We fish for Dolphin (Mahi Mahi), Sailfish, Wahoo, Tuna, Billfish (Marlin/Swordfish), Barracuda, Grouper, and Snapper (red snapper, yellowtail snapper, and mutton):
The Dolphin is a fighter and exciting to catch. And it tastes great! They average from 10–30 pounds, are often found in schools near the surface, and are most abundant during warmer months from March to November.
Sailfish are pelagic fish, fast (up to or exceeding 22 m.p.h.), and put on quite a head-shaking show when hooked. They can grow up to 10+ feet in length and weigh in up to (the record!) 128 pounds. Migratory in nature, sailfish move in the summer months toward shore to spawn, yet can be found in our waters year-round. Sailfish can be found in depths ranging from our warm surface waters down to below 600’.
Wahoo are long and sleek and hunt alone, darting in all directions in search of fish and squid. Filleted, they are as tasty as you can find anywhere, if you are lucky to hook one. They weigh in around 20–50 pounds and sometimes even larger.
Tuna, having sleek, streamlined bodies, are skilled predators. A variety of species of this pelagic fish exist, including bonito, blackfin, bluefin (average 6½’; record 15’, 1500 lbs.; can live up to 50 years), yellowfin (able to swim up to 47 m.p.h.!), and skipjack—over 8 species in all. They are strong, determined and feisty and willing to fight, usually by heading full speed downward!
Marlins are identified by their elongated body, spear-like snout/bill, and long, rigid dorsal fin that extends forward to form a crest. Marlins are extremely fast deep sea fish that can swim up to 50 m.p.h.! Marlins can grow in length up to 16 feet. Black marlin have been found up to almost 1500 pounds; the record blue marlin exceeded 1,800 pounds! A marlin was featured as the supporting cast in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, his celebrated book that was later made into a movie.
Swordfish, identified by their long, flat bill, are predatory deep sea fish, ranging from the surface down to 1800’. While the largest recorded was almost 15’ in length and 1430 pounds, it is not uncommon to encounter 10’ specimens. Swordfish swim alone or in very loose aggregations. They are a highly prized catch and swordfish steak can’t be beat!
Groupers come in all colors, sizes, and seasons (over 40 species off the Florida coast alone) and they all taste great. Grouper are strong fish that can put a good fight. They can be fished all year long, closer to shore in cooler months, and further offshore in late spring through summer.
Barracuda are decreasing off the Florida coast, so there are some restrictions on the size of a catch. Any barracuda less than 15 inches must be thrown back and there are harvesting restrictions on barracuda longer than 36 inches.
Snappers usually weigh in from 1 to 8 pounds but can grow much larger. The Florida record is 46 pounds. They are rosy red and hard-fighting, shaking their head back and forth with gusto. They really prefer cooler waters, so the best snapper season is winter.
There are a variety of great websites with fish species profiles for Florida sport fishing.