Florida Tarpon Fishing Charters | Tarpon Fishing Charters Florida

Welcome anglers to Fat Cat sport fishing charters in Tampa Bay, St.Petersburg Florida area. We offer quality and professional fishing trips offshore, near shore and inshore for all the popular gamefish like TARPON that you expect to catch on a St.Pete Fl charter fishing trip or a Florida Tarpon fishing Charter.

 At Fat Cat Fishing Charters we offer Florida Tarpon Fishing Charters, Tarpon Fishing Charters Florida and information, sizes, bag limits, names and Florida regulations on over thirty fish species. Find information on Florida fish species for all sportsman and anglers to enjoy. Find information on Tarpon, Grouper, Triple tail, Flounder, Sharks, Sailfish and over thirty Florida fish species. that inhabit the Deep Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Near Shore Beaches, inshore flats, back country, estuaries, bays, canals, docks and bridges of the St.Pete, Tampa bay Fl area.

Be sure to check up on your local area rules and regulations as they change often. What might have been a 20 inch keeper last year like Grouper might be 22 inches now as it is. Stay up to date with all your Florida fishing regulations and sizes and I hope this page will help you to know what  fish you catch. As you can see below a lot of fish look the same so try to learn the differences. Find facts and regulations on Tarpon Florida fishing hear. 

Florida Fish Species Description, Similar Fish, Where Found, Size, and Remarks can be found at Fat Cat Fishing Charters for your convenience.

CAPTAIN Brad Masters 727-564-6459

Tarpon Family Elopidae  LADYFISH

Description: terminal mouth, slender body, small scales; last dorsal ray not elongated; head small and pointed.

Similar Fish: juvenile tarpon, Megalops atlanticus.

Where found: INSHORE fish, in bays and estuaries; occasionally enters freshwater, occurring in tidal pools and canals; often forms large schools and harasses bait at the surface.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds.

Remarks: known to spawn OFFSHORE, ribbon-like larvae very similar to Albula and Megalops, peaking in fall; adult feeds predominantly on fish and crustaceans; leaps when hooked.



Description: last ray of dorsal fin extended into long filament; one dorsal fin; back dark blue to green or greenish black, shading into bright silver on the sides; may be brownish gold in estuarien waters; huge scales; mouth large and points upward.

Similar Fish: as juveniles) ladyfish, Elops saurus.

Where found: primarily INSHORE fish, although adult fish spawn OFFSHORE where the ribbon-like larval stage of the fish can be found.

Size: most angler catches 40 to 50 pounds. On Fat Cat 100 plus.

Remarks: slow grower; matures at 7 to 13 years of age; spawning occurs between May and September; female may lay more than 12 million eggs; can tolerate wide range of salinity; juveniles commonly found in fresh water; can breathe air at surface; feeds mainly on fish and large crustaceans.


Description: Inferior mouth; 3 to 5 pairs of small barbels on chin; silver-gray or bronze body with dark oblique wavy bars or lines; iridescent especially on head; preopercle strongly serrated.

Similar Fish: Spot, Leiostomus xanthurus (has no chin barbels and has a dark blotch on shoulder).

Where found: Generally found north of Tampa Bay on the west coast and north of Cape Canaveral on the east coast; young fish found in estuaries; older fish (2 to 3 years) inhabit deep OFFSHORE waters during the winter months and move into bays and estuaries during the spring, summer and fall.

Size: Usually less than 2 pounds.

Remarks: During spawning becomes bronze or yellow in color; spawning apparently occurs OFFSHORE in fall; longevity 2 to 4 years. 


Description: high arched back; 10 to 14 pairs of chin barbs; gray or black colored body in adults; young have 4 to 6 vertical bars; has cobbelstone-like teeth capable of crushing oysters; scales large.

Similar Fish: the vertical bars on juvenile black drum are somewhat similar to those on sheepshead Archosargus probatocephalus; spadefish, Chaetodipterus faber; red drum, Sciaenops ocellatus.

Where found: INSHORE fish common to bays and lagoons; bottom dwiller often found around ouster beds; also OFFSHORE.

Size: Common to 30 pounds.

Remarks: largest member of the drum family; spawns nearshore in winter and early spring; feeds of oysters, mussels, crabs, shrimp, and occasionally fish; longevity to 35 or more years.

RED DRUM (redfish)

Description: chin without barbels; copper bronze body, lighter shade in clear waters; one to many spots at base of tail (rarely no spots); mouth horizontal and openng downward; scales large.

Similar Fish: black drum, Pogonias cromis.

Where found: juveniles are an INSHORE fish, migrating out of the estuaries at about 30 inches (4 years) and joining the spawning population OFFSHORE.

Size: one of 27 inches weighs about 8 pounds.

Remarks: red drum are an INSHORE species until they attain roughly 30 inches (4 years), then they migrate to join the NEARSHORE population; spawning occurs from August to November in NEARSHORE waters; sudden cold snaps may kill red drum in shallow, INSHORE waters; feeds on crustaceans, fish and mollusks; longevity to 20 years or more. 


Description: Pale body color, yellow above, silver to white below; one or two prominent canine teeth usually at tip of upper jaw; inside of mouth yellow; no well-defined black spots on back; 10 to 12 soft rays in anal fin; no chin barbels.

Similar Fish: Silver seatrout, C. nothus.

Where found: A Gulf species that may occur in the Atlantic waters of extreme south-eastern Florida; adults predominantly found INSHORE residing in bays and inlets but may move offshore during winter months; young occur inshore in shallow bays.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound (10 to 12 inches).

Remarks: Matures during first or second year; prolonged INSHORE spawning season extends through spring and summer; feeds mainly on small fish and shrimp. 


Description: Pale straw colored above, silvery sides and white below; no distinctive pigmentation, although faint diagonal lines may be present on upper body; 8 to 9 rays in the anal fin; large eyes; short snout; one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw; lower half of tail longer than upper half.

