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Gray Triggerfish

Gray Triggerfish

Balistes capriscus
Common Triggerfish

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: The Gray Triggerfish has large incisor teeth and a deep laterally compressed body covered with tough, sandpaper-like skin. Unlike their cousin, the filefish, triggerfish have more than one dorsal spine. The action of this spine gives the triggerfish its (common) name. The first spine is large, and when erect it remains so until the smaller second spine is deflexed, triggering the first. The gray triggerfish is easily distinguished by its drab color from the queen triggerfish, which is vividly colored.

Size: Average around 2 pounds

Age at Maturity: 3 years or about 12 inches

Range: Cape Hatteras to South Florida and Bermuda, also can range up to New England

Habitat: Mostly on offshore reefs and wrecks

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Spinning, baitcasting, and light ocean rigs with small hooks. Use shrimp or any cut bait. Artificial lures, especially plastics, work but not as well.

Fishing Method: Still fishing, drifting

Food Value: Excellent although meat is hard to clean because of tough skin.

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations Apply

Federal Regulation

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Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper

Mycteroperca microlepis
Gag, Gray Grouper, Copper Belly

Life History:

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Coloration is highly variable in gag and changes with the size of the fish. Large male gag are dark brownish-gray above and paler below, with traces of dark wavy markings on the sides. Smaller fish and females are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides. The Scamp, M. phenax, and Black Grouper, M. bonaci, closely resemble the gag and often occur in the same habitat. 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.

Size: Usually around 20-30 pounds

Age at Maturity: Protogynous Hermaphrodites- They begin life as female, however after a few years of spawning as a female, some gag groupers change sex, becoming functional males. This transition generally occurs at 10-11 years of age corresponding to lengths of 37-39 inches (95-100 cm).

Range: Florida to Cape Hatteras, can get up to Cape Cod and also down to Bermuda.

Habitat: Can be found inshore around holes or ledges and grass flats. Also like to be around any kind of structure such as a wreck, reef, or pier and fairly deep.

Angling Information:

Bait and Tackle: Bottom fishing requires a stout rod with 50-80 pound test, but shallower fishing with 20-30 pound test is adequate. Fly-fishing also works with Gag, as they will take large streamer flies. Live baitfish of most any variety, small dead fish, or cut bait also work well. Leadhead jigs and large deep-diving plugs are good artificial baits.

Fishing Method: Trolling, drifting, still fishing

Food Value: Excellent firm white meat

State Regulation:

Daily Limit: 2

Minimum size: 24″ TL

Federal Regulation:

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Atlantic Spadefish

Atlantic Spadefish

Chaetodipterus faber
Angelfish

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Deep-bodied, compressed disk-shaped fish with a blunt snout. Adults are silver gray with three to six prominent black vertical bars along the sides. The first bar passes through the eye, and the last is on the caudal peduncle. They can be distinguished from angelfish by the existence of two dorsal fins instead of one.

Size: Average 2-3 pounds

Range: Cape Cod to South Florida, also to Bermuda

Habitat: Lives around a variety of structures such as mangroves and wrecks.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Spinning and plug casting tackle with shrimp or cut fish. Picky eaters

Fishing Method: Still fishing

Food Value: Good

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations apply

Minimum size: Federal Regulations apply

Season: Federal Regulations apply

Federal Regulation

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Yellowfin Tuna

Yellowfin Tuna

Thunnus albacares

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: They are metallic dark blue on the back and upper sides, changing from yellow to silver on the belly. The dorsal and anal fins, and finlets are bright yellow. Tuna species are difficult to distinguish. Bigeye, Blackfin, Albacore and Yellowfin are similar in shape and are often caught together. One characteristic that distinguishes the Yellowfin from other species are it’s elongated and lunate anal and dorsal fins on large fish but young fish lack this trademark and so are hard to distinguish.

Size: 50-100 pounds are common

Age at Maturity: 2-3 years

Range: New England to South Florida and Bermuda

Habitat: Open sea, especially near reef or cliff drop-offs.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Heavy outfits with 50-80 pound test will work best but they can also be caught on lighter gear. Trolling works well as does chumming and using lures or small baitfish.

Fishing Method: Drifting, trolling, still fishing

Food Value: One of the best

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations Apply

Federal Regulation

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Wahoo

Wahoo

Acanthocybium Solanderi

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Long and slender with vivid blue or black “zebra” stripes, and a narrow, elongated mouth with razor-sharp teeth. No gill rakers are present.

