Florida Saltwater Fish Delight: Dive into Marine Diversity

Ready for an exciting journey into Florida saltwater fishing? Whether you’re an avid angler or just starting, this is the perfect guide for you. Florida’s coastal waters boast a variety of saltwater fish that will amaze you and test your fishing skills. Join us in exploring the lively universe of Florida saltwater fish and discover valuable fishing tips and tricks to make your Florida fishing adventures both satisfying and fun. Dive into the marine diversity of Florida saltwater fish delight with us!

Florida Beach Seaside

Florida Saltwater Fish Species

Florida’s coasts have many kinds of saltwater fish. Different areas, like the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, have special fish to catch.

Florida’s coastal waters are full of saltwater fish, which is great for all anglers. This part shows you some of the most interesting Florida fishing. Get ready to see the variety and beauty of these marine creatures!


Florida Saltwater Fish - Snook Saltwater Fish

Snook, also called linesider, is a prized game fish known for its unique body shape and silvery color. Found in saltwater and brackish areas like mangroves and jetties, Snook are elusive predators. Anglers love them for their powerful strikes and acrobatic leaps, providing an exciting challenge.


  • Size Limits: PH, BB, TB, SB, CH, and SW management regions: 28″ to 33″. SE, IRL, and NE management regions: 28″ to 32″.
  • Open Season: PH, BB, TB, and SB: Mar.–Apr. and Sept.–Nov. CH and SW: Mar.–Apr. and Oct.–Nov. SE, IRL, and NE: Feb.–May and Sept.–Dec. 14.
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 1 per harvester in each region
  • Remarks: A snook permit is required with a saltwater Florida fishing license. Check MyFWC.com for details. Snatch hooks and spearing are prohibited. Captain and crew on for-hire vessels have zero daily bag and possession limit. Check Management Zones for regional details.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Tarpon Saltwater Fish

Prepare for the awe-inspiring Tarpon, a magnificent silver fish known as the “Silver King.” Famous for their colossal size and acrobatics, Tarpons offer thrilling fights and breathtaking jumps, making them a favorite among anglers. Primarily found in Florida’s coastal waters, especially during their annual migration, these powerful fish are a sight to behold.


  • Recreational Bag Limit: 1 per harvester per year. Requires a $50 harvest tag. Vessel limit of one fish. The harvest tag is only valid when retaining the fish for a potential IGFA record.
  • Remarks: Tarpon over 40 inches must stay in the water during release. Spearing and snatch hooking are prohibited. Bottom-weighted jigs are prohibited in Boca Grande Pass. Visit Myfwc.com/Fishing/Saltwater/Recreational/Tarpon for more details.

Cobia (Ling)

Florida Saltwater Fish - Cobia Saltwater Fish

Cobia, a sizable species reaching up to 4 feet and over 50 pounds (Florida record: 130 pounds in Destin), are often solitary but can be found in small groups near structures in bays and inlets. In offshore areas, they feed on crab, shrimp, squid, and small fish, particularly around shipwrecks and deep reefs. Best attracted with cut bait chumming, using live fish and crabs as bait on the surface. These aggressive fighters are excellent for the table, with their skin removed for a better dining experience.


  • Size Limits: None.
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 1 per harvester.
  • Remarks: Cobia skin is chewy, so it’s advisable to remove it.

Redfish (Red Drum)

Florida Saltwater Fish - Redfish (Red Drum) Saltwater Fish

The Redfish, or Red Drum, boasts a reddish-bronze hue and a distinctive black spot near its tail, making it a sought-after inshore game fish. Found in habitats like grass flats, oyster bars, and shallow bays, these hard-fighting fish offer thrilling sports for anglers of all levels.


  • Size Limits: Should be a minimum of 18 inches and a maximum of 27 inches.
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 
  • Catch and release practices are encouraged in the Indian River Lagoon Region.
  • 1 fish bag limit in Panhandle, Big Bend, Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest Florida, Southeast, and Northeast Florida
  • 4 fish vessel limit in Panhandle, Big Bend, and Northeast Florida
  • 2 fish vessel limit in Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Southwest, and Southeast
  • Refer to pg. 8 for the regional map.
  • Remarks: Gigging, spearing, and snatching are prohibited. Harvest in Federal Florida waters is prohibited.

Black Drum

Florida Saltwater Fish - Black Drum Saltwater Fish

Black Drum, often located near oyster bars, rocks, and wrecks in deep channels, are sizable fish reaching 40 to 60 inches and weighing up to 50 to 100 pounds. These bottom feeders consume marine worms, shrimp, crabs, small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, showing a preference for blue crabs, shedder crabs, shrimp, oysters, and squid. Typically, they enter estuaries to feed during rising tides and depart as the tide recedes.