Similar Fish: Other seatrouts.

Where found: Most common over sand or sandy mud bottoms offshore along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida; migrates into bays during cold months.

Size: Usually no more than 1/2 pound (less than 10 inches).

Remarks: Smallest seatrout; spawns offshore in deep water during spring, summer and fall; feeds on small fish and shrimp. 



Description: Color silvery with yellowish fins; no spots; no chin barbels; no prominent canine teeth at tip of upper jaw; preopercle finely serrated; 5 to 6 chin pores; mouth terminal.

Similar Fish: Sand seatrout, Cynoscion arenarius (the seatrouts usually have 1 or 2 prominent canine teeth at tip of upper jaw and do not have chin pores).

Where found: Inshore in seagrass beds, tidal creeks and rivers, and marshes.

Size: Small, not exceeding 9 inches.

Remarks: Spawning takes place in shallow, saline portions of bays and other inshore areas, peaking between May and September; matures by second or third year (by 6 inches); adults eat crustaceans and small fishes; may live to 6 years. 


Description: dark gray or green above, with sky blue tinges shading to silvery and white below; numerous distinct round black spots on back, extending to the dorsal fins and tail; black margin on posterior of tail; no barbels; no scales on the soft dorsal fin; one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw.

Similar Fish: Other seatrouts.

Where found: INSHORE and/or NEARSHORE over grass, sand and sandy bottoms; move into slow-moving or still, deep waters in cold weather.

Size: common to 4 pounds on west coast, larger on east coast.

Remarks: matures during first or second year and spawns INSHORE from March through November; often in association with seagrass beds; lives mainly in estuaries and moves only short distances; adults feed mainly on shrimp and small fish; prefers water temperatures between 58 and 81 degrees F and may be killed if trapped in shallow water during cold weather; longevity 8 to 10 years.


Description: Dark olive or blue-green back; sides covered in tones of blue, purple, lavender, gold and copper; irregular diagonal rows of vaguely-defined dark spots appear above the lateral line; 1 to 2 prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw; black margin on tip of the tongue; pelvic and anal fins yellow; pectoral fins olive on outside, yellow underneath; mouth yellow inside.

Similar Fish: Other seatrouts.

Where found: An Atlantic coast fish, possibly found in the extreme southeastern Gulf; adults move inshore and north during warm months inhabiting the surf, inlets, bays, channels and estuaries; adults move offshore and south during cold months; juveniles inhabit estuaries which serve as nurseries.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds.

Remarks: May mature as early as age 1; spawns in nearshore or estuarine areas between April and October; schooling fish; feeds primarily on shrimp and fish.

Grunts Family Haemulidae WHITE GRUNT

Description: Body color light bluish-gray, head with horizontal blue stripes, white underbelly; black blotch on preopercle; margin of each scale bronze; large bright orange mouth; scales above lateral line larger than scales below lateral line.

Similar Fish: Other grunts.

Where found: From shore to the outer reef edge or on offshore hard bottom to 115 feet; most abundant in water less than 80 feet deep; juveniles inshore.

Size: Most catches 1.5 pounds (15 inches).

Remarks: Audible grunting is produced by grinding of the pharyngeal teeth, with air bladder acting as amplifyer; spawning occurs on offshore hard bottoms or reefs from May through June; feeds on crustaceans, mollusks and small fishes.

Herring Family Clupeidae AMERICAN SHAD

Description: Color of back green or greenish blue with silvery sides, white underneath (colors darken when fish enters fresh water to spawn); belly with scutes forming distinct keel; one or more dark spots in a row behind operculum; lower jaw with pointed tip that fits into v-shaped notch in upper jaw.

Similar Fish: Other species of Alosa (shad and herring) and Brevoortia (menhaden). Menhaden, which are often referred to as "shad," have a rounder lower jaw tip. American shad is an east coast species replaced on the Panhandle coast by Alabama shad.

Where found: Offshore except during late winter spawning run into east coast rivers, notably the St. Johns River.

Size: Most catches 2 to 3 pounds; common to 5 pounds.

Jacks Family Carangidae ALMACO JACK

Description: A deep-bodied amberjack; sometimes darker in coloration; front of soft dorsal and of anal fins high and elongated; body more flattened than banded rudderfish or greater amberjack; no scutes.

Similar Fish: Other Seriola.

Where found: Wide-ranging in offshore waters, not a common catch; young are associated with Sargassum.

Size: Usually less than 20 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns offshore, apparently during spring, summer, and fall.



Description: fish less than 11 inches long have dark band from eye to first dorsal fin and six prominent bars on body; larger fish are bluish, greenish, or brown; soft dorsal base about twice the length of the anal fin; tail-lobe white tipped.

Similar Fish: other Seriola.

Where found: near shore and off shore over hard bottom, generally in shallower water than other amberjacks; young associated with weed lines or floating debris and may follow sharks and other large fish.

Size: usually less than 10 pounds.

Remarks: adults feed on fish and shrimp; spawns off shore most of year.



Description: Color light olive to bluish green above; silvery gray to golden below; frequently black spot on operculum; readily distinguished from crevalle jack by lack of black blotch on pectoral fin; tail tips blackish.

Similar Fish: Bluefish, Pomatomus saltarix, other Caranx.

Where found: Juveniles found off shore; adults near shore in schools, but sometimes ranging in shore as well.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound (11 inches).

Remarks: Matures by 9 to 10 inches; spawns off shore from January through August; young form schools associated with floating objects, and have been observed living inside the bell of jellyfish; adults feed on fish, shrimp, and squid. 


Description: color bluish-green to greenish-gold back and silvery or yellowish belly; soft dorsal and anal fins almost identical in size; prominent black spot on operculum (gill cover); black spot at the base of each pectoral fin; no scales on throat.