Size: Mostly around 20-50 pounds

Age at Maturity: Both sexes are capable of reproducing during the first year of life, with males maturing at 34 inches and females at 40 inches.

Range: New York to Florida and also Bermuda

Habitat: Deep blue water, especially around rips, weedlines, seamounts and other favorable feeding locations.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Light to medium ocean trolling outfits are recommended, although they can be caught on heavier gear. 30-pound test makes for good sport. The best lures are weighted feathers in combination with a baitfish or other cut bait.

Fishing Method: Drifting, trolling

Food Value: White meat but often dry, good smoked

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations Apply

Federal Regulation

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Swordfish

Swordfish

Xiphias gladius
Broadbill Swordfish

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Have rounded bodies and long flattened snouts. Brownish-black on the back and upper sides, fading to a pale brown on the lower sides and belly. Identifying characteristics are the lack of pelvic fins and gill rakers, and the presence of a single lateral keel located on each side of the caudal peduncle. Marlins, spearfish and sailfish have two keels.

Size: Average around 50 pounds

Age at Maturity: 5-6 years

Range: Nova Scotia to South Florida

Habitat: Deep sea

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Large fish are rare but it is recommended to fish with at least 50-pound test on good ocean gear. Live squid is the best bait but live fish will also work. Most strikes occur around 100 feet.

Fishing Method: Drifting

Food Value: Excellent

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations Apply

Federal Regulation

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Spanish Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel

Scomberomorous maculatus
Spanish

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Its back is green, shading to silver on sides, golden yellow irregular spots above and below lateral line; front of dorsal fin black; lateral line curves gently to base of tail.

Size: Usually 2-3 pounds

Age at Maturity: By the second year

Range: Florida to the Chesapeake Bay but may roam as far north as Cape Cod during the summer.

Habitat: Mainly stays along the coast but can be found in bays and rivers or offshore.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Spinning, baitcasting, or fly outfits all work well with spinning working the best because of the fast retrieval ability. The best lures include small white nylon jigs and silver spoons. Flies should be small and flashy. Natural baits include small silvery baitfish, live shrimp and drifted strips.

Fishing Method: Trolling, still fishing, drifting

Food Value: Rich, dark fillets. Good broiled, skinned and fried, or smoked

State Regulation

Daily Limit: 15

Minimum size: 12″ FL

Federal Regulation

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Little Tunny

Little Tunny

Euthynnus alletteratus

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Metallic overall, being steel-bluish above and silver below. Wavy stripes along the posterior portion of the back, several scattered dark spots below the pectoral fin and small finlets behind the second dorsal and anal fins are identifying characters.

Size: Common to 15 pounds

Age at Maturity: Females reach maturity at 10.6-14.6 inches in length while males mature at approximately 15.7 inches

Range: South Florida to Cape Cod, more numerous in south

Habitat: Found anywhere from close to shore to the open sea.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Will take a large variety of natural or artificial lures but can be moody so you may have to try a wide variety to find something that works. Spinners, baitcasters, and fly gear all work.

Fishing Method: Drifting, trolling

Food Value: Very good when light meat is separated from dark

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations Apply

Minimum size:

Season:

Federal Regulation

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King Mackerel

King Mackerel

Scomberomorous cavalla
Kingfish

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Iron gray to bluish green along the back and fading to silver on the sides. Long, streamlined body with a tapered head. Mouth is large with razor-sharp teeth. First dorsal is gray and the lateral line drops sharply below the second dorsal.

Size: Common to 20 pounds

Age at Maturity: Males between their second and third year, Females between their third and fourth year.

Range: South Florida to North Carolina, but as far north as New England

Habitat: Found all along the coast, out to the continental shelf. Some of the largest found close to beaches.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Ocean gear with 20-40 pound test works well but spinning, baitcasting, and fly tackle also work. Artificial baits such as spoons or feather-minnow combinations work well as do chumming with Pilchards and using them for live bait. Shrimp work well as live bait along with strips.

Fishing Method: Still fishing, trolling, drifting

Food Value: Meat is rich and oily, good broiled or smoked

State Regulation

Daily Limit: 3

Minimum size: 24″ FL

Federal Regulation

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Greater Amberjack

Greater Amberjack

Seriola dumerili
Amberfish, AJ

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Dark line runs from eye to the front of the first dorsal fin. Its back is blue to olive in color fading to silver on the sides. Often have an amber stripe or amber or pinkish cast on the sides. No scutes.