  • Size Limits: Not less than 14″ or more than 24″
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 5 per harvester
  • Remarks: May possess one over 24″. Snatching prohibited.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Bonefish Saltwater Fish

Elusive Bonefish, often found in loose schools, feed on shrimp, shellfish, crabs, and bottom-dwelling fish, frequently inhabiting shallow backwaters among mangroves. They move onto mud flats during the incoming tide, retreating to deeper waters as the tide recedes. In summer, Bonefish migrate to deeper channels adjacent to flats. Chumming with shrimp bits up current from their hangouts is effective, especially in extreme temperatures. Commonly sought by fly anglers, Bonefish are not commonly consumed. Crushing live shrimp enhances scent attraction, with the best catch times during overcast skies, rising tide, water less than 3 feet, and water temperature over 70 degrees.


  • Size Limits: None specified
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 1 per harvester or 2 per vessel, whichever is less
  • Remarks: Illegal to take Bonefish by any multiple hook in conjunction with live or dead bait. Harvest is prohibited by or with the use of any multiple hooks.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Snapper Saltwater Fish

Florida boasts various Snapper species, such as the renowned Red Snapper, Mangrove Snapper, and Yellowtail Snapper. Found near artificial reefs, wrecks, and rocky structures, these reef-dwelling fish are valued for their delectable meat and spirited fights. Anglers pursue them using live bait, artificial lures, or bottom fishing techniques.


  • Size Limits: Vary by Species
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: Varies by species and location
  • Remarks: Check specific regulations for each Snapper species.

King Mackerel (Kingfish)

Florida Saltwater Fish - King Mackerel Saltwater Fish

The King Mackerel, or Kingfish, is a rapid and robust fish celebrated for its impressive speed and formidable teeth. These migratory predators inhabit Florida’s coastal waters, especially during warmer months. Anglers covet Kingfish for their aggressive strikes and thrilling battles, often utilizing trolling techniques with live bait or artificial lures.


  • Size Limits: Not less than 24″ fork length
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 2 per harvester
  • Remarks: Aggregate bag limit for King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, and Monroe County includes any combination of species not to exceed 3 fish per harvester.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Grouper Saltwater Fish

Florida waters boast an array of Grouper species, such as the Gag, Red, and Black Grouper. These brawny bottom-dwellers are famed for their strength, providing anglers with formidable challenges during powerful runs. Grouper frequent areas around reefs, wrecks, and rock formations, making bottom fishing with live or cut bait a popular method.


  • Size Limits:
  • Gag Grouper: Not less than 24″ total length
  • Red Grouper: Not less than 20″ total length
  • Black Grouper: Not less than 24″ total length
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit:
  • Gag Grouper: 2 per harvester within the 4 grouper aggregate limit
  • Red Grouper: 2 per harvester within the 4 grouper aggregate limit
  • Black Grouper: 2 per harvester within the 4 grouper aggregate limit
  • Remarks: Aggregate bag limit for Gag, Black, and Red Grouper in the Gulf of Mexico includes any combination not to exceed 4 fish per harvester; within this 4-fish aggregate bag limit, only one Black Grouper is allowed.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Flounder Saltwater Fish

Flounder, the masters of camouflage, dwell on sandy bottoms and nearshore zones. Sporting a distinct appearance with both eyes on one side, they excel as ambush predators, lurking in the sand to surprise prey. Anglers cherish the challenge of targeting these flatfish, prized for their delectable meat.


  • Minimum Size Limits: 14″
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 5 per harvester
  • Closed Season: Oct. 15–Nov. 30
  • Remarks: Harvest permitted by spearing, and snatching prohibited.

Filefish, Planehead

Florida Saltwater Fish - Filefish Saltwater Fish

The Planehead Filefish, also known as foolfish, leatherjackets, or shingles, boasts a size of around 24 inches. Adaptable in hue, it can change shades based on its surroundings. Inhabiting inshore seagrass beds and nearshore reefs, this fish feasts on algae and crustaceans, crushing them with its incisor teeth. While it’s a delectable treat, only the unicorn filefish is legally harvestable for consumption.


  • Minimum Size Limits: Consult local regulations
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: Consult local regulations
  • Remarks: Only unicorn filefish is legal for harvest; verify local regulations.