Similar Fish: other Caranx.

Where found: common in both INSHORE waters and the open sea.

Size: usually 3 to 5 pounds.

Remarks: tolerates a wide range of salinities; schools corner a school of baitfish at the surface and feed with commotion that can be seen at great distances; feeds mainly on small fish; peak spawning occurs OFFSHORE from March through September.


Description: 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.

Similar Fish: other Seriola.

Where found: Offshore species associated with rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks, typically in 60 - 240 feet of water; sometimes caught near shore in south Florida; juveniles associated with floating objects and may occur in water less than 30 feet deep.

Size: Common to 40 pounds.

Remarks: Largest of the jacks; thought to spawn off shore throughout most of the year; feeds on squid, fish, and crustaceans.



Description: Olive green or brownish black and silver sides; dark band (variably present) extends upward from eye; juveniles have split or wavy bars on sides; proportionately larger eye and deeper body than greater amberjack.

Similar Fish: Other Seriola.

Where found: Near shore and offshore, apparently living deeper than other Seriola (commonly 180 - 410 feet deep).

Size: Usually under 10 pounds.

Remarks: Smallest of the amberjacks; believed to spawn offshore; adults eat fish and squid. 


Description: Grayish-blue-green on top of head and along the back; bright silvery sides; yellow on breast; elongated dorsal and anal fins; dusky or black with bluish edges; deep body, with four narrow bars high on the sides, and traces of a fifth fin nearer the tail; no scutes.

Similar Fish: Pompano, T. carolinus; permit, T. falcatus.

Where found: In clear water along sandy beaches and bays, occasionally found over reefs; most common in south Florida.

Size: Rarely over 1 pound, reported to 3 pounds.

Remarks: Thought to spawn offshore in spring, summer, and fall; has shown rapid growth in mariculture experiments; readily strikes small artificial lures.


Description: greenish gray on back, shading to silvery sides; fish in dark waters showing gold on throat, pelvic, and anal fins; deep flattened body with small mouth; no scutes; 22 to 27 soft dorsal rays; 20 to 23 soft anal rays; origin of anal fin slightly behind origin of second dorsal.

Similar Fish: permit, T. falcatus, palometa, T. goodei. The permit is deeper bodied; dorsal body profile not strongly angled at insertion of second dorsal fin; pompano rarely grow larger than 6 pounds, permit common to 40 pounds.

Where found: INSHORE and NEARSHORE waters, especially along sandy beaches, along oyster banks, and over grassbeds, often in turbid water; may be found in water as deep as 130 feet.

Size: usually less than 3 pounds.

Remarks: spawns OFFSHORE between March and September; feeds on mollusks and crustaceans, especially sand fleas; local movements are influenced by the tide, and seasonal movements are influenced by temperature. 

Sharks Family Carcharhinidae ATLANTIC SHARPNOSE SHARK

Description: Long and flattened snout; white trailing edge of pectoral; black-edged dorsal and caudal fins, especially when young; may have small whitish spots on sides; furrows in lips at the corners of the mouth; outer margin of teeth notched; second dorsal fin originates over middle of anal fin; brown to olive-gray in color with white underside; slender body.

Similar Fish: Other carcharhinids.

Where found: INSHORE species, even found in surf; also common in bays and estuaries; adults occur OFFSHORE.

Size: Small species, 2 to 4 feet.

Remarks: Mature adults between 2 and 2.75 feet long; 4-7 newborns range from 9 to 14 inches in length; adults feed on small fish and crustaceans.


Description: broadly widened head in the shape of a shovel; only slight indentation of anal fin; front of head not notched at midline; gray or grayish-brown in color.

Similar Fish: other hammerhead sharks.

Where found: INSHORE species found in bays and estuaries.

Size: commonly 3 to 4 feet.

Remarks: matures at about 3 feet in length and bears 6 to 12 young at one time; feeds chiefly on crabs and other crustaceans. 


Description: Snout broadly rounded and short; first dorsal fin triangular and very high; poorly developed dermal ridge between dorsal fins; brown or gray in color with white underside; upper and lower teeth finely serrated.

Similar Fish: Dusky shark, Carcharhinus obscurus; bull shark, Carcharhinus leucas.

Where found: NEARSHORE fish typically found at depths ranging from 60 to 200 feet.

Size: common to 6 feet.

Remarks: Both predator and scavanger; feeding chiefly near the bottom on fish and shellfish; migrates long distances; matures at about 6 feet in length.


Description: Fifth gill slit shorter than 4 preceeding ones and located posterior to pectoral fin base; flattened head extending to hammer-like lobes on each side; distinct indentation of the front margin of the head at its midpoint; second dorsal fin longer than tail; gray-brown to olive in color with white underbelly; teeth smooth-edged; pectoral fins tipped with black on the undersurface; tips of first and second dorsal lobes and caudal also may have dusky tips; pelvic fin with nearly straight hind margin.

Similar Fish: Other hammerhead sharks.

Where found: Both OFFSHORE and INSHORE.

Size: common to 6 feet and can reach 14 feet.

Remarks: Predatory fish, feeding mainly on fish, squid, and stingrays; male matures at about 6 feet in length. 


Description: Lunate tail with similarly sized lobes; lateral keel at the base of the tail; deep blue back and white underside; underside of sharply pointed snout white; origin of first dorsal entirely behind base of pectoral fins; second dorsal fin slightly in front of anal fin; slender, recurved teeth with smooth edge.

Similar Fish: White shark, Carcharodon carcharias; longfin mako, Isurus paucus.

Where found: OFFSHORE fish often seen near the surface.

Size: Commonly 6 to 8 feet (200 to 300 pounds).

Remarks: Active, strong swimming fish known for leaping out of the water when hooked; feeds on mackerel, tuna, sardines, and some much larger fish. 

