Fishing 4 cast from the Indian and Banana Rivers, Mosquito Lagoon and Sebastian Inlet....By Capt. Jim Ross.... PORT CANAVERAL, TITUSVILLE, COCOA, MERRITT ISLAND and MELBOURNE.... INSHORE - Redfish and trout catches are fair in the Indian river this week. Cut baits and live fingerling mullet are still the most likely baits to draw strikes. Topwater Plugs can be effective when used near mullet pods on the flats. There are rumors that the clean water that was pushed up into the Banana River this past week from the Sebastian area may actually have some living trout, jack, and redfish in it. This is still unconfirmed, but may potentially be the start of nature trying to heal itself in this area…. SEBASTIAN INLET....By Capt. Jim Ross.... INSHORE - Gator sized speckled trout are possible on the flats in the Wabasso and Sebastian areas this week. Live pilchard or croakers fished near drop-offs where mullet schools are congregating are highly likely to hold these bigger female trout. Snook and redfish are also possible near spoil islands and docks throughout this portion of the river system. Snook are hitting best on the outgoing tide at the north jetty this week. Use live hardhead or Mizuki croakers for fish to 37 inches....Catch a memory!......Courtesy of Florida Sportsman

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Family Centropomidae, SNOOKS
Centropomus undecimalis

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.

Florida Record: 44 lbs., 3 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: Even though spinning and bait casting tackle are the most used, light saltwater boat rods get plenty of action, particularly when live-baiting in passes and inlets. Even heavier gear often gets the call for fishing from piers and bridges. Surf tackle can be useful at times, although surf Snook are usually close to the beach, in easy range of casting gear.

Fly fishermen take their Snook on large streamers and poppers, for the most part, while hard-lure casters rely heavily on mirror plugs, bucktail and plastic jigs, jerk plugs, spoons and topwater lugs. Any small fish makes good live bait, as do live shrimp and crabs. Schooling baitfish, such as Pilchards, work wonders as both live chum and bait. Large dead baits fished on bottom take some very big Snook; best are Mullet heads and Ladyfish heads or halves.

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. Eating quality: Excellent.......

Redfish - Red Drum

Family Sciaenidae, DRUMS
Sciaenops ocellatus

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.

Florida Record: 51 lbs., 8 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: All kinds of casting tackle, including fly, are successfully used on Redfish of all sizes. Surf rods and light-to-medium saltwater outfits are good for beach, bridge, pier and offshore fishing. Redfish are ravenous feeders that will take live baitfish, crabs and shrimp, and also dead or cut baits from the same sources. Live shrimp and minnows make the very best baits for shallow coastal fishing; live Pinfish, small Mullet or similar baitfish for angling in deeper water.

Most productive artificial lures are weed less spoons, plastic-tail jigs and topwater plugs, but many swimming plugs also work. Large streamers and poppers do the job for fly fishermen.

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. Eating quality: Excellent.......

Spotted Seatrout

Family Sciaenidae, DRUMS
Cynoscion nebulosus

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.

Florida Record: 15 lbs., 6 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: Spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting. Best natural baits are live shrimp, live baitfish and strips of cut Mullet or Pinfish.

Most popular lures are bait-tail jigs, swimming plugs and topwater plugs. Poppers are productive fly rod lures over the flats; large streamers work in all waters.

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. Eating quality: Excellent.......


Family Rachycentridae, COBIA
Rachycentron canadum

Description: long, slim fish with broad depressed head; lower jaw projects past upper jaw; dark lateral stripe extends through eye to tail; first dorsal fin comprised of 7 to 9 free spines; when young, has conspicuous alternating black and white horizontal stripes.

Similar Fish: remora, Echeneis naucrates.

Where found: both INSHORE and NEARSHORE inhabiting inlets, bays, and among mangroves; frequently seen around bouys, pilings, and wrecks.

Size: common to 30 pounds.

