Grouper is one of the best eating and most sought after fish we catch. There are a number of grouper species found in Florida. The gag, red, scamp and Goliath Groupers are the most abundant species, but you might also find Nassau, Red Hind, Rock Hind, Black, and Yellow fin. Though they'll eat just about anything, they won't travel very far to feed. If you get a grouper on, your rod will surely be bent!
Snapper is a very common fish in the gulf. There are over 15 varieties
of snapper that are found in Florida waters. The most common species in the
Gulf are the Mangrove, Lane, and Red. Snapper fishing is among the
easiest styles of saltwater angling to learn. They will eat live
shrimp, small live Pin fish, Squirrel Fish, and Ballyhoo or chunks of
cut bait. These also happen to be the same treats that attract grouper.
The rules for snapper fishing are complicated due to their popularity
and slow growth rate.
Amber jack are large, strong fish that live offshore and grow over 100 lbs.
They put up quite a fight and will test any angler's strength. Most
commonly found on menus in a smoked fish spread, the amber jack has a
stronger flavor than Grouper or Snapper. Amber jacks will eat almost any bait
and are often caught while fishing for other species. With a 28" minimum,
you can bet on a fight to bring home a keeper.
Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish)
Not to be confused with the Bottle nose Dolphin, this fish is one of the most beautiful and delicious in the Gulf. Dolphin are a very structure-oriented game fish, ordinarily hanging around weed lines or various pieces of flotsam. They are apparently not very long-lived, but grow very fast - reaching at least eighty pounds. They feed on squid, flying fish, and many other baits.
KINGFISH (KING MACKERAL)
Frequently called "smokers" for what they do to a reel when they first hit a
line, King fish can be found in the spring and fall in the Gulf waters. King fish
tend to hunt in schools herding bait into a small area (bait fish often try
to hide behind each other) with the resulting formation of a tightly packed
ball of bait. Sharp teeth and fast movements create quite a stir when this
fish hits bait.
Black fin tuna find their way into the Gulf in large schools. These fish are a
lively fight, eating top water baits but running with force as soon as they're
hooked. A shrimp boat on the horizon usually means an eager school of tuna;
they tend to feed on the crustaceans and small fish that shrimpers toss from
Cobia are a delicious fish that live inshore or near shore. Common Cobia weigh
around 30 lbs, though 50+ lb fish can be found a bit farther offshore. Adults
are often solitary or travel with just a few other individuals, frequently
in the company of sharks. This makes them a difficult species to target, and
capture is therefore often incidental. Despite this, however, Cobia is a highly
sought after food fish.
Two species of flounder can be found in the Gulf waters near Tampa Bay: the
Gulf Flounder (generally up to 15" and 2 lbs) and the Southern Flounder
(larger, up to 3' and 20 lbs, but most are 1-5 lbs). Flounder provide an
excellent, lean white meat. These fish prefer live bait over dead bait. Live shrimp
retrieved slowly along the bottom often produce excellent results. Although
many are taken by rod and reel, "floundering" or gigging offers the best
challenge for this species. The Flounder is vulnerable to this technique
because it often enters the shallows at night to feed.
Permit live offshore near wreckage and rock formations and also inshore on
turtle grass flats, sand flats, and outlining channels. The Permit gives a
powerful fight once hooked with steady fast runs, and many quick changes of
direction. Pound for pound their fight is as good as it gets. On average
permit are selective rather than opportunistic feeders. They seem to have a
varied diet, but usually feed exclusively on one organism per feeding period.
Similar to the Permit, the Pompano is smaller, usually weighing up to 8 lbs.
Pompano are one of the most delicious fish to eat (they fetch the highest market
price of any saltwater fish from the commercial fish houses in the continental
U.S.), they can be caught from the surf on light tackle, and they put up a
tenacious fight making numerous, long runs.