Snook Family Centropomidae COMMON SNOOK

Description: distinct lateral line; high, divided dorsal fin; sloping forehead; large mouth, protruding lower jaw; grows much larger than other snooks; pelvic fin yellow.

Similar Fish: Other Centropomus.

Where found: from central Florida south, usually INSHORE in coastal and brackish waters, along mangrove shorelines, seawalls, and bridges; also on reefs and pilings NEARSHORE.

Size: most catches 5 to 8 pounds.

Remarks: spawns primarily in summer; cannot tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees F; can tolerate wholly fresh or saltwater; schools along shore and in passes during spawning season; feeds on fish and larrge crustaceans. 


Description: Deeper body than other snooks; color yellow-brown to green-brown above, silvery on sides; black lateral line extends onto tail; mouth reaches to or beyond center of eye; usually no dusky outer edge on pelvic fin, as in other snooks; smallest scales of all snooks.

Similar Fish: Other Centropomus.

Where found: INSHORE spcies found in mangrove habitat; found commonly in fresh waters; occurs more in interior waters (as opposed to estuarine waters) than other snook.

Size: A small species, rarely more than 20 inches.

Remarks: Usually found in fresh water; mangrove shorelines serve as nursery grounds for young.



Description: Smallest of the snooks; profile slightly concave; prominent lateral line outlined in black (not solid), extends through caudal fin; color yellow-green to brown-green above, silvery below; giant second anal spine, hence the name; largest scales of all snook.

Similar Fish: Other Centropomus.

Where found: occurs in INSHORE estuarine habitats from south Florida to as far north on east coast as St. Lucie River.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound (12 inches).

Remarks: Full-grown adults are less than 12 inches long; mangrove shoreline habitat serves as nursery area for young; rare on Florida's west coast; prefers only slightly brackish or fresh water.


Description: Only snook with 7 anal fin rays (others have 6); lower jaw curves upward; compressed body; prominent black lateral line extends through tail; tips of pelvic fin reach beyond anus.

Similar Fish: Other Centropomus.

Where found: INSHORE in south Florida; frequently in fresh water.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound (12 inches).

Remarks: Maximum size of 16 to 18 inches; feeds on small fish and larger crustaceans; young are nurtured along mangrove shorelines; rare on Florida's west coast. 


Spadefish Family Ephippidae   SPADEFISH

Description: Silvery with 4 to 6 black vertical bands on each side which sometimes become obscure in larger fish; deep, flattened body; separated first and second dorsal fins; concave caudal fin; anterior rays of second dorsal fin and anal fin elongated.

Similar Fish: No close resemblances, but frequently and mistakenly called angelfish.

Where found: INSHORE and NEARSHORE, around natural and artificial reefs, and especially near navigation markers in 15 to 20 feet of water.

Size: Most catches less than 2 pounds, known to reach 15 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns in spring and summer; travels in large schools; small juveniles almost totally black, known to drift on their sides and mimic floating debris; feeds on crustaceans, small encrusting invertebrates, and may nibble on tentacles of jellyfish

Swordfish Family Xiphiidae SWORDFISH

Description: Color of back variable, black, greyish blue, brown, metallic purple, or bronze; sides dusky; underbelly dirty white; long, flat, sword-like upper jaw; lacks scales, teeth, and pelvic fins; single keel on each side of body in front of tail; first dorsal fin high, rigid and short; large eyes.

Similar Fish: No close resemblance to other billfishes.

Where found: OFFSHORE species worldwide in temperate and tropic waters; known to frequent depths of 400 to 500 fathoms; also has been seen basking at the surface.

Size: Once averaged 200 pounds but overharvest has reduced size of commercially caught swordfish to average of 48 inches.

Remarks: Large swordfish are all females, males seldom exceeding 200 pounds; except when spawning, females believed to prefer water cooler than that favored by males; feeds on squid, octopus, and pelagic fishes of all kinds.

Dolphins Family Coryphaenidae DOLPHIN

Description: Bright greenish blue above, yellow on sides, with capability of flashing purple, chartreuse, and a wide range of other colors; body tapers sharply from head to tail; irregular blue or golden blotches scattered over sides; anterior profile of head on adult males is nearly vertical; head of females more sloping; the single dark dorsal fin extends from just behind the head to the tail; anal fin margin concave and extending from anus to tail.

Similar Fish: Pompano dolphin, C. equisetis. The pompano dolphin has squarish tooth patch on tongue (oval tooth patch on dolphin) and fewer dorsal rays (48 to 55 versus 55 to 65 on dolphin).

Where found: Offshore in warm waters.

Size: Common to 30 pounds.

Remarks: 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.

Bonefish Family Albulidae BONEFISH

Description: Silvery color with bluish or greenish back; slender, round body; snout long, conical, aiming downward and overhanging lower jaw; dark streaks between scales on upper half of body and faint crossbands extending down to lateral line; extremities of dorsal and caudal fins shaded with black.

Similar Fish: Ladyfish, Elops saurus

Where found: Primarily inshore fish inhabiting shallows of the Florida Keys; found in shallows often less than 1 foot deep, usually over lush grass flats, occasionally over white sand.

Size: 3 to 5 pounds.

Remarks: Travels in loose schools; roots out shrimp, shellfish, crabs, and fish from the bottom; spawns offshore, eggs hatching into ribbon-like larvae that metamorphose into fish-like form at about 2 inches and move inshore.

Billfishes Family Istiophoridae BLUE MARLIN

Description: Color cobalt blue on top shading to silvery white on bottom; upper jaw elongated in form of spear; dorsal fin pointed at front end; pectoral fin and anal fin pointed; lateral line reticulated (interwoven like a net), difficult to see in large specimens; no dark spots on dorsal fin; body covered with embedded scales ending in one or two sharp points.

Similar Fish: White marlin, Tetrapterus albidus (white has rounded tip of pectoral and anal fins, and spots on the dorsal fin).