Florida Record: 103 lbs., 12 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: Surf tackle is the best bet for pier fishing and for boat fishing when long casts with heavy lures are called for. Since Cobia are notorious for wrapping lines around buoys and wreck structure, most anglers use 30-pound-test line or heavier. Once clear of obstructions, however, even large Cobia can be successfully fought with spinning, bait casting and fly tackle although a minimum of 10-pound line or tippet is advisable. When gaffed "green" (not tired), Cobia can-and often do smash up the inside of a boat.

Jigs and large streamer flies are the most-used artificial lures. Spoons and swimming plugs often work well; you might wake them up with a surface plug, popper or tube lure. Live baitfish, such as Pinfish, Mullet, Cigar Minnows, Grunts and Jacks work best, but live shrimp, crabs, dead fish or squid are good too.

Remarks: spawns in spring and early summer; feeds on crabs, squid, and small fish. Eating quality: Excellent.......


Elops saurus


  • Terminal mouth
  • Slender body
  • Small scales
  • Last dorsal ray not elongated
  • Head is small and pointed

Habitat: Ladyfish are found inshore in bays and estuaries. They may occasionally enter freshwater. Ladyfish frequent tidal pools and canals and often form large schools and harasses bait at the surface.

Behavior: Ladyfish are known to spawn offshore. Adults feed predominantly on fish and crustaceans. They leap when hooked.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds average size but can reach a maximum size of about 39 inches and a weight of about 15 pounds.

State Record: 6 lb 4 oz, caught near Cocoa Beach

Tackle and Baits: Lightweight rod and reel with a lead head jig tipped with a small piece of shrimp.

Remarks: Ladyfish appear similar to juvenile tarpon, Megalops atlanticus. Great as cut bait for redfish. Ladyfish are great jumpers and just plain fun to catch.


Family Sparidae, PORGIES
Archosargus probatocephalus

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.

Florida Record: 12 lbs., 2 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: Light spinning and bait casting tackle are tops for sport, but rod tip should not be too soft, as the tough and toothy mouth makes it hard to set a hook.

Best baits are fiddlers or other small crabs; cut pieces of blue crab; live or fresh-dead shrimp (threaded on the hook); pieces of oysters and clams. Sheepshead will readily hit slow-moving jigs tipped with these baits and, occasionally, will take the bare jig.

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." Eating quality: Excellent.......

Black Drum

Family Sciaenidae, DRUMS
Pogonias cromis

Description: high arched back; 10 to 14 pairs of chin barbels; gray or black colored body in adults; young have 4 to 6 vertical bars; has cobblestone-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 dweller often found around oyster beds; also OFFSHORE.

Size: common to 30 pounds.

Florida Record: 93 lbs.

Tackle and Baits: Surf tackle and saltwater boat rods are used when targeting big fish, but even the lunkers can be caught rather easily on spinning and casting tackle with a bit of patience. Fly fishing is a challenge.

Any sort of crustacean, from shrimp to cut blue crab to whole small crab, makes fine bait for Drum. Cut fish and squid work fairly well. Drum are not avid lure-chasers but can be taken on slowly worked jigs in deep water, and by carefully presented streamer flies and jigs on the flats.

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

Yellowtail Snapper

Family Lutjanidae, SNAPPERS
Ocyurus chrysurus

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.

Florida Record: 7 lbs., 5 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: When fishing inside waters for yellowtail snapper, a light spinning or bait-casting tackle with 6-12 pound test line, the workhorse of the backwater anglers, will suffice.

Yellowtail snapper will take live shrimp, small live pinfish, squirrel fish, and ballyhoo or chunks of cut bait. These also happen to be the same treats that attract grouper.

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

Mutton Snapper

Family Lutjanidae, SNAPPERS
Lutjanus analis

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 side of head.

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.

Florida Record: 27 lbs., 6 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: When fishing inside waters for mutton snapper, a light spinning or bait-casting tackle with 6-12 pound test line, the workhorse of the backwater anglers, will suffice.

Mutton snapper will take live shrimp, small live pinfish, squirrel fish, and ballyhoo or chunks of cut bait. These also happen to be the same treats that attract grouper.