Size: Common to 40 pounds

Age at Maturity: Around 4-5 years

Range: Florida to Cape Hatteras, but can be found as far north as Cape Cod or down to Bermuda.

Habitat: Found in deep or shallow waters around wrecks or reefs.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Heavy rod and reel with 50-pound test or more. More experienced anglers can often bring them in with spinning, baitcasting or fly gear. Live, feisty bait works best but surface plugs, spoons, jigs, or big flyrod streamers and poppers also work.

Fishing Method: Trolling, drifting, casting

Food Value: Excellent, smoked or fresh

State Regulation

Daily Limit: 1

Minimum size: 28″ FL

Federal Regulation

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Great Barracuda

Great Barracuda

Sphyraena barracuda
Cuda

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Long with pointed head and many conspicuous needle-like teeth. It is silvery on the sides with dark, random splotches. It also has two, widely spaced dorsal fins.

Size: Usually 10-20 pounds but are not unusual up to 40 pounds

Age at Maturity: 2-4 years

Range: Florida to Nova Scotia

Habitat: South Florida to Cape Hatteras but will stray farther north.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Spinning, baitcasting and even fly tackle work well for inshore. Over reefs, light saltwater gear also works well. Live bait fish work the best but Cuda will also go for baited lures.

Fishing Method: Still fishing, trolling, casting

Food Value: Excellent up to 5 pounds but larger fish tend to carry Ciguatera

Dolphin

Dolphin

Coryphaena hippurus
Mahi Mahi

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: 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.

Size: Common to 30 pounds

Age at Maturity: Within the first year

Range: Florida to Massachusetts, and possibly a little farther north during the summer

Habitat: The open sea, usually hanging around floating seaweed or other such objects.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Ocean gear with artificial lures or live bait work very well. Chumming the water with cut bait or keeping a fish hooked over the side also keeps the schools around and feeding. Larger fish usually only take live bait.

Fishing Method: Casting, drifting, trolling

Food Value: The best!

State Regulation

Daily Limit: 10 (not to exceed 60 per boat, except for headboats which are allowed 10 per paying customers)

Minimum size: 20″ FL

Season: All Year

Federal Regulation

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Cobia

Cobia

Rachycentron canadum
Ling, Lemonfish, Crab Eater

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Dark brown on top and sides, torpedo shaped. In the water they are often mistaken for sharks. Lower jaw is longer than upper and it has no teeth. Has a dark band than runs from the eye to the tail, more obvious in younger specimens. First dorsal fin is made up of free spines.

Size: Common from 20-50 pounds.

Age at Maturity: Females at 36 inches, Males at 24 inches

Range: New England to South Florida

Habitat: Anywhere from shallow flats and bays to the open sea. They like to hang around navigational markers, artificial reefs, bridges, piers, etc. and often follow large rays and sharks.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Surf tackle with 30-pound test or more is recommended although they can be taken on lighter gear. Live baitfish such as Grunts, Jacks, Cigar Minnows and Mullet work best but live shrimp, crabs, dead fish or squid also work well. Artificial lures such as jigs, large streamer flies, spoons, and swimming plugs often work as well. Caution: If the fish aren’t tired when landed they are known to tear up boats.

Fishing Method: Casting, trolling, still fishing, drifting

Food Value: Excellent, smoked or fresh

State Regulation

Daily Limit: 2

Minimum size: 33″ FL

Federal Regulation

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Bonito

Bonito

Sarda sarda
Atlantic Bonito, Boston Mackerel, Northern Bonito

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Looks similar to the Little Tunny with dark blue on the dorsal surface, fading to white on the belly. However, the Bonito has a series of wavy lines along the upper half of is body and no spots on the lower half. It also has two dorsal fins that are not divided.

Size: Averages usually between 4-10 pounds

Age at Maturity: Around 2 years

Range: Cape Cod to North Florida, but can be found north to Nova Scotia or south to South Florida

Habitat: The open sea, but will roam to beaches. Prefers more temperate to tropical waters.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Light casting tackle works well using jigs, spoons, or live or cut bait.

Fishing Method: Casting, trolling, drifting

Food Value: Good

Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin Tuna

Thunnus thynnus

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: large pelagic species with a torpedo-shaped body that is nearly circular in cross-section. Coloration is dark blue-black on the back, and white on the lower sides and belly. Colorless transverse lines, alternating with rows of colorless spots on the lower sides, are present on live fish. The first dorsal fin is yellow or bluish; the second reddish-brown; the anal fin and finlets dusky yellow and edged with black; the median caudal keel is black in adults.