Where found: Offshore, a blue water fish.

Size: Largest of the Atlantic marlins, common to 11 feet, known to exceed 2,000 pounds.

Remarks:All of trophy size are females; males do not exceed 300 pounds; make trans-Atlantic migrations; spawning procedures unknown; feeds on squid and pelagic fishes, including blackfin tuna and frigate mackerel.


Description: color of body dark blue shading to silvery, white underneath; dorsal fin bluish, others brown-black; two dorsal fins, the first lengthy, its front forming a peak; two anal fins, the anus well in front of the first; upper jaw prolonged into spear, its cross section round.

Similar Fish: White marlin, Tetrapterus albidus.

Where found: Offshore in deep water.

Size: Relatively small species.

Remarks: Uncommon; available data indicate that spearfish matures at 2 years of age and rarely lives past 4 to 5 years; they are pelagic and feed at or near the surface, mainly on fishes and squid; named for Al Pflueger, Sr., founder of Pflueger Taxidermy.



Description: Color dark blue 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, its front squared off, highest at its midpoint; pelvic fins very narrow, reaching almost to the anus; body covered with embedded scales, blunt at end; lateral line curved above pectoral, then straight to base of tail. Similar Fish: white marlin, Tetrapterus albidus; young blue marlin, Makaira nigricans (spectacular sail-like dorsal of sailfish is most notable difference).

Where found: Offshore species, in south Florida associated with waters near the Gulf Stream; off the Panhandle near the 100 foot fathom line.

Size: Common to 7 feet.

Remarks: Rapid growing species, reaching 4 to 5 feet in a single year; swims at speeds up to 50 knots; feeds on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic fishes and squid. 


Description: Color of body dark blue to chocolate brown, shading to silvery white underbelly; noticeable spots on dorsal fin; upper jaw elongated in shape of spear; body covered with embedded scales with a single sharp point; tips of first dorsal, pectoral, and first anal fins rounded; lateral line curved above pectoral fin, then going in straight line to base of tail.

Similar Fish: Blue marlin, Makaira nigricans.

Where found: Offshore, a blue water fish.

Size: Common to 8 feet.

Remarks: Uses its bill to stun fast-moving fishes, then turns to consume them; spawning procedures unknown; ranges throughout the Atlantic and Caribbean; feeds on squid and pelagic fishes.

 Florida Tarpon Fishing Charters | Tarpon Fishing Charters Florida

Grunts Family Lobotidae TRIPLE TAIL

Description: head and body variously mottled, tan to dark brown; fins (except spinous dorsal and pectroal fins) almost black; pale olive band across base of caudal fin; broad, dark brown bar from eye across cheek below corner of preopercle, and another from upper corner of eye to beginning of dorsal fin; two dark streaks on top of head, behind nostrils; upper profile concave at nape; edge of preopercle strongly serrated.

Size: to 42 inches. 

Gulf Flounder Family Bothidae FLOUNDER

Description: body color brown, its shade depending on color of bottom, with numerous spots and blotches; 3 prominent eye-like spots forming a triangle; one spot on lateral line, one above, one below; numerous white spots scattered over body and fins (albigutta, white-spotted); strong canine-like teeth; caudal fin in shape of wedge, its tip in the middle.

Similar fish: southern flounder, P. lethostigma (no eye-like spots; color pattern is key to distinguishing the two species).

Where found: INSHORE on sandy or mud bottoms, often ranging into tidal creeks; occasionally caught on NEARSHORE rocky reefs.

Size: common to 2 pounds, generally smaller than southern flounder.

Remarks: hatches into usual fish form, but right eye migrates over to left side early in life; a bottom dweller; thought to spawn OFFSHORE; feeds on crustaceans and small fishes.

Grouper Family Serranidae  BANK SEA BASS

Description: Pale olive or brassy brown in color with indistinct black blotches that form vertical barrings (the blotch above pectoral fin darker); wavy blue lines on head; lips purplish-blue; caudal fin tri-lobed on adults; edge of nape unscaled.

Similar Fish: Rock sea bass C. philadelphica; other Centropristis.

Where found: Offshore in deep water with rocks and reefs.

Size: Usually 0.3 pound (8 inches).

Remarks: Undergoes sex change, starting life as female, changing to male after three or four spawning seasons; feeds on the bottom, taking squid, crustaceans, and small fish. 


Description: olive or gray body coloration with black blotches and brassy spots; gently rounded preopercle.

Similar Fish: gag, M. microlepis; yellowfin grouper, M. venenosa.

Where found: OFFSHORE species; adults associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop-off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young may occur INSHORE in shallow water.

Size: common to 40 pounds, may attain weights exceeding 100 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns between May and August; protogynous hermaphrodites, young predominantly female, transforming in males as they grow larger; larger individuals generally in greater depths; feeds on fish and squid. 


Description: Basic color dark brown or black; dorsal fin has rows and stripes of white on black; large males have irridescent blue and ebony markings, and fatty hump in front of dorsal fin; females may have indistinct vertical barrings; topmost ray of caudal fin much elongated in adults; caudal may be tri-lobed; sharp spine near posterior margin of gill cover.

Similar Fish: Bank sea bass C. ocyurus; other Centropristis.

Where found: Structure-loving fish, associated with reefs and rubble offshore; smaller specimens often found inshore finger channels.

Size: Common to 1.5 pounds (13 inches).

Remarks: Spawns January through March; protogynous hermaphrodites, older females becoming breeding males; omnivorous bottom feeders, diet including small fish, crustaceans, and shellfish.

GAG Grouper

Description: brownish gray in color with dark worm-like markings on sides; strong serrated spur at bottom margin of preopercle, less noticeable in large specimens; fins dark, with anal and caudal having white margin. Often confused with black grouper; tail of gag is slightly concave, black is square; gag has white margin on anal and caudal fins, black does not; under 10 pounds, gag's spur on preopercle is distinctive, where black is gently rounded.