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

Mangrove Snapper - Mango Snapper or Gray Snapper

Family Lutjanidae, SNAPPERS
Lutjanus griseus

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.

Florida Record: 16 lbs., 8 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: When fishing inside waters for mangrove snapper, a light spinning or bait-casting tackle with 6-12 pound test line, the workhorse of the backwater anglers, will suffice.

Mangrove snapper will take live shrimp, small live pinfish, squirrel fish, and ballyhoo or chunks of cut bait. These also happen to be the same treats that attract grouper.

Remarks: spawns June through August; feeds on crustaceans and small fish. Eating quality: Excellent.......


Family Carangidae, JACKS and POMPANOS
Trachinotus falcatus

Description: color gray, dark or iridescent blue above, shading to silvery sides, in dark waters showing golden tints around breast; small permit have teeth on tongue (none on pompano); no scutes; dorsal fin insertion directly above that of the anal fin; 17 to 21 soft anal rays.

Similar Fish: pompano, T. carolinus. The permit is deeper bodied; dorsal body profile forms angle at insertion of second dorsal fin; pompano rarely grow larger than 6 pounds, permit common to 40 pounds.

Where found: OFFSHORE on wrecks and debris, INSHORE on grass flats, sand flats, and in channels; most abundant in south Florida, with smaller specimens from every coastal county.

Size: common to 25 pounds.

Florida Record: 51 lbs., 8 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: Although offshore Permit are large enough to provide sport with light and medium saltwater tackle, the epitome of Permit fishing is to stalk them by sight on shallow flats, and cast directly to them. Light spinning, bait casting and fly tackle can be used in the shallows provided the angler has a good supply of line and a means (a guide with a push pole, preferably) of chasing the fish.

Best natural bait is any sort of small live crab. Dead pieces of crab and lobster also work well. Live shrimp are often accepted, especially if skittered across the surface, and then allowed to sink. If using small skimmer (Bonefish-style) jigs, try to get the Permit to follow the lure then stop it dead and let it sink into the grass or mud. Best flies are those with weighted or epoxy heads that will sink in the manner of a lead head jig.

Remarks: feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling crabs, shrimp, small clams, and small fish.

Florida Pompano

Family Carangidae, JACKS and POMPANOS
Trachinotus carolinus

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.

Florida Record: 8 lbs, 1 oz.

Tackle and Baits: If fishing the surf or piers, use the lightest surf spinning tackle that will get your bait where you want it. In other situations, spinning or light bait casting tackle with 6-8 pound-test line gives maximum sport.

By far the best natural bait is a live sand flea (sand crab), but Pompano also will bite live shrimp or fiddler crabs and with varying dependability dead sand fleas, dead shrimp, clams and cut squid. Pompano are ready strikers of artificial jigs, the Florida favorite being quarter-ounce or half-ounce models with short nylon skirts. Fly fishermen catch Pompano with Bonefish-type flies that sink well those with epoxy heads or lead eyes.

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.

Jewfish or Goliath Grouper

Epinephelus itajara

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.

Florida Record: 680 lbs.

Tackle and Baits: Bait casting, spinning and even fly tackle make acceptable match-ups for the inshore fish, which will and often do hit the full range of lures and flies that are used by Snook casters. Again, though, it takes all the muscle you and your tackle can come up with to battle Jewfish of 100 pounds or more.

Best natural baits are live Snapper, live Jack and live Catfish inshore; live or dead large fish for offshore giants including Bonito and Amberjack up to 15 pounds or more.

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.

Gag Grouper

Mycteroperca microlepis

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.

Florida Record: 71 lbs., 3 ozs.

Tackle and Baits: Just about anything goes. Offshore bottom fishermen tend toward stout rods with 50- and 80-pound-test lines, but such "grouper digging" rigs are strictly necessary only in very deep water. Up to about 50 feet, lines in the 20-30-pound range are adequate and allow much more sport.

