Top 10 Types of Fish in Florida to Catch
By Terry Tomalin
From record-breaking largemouth bass to tackle-busting sailfish and everything in-between, add these 10 species to your list of best types of fish in Florida to catch.
With more than 7,700 lakes, more than 11,000 miles of streams, rivers and waterways, and 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline, there is no shortage of types of fish in Florida nor places to catch them. So it’s no wonder that the state has produced more than 4,200 world records, more than any other state or country. So what are you waiting for? Get your rod, reel and hit the water.
SALTWATER FISH OF FLORIDA
Where to go: Lee County (area includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island); Charlotte County (area includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande); Florida Keys; Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater); Homosassa
Florida’s official state saltwater fish, this tackle buster inhabits tropical and subtropical waters. Sailfish usually travel alone or in small groups. The outstanding feature is the long, high first dorsal fin. Known for its high, acrobatic jumps, the sailfish is a favorite of blue-water anglers.
Where to go: Key West; Miami; Palm Beach
3. Spotted Sea Trout
Commonly known as speckled trout, it's a schooling species usually found in the shallow waters of bays and estuaries. It has two large canine teeth in the upper jaw and feeds mainly on shrimp and small baitfish in grassy areas. One of Florida’s most popular sportfish, spotted sea trout will hit everything from top water plugs to saltwater flies.
Where to go: Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater); Indian River Lagoon
Highly sensitive to changes in water temperature, snook are found in the state’s warmer waters. A strong, voracious predator, these types of fish in Florida will rip a fishing line to shreds. Great sport on light tackle, snook are a cagey prey but are well worth the time it takes to catch them.
Regulations: Vary from region to region in Florida.
Where to go: 10,000 Islands (area includes Naples, Marco Island and Everglades); Charlotte Harbor (area includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande); Jupiter Inlet
5. Red drum
Commonly known as redfish, this shallow-water schooling fish of Florida is found in both salt and brackish water on oyster bar, seagrass and mangrove habitats. It can be distinguished from the black drum by its lack of chin barbels and its more elongated body. It also has a large black spot (sometimes several spots) just before the tail. Once heavily over-fished, this species is now a conservation success story.
Where to go: Northwest and Northeast Florida; Southwest Florida, including Charlotte Harbor (area includes Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande) and Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater)
A generic name for several deep-water species, these types of fish in Florida are bottom-dwellers and important to both recreational and commercial fishermen. Red grouper and gag grouper (sometimes called black grouper) are most popular with anglers. Anglers typically “bottom fish” for these species, but during the cooler months, they can be caught in shallow water by trolling artificial lures.
Regulations: One of the heavily-regulated fish in Florida waters, grouper rules are constantly changing.
Where to go: Tampa Bay (area includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater); Fort Myers area (includes Fort Myers and Sanibel Island)
7. Red snapper
An offshore fish usually found in 60 to 440 feet. It's pinkish to red in color, and its pointed anal fin distinguishes it from other snappers. Juvenile red snapper once died by the millions in shrimp trawls, but new regulations have helped this species bounce back. Red snapper are considered one of the finest food fish of Florida's waters.
Regulations: Anglers must monitor rules, as there have been frequent changes to regulations between state and federal waters.
8. King mackerel
FRESHWATER FISH OF FLORIDA
9. Largemouth Bass
Florida’s official freshwater fish, the legendary largemouth has an international reputation. Anglers come from all over the world just to add a 10-pound bass to their “life list” of big fish. The king of the lakes and rivers, a big bass will eat just about anything.
Regulations: Some rules may vary from region to region.
Where to go: Lake Toho (Central Florida); Lake Okeechobee; Lake Istokpoga; Lake Kissimmee
A general term to describe a number of different species – including spotted sunfish, bluegill, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, warmouth – these fish are the mainstay for many young anglers. Catch them on worms, popping bugs and spinner baits.
Where to go: Harris Chain of Lakes (Central Florida); Winter Haven; Kissimmee River