Similar Fish: black grouper M. bonaci.

Where found: adults OFFSHORE over rocks and reefs; juveniles occur in seagrass beds INSHORE.

Size: common to 25 pounds.

Remarks: forms spawning aggregations in water no shallower than 120 feet in Middle Grounds area, January through March; current reseach to identify similar aggregations off Atlantic coast is ongoing. Young gags are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; feeds on fish and squid.


Description: Head and fins covered with small black spots; irregular dark and vertical bars present on the sides of body; pectoral and caudal fins rounded; first dorsal fin shorter than and not separated from second dorsal; adults huge, up to 800 pounds; eyes small.

Similar Fish: Other grouper.

Where found: Nearshore often around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.

Size: Largest of the groupers.

Remarks: Spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. NOTE: jewfish are totally protected from harvest in Florida waters.

JEWFISH   Description: head and fins covered with small black spots; irregular dark verticle bars present on the sides of body; pectoral and caudal fins rounded; first dorsal fin shorter than and not separated from second dorsal; adults huge, up to 800 pounds; eyes small.

Similar Fish: other grouper.

Where found: NEARSHORE around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.

Size: largest of the groupers.

Remarks: spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. NOTE: jewfish are totally protected from harvest in Florida waters. 


Description: color light background with brown or red-brown bars on sides; stripe in shape of tuning fork on forehead; third spine of dorsal longer than second ; pelvic fins shorter than pectorals; black dots around the eyes; large black saddle on caudal peduncle.

Similar Fish: red grouper, E. morio.

Where found: range limited to south Florida; somewhat site specific; smaller individuals NEARSHORE, adults OFFSHORE on rocky reefs.

Size: most catches under 10 pounds.

Remarks: forms large spawning aggregations, making this species highly vulnerable to overharvest. NOTE: all harvest of this species is prohibited. 

Red Gouper


Description: color 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 midfin; black dots around the eyes.

Similar Fish: Nassau grouper, E. striatus.

Where found: 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.

Size: common to 15 pounds.

Remarks: spawns in April and May; prefer water temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees F; undergoes sex reversal, young individual females becoming males as they age; lifespan of at least 25 years; feeds on squid, crustaceans, and fish.


Description: Color light gray or brown; large adults with elongated caudal-fin rays; reddish brown spots on sides that tend to be grouped into lines; some yellow around corners of mouth.

Similar Fish: Yellowmouth grouper, M. interstitialis.

Where found: Nearshore reefs off the northeastern coast, and on offshore reefs in the Gulf.

Size: Generally smaller than gags or blacks.

Remarks: Spawns in late spring; feeds on small fish, squid, and crustaceans; undergoes sex transformation from female to male as it becomes older. 


Description: Color highly variable greenish olive or bright red with longitudinal rows of darker black blotches over entire fish; outer one third of pectoral fins bright yellow; lower parts of larger fish with small bright red spots.

Similar Fish: Black grouper, M. bonaci; other grouper.

Where found: Offshore on reefs off southern portions of Florida.

Size: Common to 20 pounds.

Remarks: Undergoes sex reversal from female to male in latter part of life; specific name translates to "venomous," alluding to the fact that this fish, perhaps more frequently than other groupers, is associated with ciguatera poisoning; feeds on fish and squid.


Description: Color tan or brown with darker spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines; distinct yellow wash behind the jaws; yellow around the eyes; outer edges of fins yellowish.

Similar Fish: Scamp, M. phenax.

Where found: Offshore over reefs and rocks; not as common as scamp in the Gulf; range limited to southern Florida.

Size: Common to 15 pounds.

Remarks: Undergoes sex reversal, young individuals female, older individuals becoming male; young fish are bicolored, dark above white below; feeds on small fish and crustaceans.


Mackerel Family Scombridae CERO

Description: Color of back iridescent bluish green; sides silvery, yellow spots forming lines above and below a bronze stripe from pectoral fin to base of tail; front of first dorsal fin is bluish black; lateral line curves gradually to base of caudal fin.

Similar Fish: Spanish mackerel, S. maculatus; king mackerel, S. cavalla (only the cero has the yellow-brown stripes from the pectoral to caudal fin).

Where found: near shore and offshore fish occurring mainly in south Florida, especially over coral reefs and wrecks.

Size: Common to 5 pounds.

Remarks: Unlike other mackerels, does not stray far from south Florida waters; spawns offshore in midsummer; feeds on small fish and squid.


Description: color of back iridescent bluish green; 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.

Similar Fish: cero, S. regalis; Spanish mackerel, S. maculatus.

Where found: NEARSHORE and OFFSHORE, occasionally taken from piers running into deep water.

Size: Common to 20 pounds.

Remarks: schooling fish that migrates fom 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.

Mullets Family Mugilidae FANTAIL MULLET

Description: Color olive green with blue tints on back, shading to silvery sides, white below; anal and pelvic fins yellowish; dark blotch at base of pectoral fin; inverted V-shaped mouth; insertion of second dorsal over that of anal fin.

Similar Fish: Striped mullet, M. cephalus; white mullet, M. curema.

Where found: INSHORE, occuring along beaches in the fall.

Size: Small mullet, less than 1 pound.

Remarks: Spawns in NEARSHORE or possibly INSHORE waters during spring and summer; juveniles occur INSHORE; feeds on algae, small crustaceans.  


Description: Color bluish-gray or green above, shading to silver on sides with distinct horizontal black barrings, white below; fins lightly scaled at base, unscaled above; blunt nose and small mouth; second dorsal fin originates behind that of the dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: White mullet, M. curema; fantail mullet, M. gyrans (both white and fantail mullet have black blotch at base of pectoral fin, which is lacking in the black mullet).

Where found: INSHORE.

