This site is about Florida’s amazing saltwater fish. I (Vern) spent 11 years shore-fishing, pier-fishing, wade-fishing, boat fishing, and dream-fishing the incredible waters around Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ft. Desoto, Miami, the Florida Keys, Bradenton, Sarasota, Melbourne, Sebastien Inlet… and the memories I have are incredible! Hoping for another decade or three of the same. Enjoy these profiles of Florida’s spectacular gamefish. Click one of the links below for huge volumes of information about some of the best gamefish on the planet.
Florida Inshore Fish
1. Amberjack. ()
Very strong fighters! Part of the Jack family. These are very strong fish that are typically in the 40 lb. range. and that’s the low-end of their range for adults! Juveniles are also great fun and may be found in shallower water less than 40 feet. The Greater Amberjack has a distribution from the eastern US seaboard down to all coasts of Florida, around to the Gulf of Mexico, and into South America and even Africa, India, Thailand, and Australia. This extended distribution means there won’t be any shortage of this excellent gamefish in the near future. 40 – 176 lbs. in 60 to 240 feet of water. All info about them here – https://sta.uwi.edu/fst/lifesciences/sites/default/files/lifesciences/documents/ogatt/Seriola_dumerili%20-%20Greater%20Amberjack.pdf More good info here – https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/jacks/greater-amberjack/
2. Black Drum.
In Tampa, I’d go stand on the dock in back of our apartment and toss out shrimp on a hook across the canal to the neighbor’s wooden dock. There were often times big black drum just waiting for me to get off work. Good fighters, and delicious. Don’t eat the big ones, they typically have a large number of worms. Eat the younger ones within the limit and you’ll thank me someday. Easy to catch, fun to catch, and great eating. All three boxes checked.
My Uncle John, aka FISHRAT Keryeski, encouraged me to join him at Sebastian Inlet on the East Coast of Florida for some Blues fishing. Now, we don’t have many blues in Tampa – if any. I’ve never caught any. I wasn’t too keen on it after learning they’re only an average of a foot long or so. He said it was a blast. I relented and joined him. It was pier fishing at its finest. Blues are super aggressive when feeding and there’s blood in the water as they make chopped meat out of anything in the area when they’re in a frenzy. Fish for Bluefish if you get a chance. You can’t NOT hook one. We caught dozens in a couple of hours until they moved out of range of our 50-meter casts with huge rods – bring a BIG rod.
I’ve probably bent more hooks and lost more fish to cobia than any other fish. In the flats around the bridges in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Cobia go 20-30 lbs easy and can bend the strongest metal hooks. I’ve yet to try it, but next time I target this Cobia species, I’m going to tie on DOUBLE hooks. That’ll teach ’em. I hope!
5. Dorado. (Dolphin, Mahi-mahi)
Super fun Florida fish, that are like road-runner in the cartoon. They sprint off when hooked and sometimes break the surface. They have a burst of energy that is unreal to the new angler for this fish. The real fun of catching these dolphins is how they taste in a Mahi-mahi sandwich. Mouthwatering excellence. I found these often at the Gandy Bridge in Tampa, Florida at night. They blaze through the water, creating fluorescence. Super cool target species.
6. Florida Pompano.
7. Gator Trout.
Gator Trout have very soft flesh, that when cooked right (broiled) in the oven, can produce exceptional cuisine. I usually throw some curry powder in with mine for the flavor, and I can eat 3 whole trout in a sitting. Gator Trout are plentiful and rather easy to catch. You’ll know you have one when you see the two oversized fangs in the top of the jaw.
9. Gulf Flounder.
Dragging shrimp across the bottom is inevitably going to give you either flounder or pinfish. Well, both. Flounder are really nice eating fish, so it’s worth all the shrimp you’ll lose to the pinfish. Usually. Sometimes. 😛
10. Crevalle jack. (Jacks)
When you see the water suddenly explode around you in a feeding frenzy, you can be sure it’s JACKS. Crevalle Jacks are vicious eaters. They corral bait into a small area and have an all-you-can-eat smash-and-grab buffet. Very strong fighting fish, but not great eating. Still, I’ve had them and the white meat is not bad at all!
12. Red-bellied Pacu. (like piranha)
I drove down to Miami often from Tampa and Clearwater. One time, I had to relieve myself. I stopped by a canal and took care of business. Then I saw some fish in the overgrown canal. I grabbed my ever-present rod and lures from the trunk and threw some in the canal, dragging the very small lures slowly. BAM! Fish on. This happened continually for 40 minutes as every cast produced a fish.
Whether these were red-bellied Pacu that are supposed to prefer “Seeds” and other vegetarian items, or these were red-bellied piranhas, I’m not sure. The teeth were very sharp like Piranha, but not as triangular. I’m sure they were Pacu. This started my fascination with the species and why I’m including it in my saltwater fishing website – when it is primarily a freshwater fish! Anyway, great fighting fish and a joy to catch as many as you can for hours on end.
13. Redfish. (Reds, Red Drum)
Another fantastic eating fish is the Redfish (Red Drum). We’ve probably eaten more reds than any other Florida fish because they’re plentiful and so delicious. Target Redfish as your main, or high-priority focus while in Florida.
14. Sheepshead. (Sheepies)
Early on when I was focused on catching Redfish and Snook, I wondered why some people were sitting on the piers and on bridges dropping crab, shells, shrimp down the pylons. I figured they were going for snapper of some sort. Nope. Sheepshead is the best-eating fish I’ve ever tasted, with the exception of Wahoo. It’s impossible to call one better than the other. Sheepshead are definitely worth your time! Some people specialize in this soft-fleshed fish. Try it while you’re in Florida, and thank us later.
Snook are powerful saltwater fish dwelling under and around docks and boats in residential canals and in the shallows. When the water gets cold, you can find them bunched up by the hundreds in some sections of canals. If netting snook were legal, you could take home a truckload. Some poachers do exactly that. Snook are some of the most fun to catch Florida fish that we have. Take care of the stocks and we’ll enjoy this resource for decades to come!
17. Tarpon. ()
Like silver-torpedos launching into the air above the surface of the saltwater around Florida, these are some of the best fighting fish you’ll ever have the pleasure of catching. Weighing as much as a full-grown man, and there’s always the possibility of one flying into someone on the boat and knocking them off. No kidding. Tarpon are acrobatic and fierce… and horrible eating. Great to catch, but let them go as fast as possible, you’re aren’t man enough to eat this fish!
18. Tripletail. ()
Florida Offshore Fish
1. Atlantic Sailfish.
2. Black Marlin.
3. King Mackerel.
4. Spanish Mackerel.
Best eating fish in the WORLD as far as I’m concerned. I was living on Oahu, Hawaii for a few years and I went to Kauai with my ‘then’ fiance. I had Wahoo in Walnut sauce at this incredible restaurant overlooking the beach. I died that night. Best fish I’ve ever eaten. I went back a number of times to make sure. I’m sure. Get some if you can, and let me know in the comments what you thought.