Many anglers catch lots of Gags on spinning and plug tackle. This is also the best of the Groupers for fly fishermen, since they are frequently found in fairly shallow water and will eagerly take a large streamer fly. Hard-lure casters use lead head jigs, mostly, while Trollers rely on large deep-diving plugs.

Live baitfish of various sorts are the best natural offerings-try Pilchards, Pinfish, Grunts or Sand Perch (Squirrelfish). Dead small fish and large cut baits also work well.

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. Eating quality: Excellent.......


Family Lobotidae
Lebotes Surinamensis

Description: head and body variously mottled, tan to dark brown; fins (except spinous dorsal and pectoral 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.

Where found: INSHORE - NEARSHORE - OFFSHORE - The Tripletail is a true world traveler, drifting with ocean currents and often spotted by dolphin fishermen in weed lines or alongside floating debris. Many are found closer to shore in most coastal areas of Florida during warm months, and also in larger bays usually hanging around markers or trap floats.

Size: 42 inches....Tripletail can reach 30 pounds or more.

Florida Record: 32 pounds.

Tackle and Baits: Casting tackle fly, plug or spinning provides the best and most spectacular sport with Tripletails, but saltwater outfits with lines up to 30-pound test are not out of place for big fish in tight places.

Streamer flies, plastic and bucktail jigs and mirror plugs are among the pet lures. Best natural baits are live shrimp and small live fish. Strip baits and dead shrimp are also taken.

Remarks: Despite its clumsy looks, the Tripletail is a good game fish in all respects. It willingly strikes artificial lures and its fight is characterized by short, frantic runs and startling jumps. Big ones in deep water are also good at bulldogging. Like Cobia with which they frequently share the shade of a navigation structure Tripletail are adept at fouling lines. Eating quality: Excellent.......


Family Elopidae, TARPONS
Megalops atlanticus

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 catchs 40 to 50 pounds.

Florida Record: 243 lbs.

Tackle and Baits: Anglers seeking big fish in passes, channels, deep bays and surf areas like stout tackle with lines testing at least 30 pounds. All sizes of spinning, bait casting and fly tackle get lots of play for smaller fish. The same types of gear, although of heavier proportions, are also used for big fish on shallow flats. Use at least 15-pound line on spinning and casting gear, and at least a 10-weight fly outfit with minimum 16-pound tippet. Heavy monofilament leaders or tippets are required because of the Tarpon's very rough mouth.

Drift-fishermen in the passes and inlets prefer live baits mainly small crabs and small fish. All Tarpon will take dead baits, such as a Mullet head or half Mullet, fished patiently on bottom. For trolling or surfcasting with heavier gear, large jigs, spoons and lipped plugs get the call. Generally, casters enjoy the most success with swimming plugs, jerk plugs and surface plugs. Fly fishermen rely heavily on scissor-action feather streamers and bulky bucktail streamers.

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.

Gulf Flounder

Paralichthys albigutta

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.

Florida Record: n/a

Tackle and Baits: For most Flounder fishing, ordinary light spinning or bait casting tackle is more than adequate. When targeting doormats around the inlets with live bait, the same types of gear, but with stouter rods and perhaps stronger lines should be used. Light saltwater boat tackle also does the job.

Big Flounder are taken mostly with live fish as bait. Finger Mullet are favorites everywhere. Smaller fish and big ones at times will also hit live or dead shrimp and cut baits. While most fish-imitating lures will take Flounder, jigs are the most productive.

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. Eating quality: Excellent.......

Southern Flounder

Paralichthys lethostigma

Description: brown or olive background, liberally marked with both dark blotches and white spots; however, the prominent eye-like spots of the Gulf Flounder are missing.

Similar Fish: gulf flounder, P. albigutta.

Where found: INSHORE - Most of the year, this fish is found in relatively shallow areas, preferring soft bottom near such cover as bars or rubble. Also holes in grass beds and edges of channels.

Size: This is the larger of Florida's two widely caught Flounders. It averages 2-4 pounds, but fish running 8-12 pounds are caught each year.