Size: Roe mullet common to 3 pounds but in aquariums known to reach 12 pounds or more.

Remarks: Adults migrate OFFSHORE in large schools to spawn; juveniles migrate INSHORE at about 1 inch in size, moving far up tidal creeks; frequent leapers; feeds on algae, detritus and other tiny marine forms.


Porgy Family Sparidae  JOLTHEAD Porgy

Description: Generally silvery to brassy, with a bluish cast. Front of head brown, with blue line along lower rim of eye; a whitish stripe below eye, and another between eye and mouth; corner of mouth orange.

Where found: Coastal waters to 45 m (150 ft.)., R.I., Bermuda, and n. Gulf of Mexico to Brazil.

Size: To 60 cm (2 ft.) and 3.6 kg (8 lbs.).

Remarks: Regarded as a good fish, but may cause ciguatera.



Description: Body deep; front profile very steep. Nape projects strongly in large adults. Body generally silvery, with a rosy cast; cheek and snout dark purplish gray, with many bronze spots. Large blue spot at axil of pectoral fin.

Where found: Hardbottom, reefs, ledges. N.C. to s. Fla. and entire Gulf of Mexico.

Size: To 46 cm (18 in.). 


Description: Small mouth with incisor-like teeth; distinctive black spot behind the gill cover; body bluish-silver with blue and orange-yellow horizontal stripes, yellow fins.

Where found: Seagrass beds, bridges, piers, marker pilings, and around natural and artificial reefs; spawn offshore.

Size: Usually less than 8 inches.

Remarks: Popular live bait, notorious bait stealers.




Description: The only American porgy with a near nostril that is round (not slit-like); head and body silvery red, with many tiny blue spots.

Where found: Deeper part of continental shelf, but young occur in water as shallow as 18 m (60ft.)

Size: to 91 cm(3 ft.)



Description: basic silvery color; with 5 or 6 distinct vertical black bands on sides, not always the same on both sides; prominent teeth, including incisors, molars, and rounded grinders; no barbels on lower jaw; strong and sharp spines on dorsal and anal fins.

Similar Fish: black drum, Pogonias cromis; Atlantic spadefish, Chaetodipterus (black drum have barbels on lower jaw, sheepshead do not; vertical barring on sides of black drum and spadefish disappear as fish mature; spadefish have small, brush-like teeth).

Where found: INSHORE species around oyster bars, seawalls and in tidal creeks; moves NEARSHORE in late winter and early spring for spawning, gathering over debris, artificial reefs and around navigation markers.

Size: INSHORE, 1 to 2 pounds; OFFSHORE, common to 8 pounds.

Remarks: feeds on mollusks and crustaceans such as fiddler crabs and barnacles; famed nibblers, prompting the saying that "anglers must strike just before they bite." 


Snapper Family Lutjanidae BLACKFIN SNAPPER

Description: Color generally red, with yellowish caudal, anal, and pelvic fins; distinctive and prominent dark comma-shaped blotch at the base of the pectoral fins, which gives the fish its common name; anal fin rounded; no black spot on side underneath dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: Other snappers.

Where found: adults OFFSHORE near continental shelf.

Size: Common to 20 inches, larger adults seeking deeper waters.

Remarks: Sometimes marketed as red snapper; feeds on smaller fishes.



Description: Color dark brown or gray, may have a reddish tinge; broad-based triangular tooth patch on roof of mouth with a posterior extension; despite its specific name, which translates to "blue-fin," the fins have only a slight tinge of blue; canine teeth in both jaws very strong; one pair of canines enlarged and visible even when mouth is closed.

Similar Fish: Gray snapper.

Where found: Juveniles INSHORE in grass beds; adults OFFSHORE or NEARSHORE over wrecks, reefs, and ledges.

Size: Common to 40 pounds.

Remarks: The largest of the snappers, ranging to 125 pounds; not common anywhere in its range; feeds on fishes and larger crustaceans; in the Keys, spawns during later summer.


Description: Color brown with a bronze tinge, lighter on sides; canine teeth very sharp, one pair notably enlarged, visible even when mouth is closed; in adults, pale triangle and a light blue interrupted line below the eye; no dark spot on body underneath dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: Schoolmaster, L. apodus (no white triangle under eye and fins are more yellow); other snappers.

Where found: Large adults OFFSHORE over coral and rocky reefs; juveniles associated with estuaries.

Size: Large snapper, attaining 30 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns from spring through fall; known as night feeder; taking fishes, mollusks, and crustaceans.

GRAY SNAPPER (mangrove snapper)

Description: Color dark brown or gray with reddish or 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; no dark spot on side underneath dorsal fin.

Similar Fish: Cubera snapper, L. cyanopterus.

Where found: Juveniles INSHORE in tidal creeks, mangroves, and grass beds; adults generally NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE on coral or rocky reefs.

Size: Offshore catches common 8 to 10 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns June through August; feeds on crustaceans and small fish.



Description: color silvery-pink to reddish with short, irregular pink and yellow lines on its sides; diffuse black spot, about as large as the eye; the dorsal fin centered above the lateral line; outer margin of caudal fin blackish.

Similar Fish: mutton snapper, L. analis (anal fin rounded in lane snapper, pointed in mutton).

Where found: juveniles INSHORE over grass beds or shallow reefs; adults OFFSHORE; most common in south Florida.

Size: usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: spawns March through September; sexually mature at 6 inches; feeds on bottom, taking crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.


Description: Color graysh-olive with a reddish tinge; conspicuous dark spot, about the size of the eye, below the soft dorsal fin, 1/4 to 1/2 of it below the lateral line; the large eye and caudal fin are bright red; lower margin of the preopercle has prominent spur with strong and sharp serrations.

Similar Fish: Lane snapper, L. synagris (also with dark spot below soft dorsal, the blotch placed higher in relation to the lateral line).