Size: Small schooling fish all the way to 500 pound giants

Age at Maturity: Around 4-5 years

Range: Entire Atlantic Coast from Newfoundland to South Florida and Bermuda

Habitat: Deep sea to closer to shore in Northern US and Canada

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Large, swimming baits such as Mullet or Mackerel, or offshore trawling lures. Cut bait can also be used in combination with feathers. The sporting tackle with 80-130 pound test works best.

Fishing Method: Trolling by sight if possible

Food Value: Very good cooked or as sushi

State Regulation

Daily Limit: Federal Regulations Apply

Minimum size: Federal Regulations Apply

Season: All Year

Federal Regulation

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Blue Marlin

Blue Marlin

Makaira nigricans
Jumping Mullet

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Cobalt blue to almost black on top, shading to silvery white on the bottom. Pale blue bars along sides. Upper jaw elongated to form a spear. Dorsal fin pointed at front end, pectoral fin and anal fin also pointed. Size and pointed dorsal fin are key distinguishing features.

Size: Commonly up to 500 pounds.

Age at Maturity: Males: around 76 pounds, Females: 103-105 pounds

Range: Nova Scotia to South Florida, also Bermuda

Habitat: The deep sea

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Artificial lures, larger live baitfish, or rigged natural baits can all be used. Lures are preferred in the open ocean and live baits are preferred around established fishing areas. Good, well-balanced ocean gear works the best with about 50-80 pound test.

Fishing Method: Drifting, trolling

Food Value: Good

State Regulation

Daily Limit: NO HARVEST

Minimum size: NO HARVEST

Season: All Year

Federal Regulation

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Blackfin Tuna

Blackfin Tuna

Thunnus atlanticus

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Dark overall, with a bronze stripe down the side, the finlets are dark with white edges.

Size: Common from 2-20 pounds, may be found up to 40.

Age at Maturity: 3-5 years

Range: Cape Cod to South Florida, also Bermuda

Habitat: The open sea

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Light ocean tackle, spinning or baitcasting. Use live chum and fish with the same bait or small offshore lures, feathers, small rigged baits, spoons, or white jigs with bucktail or feathers. Fishing Method: Still fishing, trolling, drifting

Food Value: Excellent

Sailfish

Sailfish

Istiophorus platypterus

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: It is dark blue along the upper half of the body, fading to brownish-blue on the lower sides to silver white on the belly. The first dorsal fin is high, sail-like, blue-black and covered with many small black spots. All related billfish have a high dorsal fin as juveniles, but only sailfish retain the high fin throughout life. The other fins are silver-blue. On the sides there are 15 to 20 vertical bars consisting of several small blue spots (visible when it is alive).

Size: Averages 35-60 pounds

Range: New York to South Florida, and around Bermuda

Habitat: Open ocean except farther south where it can be found inside the Gulf Stream around wrecks and reefs

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Rigged trolling baits or live-baiting are popular along with jigs or drifted Ballyhoo/jig combinations. Light ocean trolling or heavy spinning outfits with lines up to 30-pound test are recommended.

Fishing Method: Drifting, trolling, casting occasionally

Food Value: Very good broiled or smoked

State Regulation

Daily Limit: No Harvest

Federal Regulation

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Southern Stingray

Southern Stingray

Dasyatis Americana

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Very similar in appearance to the Atlantic Stingray except it is larger, has a more rounded nose, and more pointed wingtips.

Size: 2-3 feet across

Age at Maturity:

Range: Florida to New Jersey

Habitat: Soft bottoms, particularly flats and shorelines

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Spinning or surf tackle baited with shrimp or crab

Fishing Method: Still fishing

Food Value: Good, tastes like scallops

Cownose Ray

Cownose Ray

Rhinoptera bonasus

Life History

Description and Diagnostic Characteristics: Deep grove around front of head below eyes; forehead above groove indented, snout below groove is distinctly bi-lobed. Brown to olive above, with no spots or marks, wings long and pointed. Lower surface white or yellowish white. Does have a stinging barb.

Size: Usually 2-3 feet across but have been measured up to 7 feet.

Range: Florida to Nova Scotia

Habitat: Oceanic species that sometimes comes close to shore. Found off the coast of Florida and Georgia and down to northern South America. Also found throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Angling Information

Bait and Tackle: Surf or spinning tackle baited with shrimp, crab, or other cut bait

Fishing Method: Still fishing

Food Value: Very good, tastes like scallops

Marine Fishes of Georgia Posters

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