suspended over large, rocky bottom protrusions called “lumps”. They feed on smaller fish and some crustaceans.
- Found Where: Although we do see and catch Vermillion Snapper in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida Coastline, these fish are more common to the northern Gulf of Mexico and the Alabama shorelines. This fish is a common sighting in and around offshore oil and gas platforms and loves to school above rocky ocean bottoms.
- Food Value: Excellent and mild tasting fish. They are best when kept fresh and eaten soon after catching.
- Size: Averages 1 to 2 pounds
- Florida Record: 7 pounds 3 ounces
- Techniques: Still Fishing, Casting and Drift Fishing