Where found: NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE in clear, highly saline water, usually over reefs.

Size: Relatively small snapper, common to 15 inches.

Remarks: The Spanish name, ojanco, refers to its large eyes; a night feeder, with diet of smaller fishes.


Description: Color olive green on back and upper sides, all fins below the lateral line having reddish tinge; bright blue line below eye, following contour of operculum; anal fin pointed; small black spot below dorsal fin; V-shaped tooth patch on.

Similar Fish: Lane snapper, L. synagris (anal fin pointed in mutton snapper, rounded in lane).

Where found: An INSHORE species associated with grassbeds, mangroves, and canals; larger adults occasionally found on OFFSHORE reefs.

Size: Common to 15 pounds.

Remarks: Spawns in July and August; feeds on fish, crustaceans, and snails.

Florida Tarpon Fishing Charters | Tarpon Fishing Charters Florida




Description: Color of back and upper sides red; silvery body long and slender; dorsal fin distinctly notched; large eyes; caudal fin deeply forked; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Other snappers.

Where found: OFFSHORE over rocky reefs of the continental shelf to 450 feet; young suspend at mid-depths.

Size: Small species, usually less than 20 inches.

Remarks: Little is known, but it is reported that adults live at depths greater than 400 feet. 


Description: Color pinkish red over entire body, whitish below; long triangular snout; anal fin sharply pointed; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Vermilion snapper, R. aurorubens.

Where found: OFFSHORE on the continental shelf, more plentiful off the panhandle than in south or middle Florida.

Size: to 20 pounds.

Remarks: Juveniles occur over sandy or mud bottoms and are often taken in shrimp trawls; adults may live more than 20 years, and attain 35 pounds or more; sexual maturity attained at age 2; spawns June to October; feeds on crustaceans and fish.


Description: Color olive gray on upper sides with yellow tinge, sometimes with reddish tinge around head; long triangular snout; eight pale vertical bars on the side of the body; yellow fins; blue stripe below eye, becoming interrupted in adults; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Dog snapper, L. jocu.

Where found: Juveniles in grassy flats; adults NEARSHORE especially around elkhorn coral reefs; large adults sometimes found on continental shelf.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: Spawns in July and August; attain sizes of 8 pounds and 24 inches; slow grower; feeds on crustaceans, small fishes, and gastropods. 


Description: Back and upper sides pinkish red, shading to silvery sides with undulating yellow lines; pectorals pale yellow; back edge of caudal fin blackish; anal fin pointed; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Red snapper, L. campechanus.

Where found: OFFSHORE over rocky ledges in very deep water; most common in south Florida.

Size: Usually less than 5 pounds.

Remarks:Little is known. 


Description: Color of entire body reddish, with a series of short, irregular lines on its sides, diagonal blue lines formed by spots on the scales above the lateral line; sometimes with yellow streaks below the lateral line; large canine teeth absent; orientation of mouth and eye give it the appearance of looking upward; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: Red snapper, L. campechanus (anal fin of red snapper has midpoint like a triangle).

Where found: Suspends at mid-depths over rocky reefs OFFSHORE.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound.

Remarks: Spawns April to September, females maturing at 3 to 4 years of age; grows slowly; attains weight of 6 pounds and length of 24 inches; feeds on small, swimming crustaceans and mollusks.



Description: back and upper sides olive to bluish with yellow spots; lower sides and belly with alternating narrow, longitudinal pink and yellow stripes; prominent midlateral yellow stripe begins at mouth and runs to tail, broadening as it passes the dorsal fins; caudal fin yellow and deeply forked; no dark lateral spot.

Similar Fish: none.

Where found: juveniles INSHORE on grassbeds and back reefs; adults NEARSHORE or OFFSHORE over sandy areas near reefs.

Size: common to 3 pounds.

Remarks: found mainly in tropical waters; spawns in midsummer; rarely exceeds 30 inches and 5 pounds in size; feeds on small fish and invertebrates.

Bluefishes Family Pomatomidae BLUEFISH

Description: Color blue or greenish blue on back, sides silvery; mouth large; teeth prominent, sharp, and compressed; dorsal and anal fins nearly the same size; scales small; lateral line almost straight. Similar Fish: blue runner, C. crysos.

Where found: Young usually inshore spring and summer, moving OFFSHORE to join adults fall and winter; strong migration of northeast Atlantic stock to Florida east coast in winter.

Size: Most west coast catches under 3 pounds, much larger on east coast.

Remarks: Travels in large schools, following schools of baitfish; cannibalistic; all members of a given school about the same size; spawning occurs offshore in spring and summer. 

Barracuda Family Sphyraenidae BARRACUDA

Description: Gray, with a greenish cast above, whitish below; many irregular, small black blotches on lower side; 18 to22 diagonal dark bars on upper side (not always evident); caudal fin dark with white tips; 75 to 87 lateral line scales; no fleshy tip on jaw.

Where found: Young live in inshore seagrass beds; adults range from inshore channels to open ocean.

Size: to 6 ft. and 106 pounds.

Remarks: Most attacts on people have occurred when they were wading or swimming in turbid water while wearing bright objects, attempting to spear a barracuda, or carrying speared fish; flesh of smaller fish apparently not poisonous, but larger fish sometimes very toxic due to ciguatera; no safe, reliable way of recognizing toxic fish.

Cobia are also fish that we catch on a regular basis and many are incidental catches while live baiting on the reef. Cobia are also associated with turtles and whales. If we happen to see a turtle while fishing we almost always toss a live bait towards the turtle. If a cobia is nearby, they will readily eat our bait. Boats with towers also target cobia while sight casting to stingrays in shallower water. Cobia will often be found near or behind a stingray and usually eat crustaceans that the stingray may displace with his fins. 

                                                              Florida Tarpon Fishing Charters | Tarpon Fishing Charters Florida

Free Sitemap Generator