For more information, visit our Filefish page.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Buefish Saltwater Fish

Bluefish, migrating south from the North Atlantic during winter, are beloved game fish in Florida. Often swimming in schools behind large baitfish congregations, they can reach up to 20 pounds and 40 inches. Armed with sharp teeth, Bluefish feed on squids and schooling fish. Using cut bait chumming with Menhaden, Mullet, Herring, Spot, whole Ballyhoo, or Mackerel is effective. Be sure to use wire leaders to prevent their sharp teeth from cutting your line. Porgies, Mackerel, and Sand Eels make excellent bait for this powerful fish. Bluefish flesh has a robust flavor, best enjoyed freshly filleted and gently sautéed in butter with fresh garlic.


  • Minimum Size Limits: None
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: None
  • Remarks: Verify local regulations for specific details.


Florida Saltwater Fish - Sheepshead Saltwater Fish

Sheepshead, recognized by their black and silver stripes and prominent teeth, frequent structures like docks, bridges, and jetties. Renowned for their clever and cautious nature, Sheepshead poses a rewarding challenge for inshore anglers. Prized for their delectable flesh, they’re a favorite catch.

It is just a glimpse into Florida’s diverse saltwater fish species. Whether you’re after Snook, Tarpon, Redfish, Snapper, King Mackerel, Grouper, or myriad others, Florida’s coastal waters promise endless opportunities for unforgettable fishing experiences.


  • Minimum Size Limits: 12″
  • Daily Recreational Bag Limit: 8 per harvester
  • Remarks: Snatching is prohibited. The vessel limit is 50 fish during March and April. Verify local regulations for specific details.

Expertise in Saltwater Fish Identification

Accurate saltwater fish identification is essential for anglers, regardless of their skill level. In this segment, we’ll provide useful advice to enhance your ability to identify saltwater fish in Florida’s coastal waters. By closely observing physical features, unique markings, and color patterns, you can develop the expertise to confidently differentiate between various species.

Tips and Methods for Accurate Fish Identification

When you see or catch a fish, notice its overall shape. Some fish are long and skinny, while others are short and round. Check the size, head, and tail shape. These details can help you figure out what kind of fish it is.

Take a good look at the fish’s fins. Is there one or more dorsal fin? Are the fins long or short? Look for special fin features like spines or lobes. These details can help you identify the fish.

Fish come in many colors and patterns. Notice the main colors, patterns, and marks on the body, head, and fins. Look for special patterns like stripes, spots, or eye-like spots called ocelli. These unique colors and patterns can help you tell which fish it is.

Learn where different fish usually live and the areas they’re found. Some fish like estuaries, mangroves, reefs, or deep waters. Knowing where you find a fish can help you identify it more accurately.

Final Thoughts:

Discovering Florida saltwater fish is a thrilling journey for all anglers. Learn to identify fish by their looks and markings to improve your fishing skills. Following fishing rules and being responsible helps protect and keep fish thriving.

Like Snook’s power and Tarpon’s excitement, Florida’s saltwater fish offer diverse challenges and rewards. Responsible angling, like catch and release, preserves marine ecosystems. So, gear up, dive into Florida’s saltwater haven, and create lasting memories. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, Florida’s coastal waters promise exciting encounters and endless joy. Cast your line, explore Florida’s saltwater fish, and savor the wonders this fantastic fishing spot offers.

FAQs: Florida Saltwater Fish

What is the saltwater fish of Florida?

The Atlantic sailfish holds the title of Florida’s official saltwater fish, chosen in 1975 by the state legislature. Renowned author Ernest Hemingway famously caught a nine-foot, one-inch sailfish off Key West in 1934.

What is Florida’s most popular fish?

Florida’s most popular fish is the Florida Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus), a freshwater fishing species highly sought after by anglers for its size and fight.

What saltwater fish is in season in Florida?

In Florida, the saltwater fish in season can vary, but species like snapper, grouper, and amberjack are commonly targeted. It’s advisable to check the specific regulations and guidelines set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for accurate information.

What is the official fish of Florida?

The official fish of Florida, declared by the 1975 Legislature, is the Florida Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) for freshwater and the Atlantic Sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) for saltwater.

Additional Resources

  1. Florida Go Fishing – Filefish

Explore Florida Go Fishing’s insightful guide on Filefish, offering information on their habits, habitats, and tips for anglers targeting these unique saltwater species.

  1. Reel Coquina Fishing – Game Fish Regulations in Florida

Reel Coquina Fishing provides a comprehensive overview of game fish regulations in Florida, covering size limits, bag limits, and seasonal restrictions to ensure responsible and legal angling practices.

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