Florida Record: 20 pounds, 9 ounces.

Tackle and Baits: For most Flounder fishing, ordinary light spinning or bait casting tackle is more than adequate. When targeting doormats around the inlets with live bait, the same types of gear, but with stouter rods and perhaps stronger lines should be used. Light saltwater boat tackle also does the job.

Big Flounder are taken mostly with live fish as bait. Finger Mullet are favorites everywhere. Smaller fish and big ones at times will also hit live or dead shrimp and cut baits. While most fish-imitating lures will take Flounder, jigs are the most productive.

Remarks: Large fish get off some fair runs, but they give up after a few minutes of fight. Eating quality: Excellent.......

Jack Crevalle

Family Carangidae, JACKS and POMPANOS
Caranx hippos

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.

Florida Record: 51 lbs.

Tackle and Baits: Most Jacks are fairly small and are caught on the full range of light tackle by anglers seeking other game. If you target larger Jacks, say 10 pounds or more, sturdy spinning, bait casting and fly tackle should be used, with lines no less than 8-pound test. Small Jacks, such as those frequently encountered on shallow flats, will gulp down almost any sort of natural bait, live or dead, as well as all the popular casting and fly rod lures.

Big Crevalles, however, generally like their meals moving very fast. To assure hookups, you have to use fresh and frisky live fish, or retrieve your artificial lures rapidly, noisily, or both. Top water plugs are good, as are fast-whipped jigs. Fly Fishermen often have to work very hard, stripping their streamers or poppers as fast as their elbows will move.

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.

Black Sea Bass

Centropristis striata

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).

Florida Record: 5 lbs., 1 oz.

Tackle and Baits: Spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait works as does shrimp, crab, mollusks and squid.

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

Atlantic Spadefish

Family Ephippidae, SPADEFISHES
Chaetodipterus faber

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.

Florida Record: n/a

Tackle and Baits: Spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait works as does shrimp, crab, mollusks and squid.

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.

Sharpnose Shark

Rhizoprionodon terraenovae

Description: The Sharpnose shark has a long snout and labial folds around its mouth. The triangular smooth edged teeth are similar on both the upper and lower jaws. This shark can be brown, olive-gray or blue-gray turning to white on the underside. Adults may have some white spots and smaller individuals tend to have black edged dorsal and caudal fins.

Similar Fish: The Caribbean sharpnose shark R.porosus is virtually identical to R.terraenovae. Positive identification can only be made through vertebral counts and DNA analysis. These two sharks may ultimately prove to be the same species.

Where found: Sharpnose Sharks are an inshore species, sometimes found in the surf. These sharks are also common in bays and estuaries. Adults occur offshore.

Size: The Sharpnose Shark's maximum species length is about about 4 ft. But the average adult Sharpnose seem to be about 39-42 inches in length. They usually matures at between 31-35 inches in total length at roughly 2-4 years of age. Sharpnose sharks may live to 9-12 years of age. Like most sharks, the females seem to be larger than the males.

Florida Record: This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

Tackle and Baits: Medium spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait will work.

Remarks: Sharpnose sharks consumes shrimp, molluscs and small fishes.

Bonnethead Shark

Sphyrna tiburo

Description: The bonnethead shark is a smaller relative of the hammerhead sharks, and grows to approximately 5 feet in length. The head is expanded as in other hammerheads, but less broadly, with the frontal margin of the head rounded and shovel-like in appearance, with no medial indentation. Eyes are placed laterally on the lobes of the head. Body color is typically gray to gray-brown dorsally, with the ventral surface being paler. The base of the anal fin is longer than that of the second dorsal fin. Bonnethead sharks are considered harmless to people.

Similar Fish: Bonnethead sharks resemble other hammerhead species in that the head is expanded into lobes. However, this species is smaller than either the great hammerhead, Sphyrna mokorran, or the scalloped hammerhead, S. lewini. Additionally, head shape is significantly different in the bonnethead, with the frontal margin of the head being much more concave and rounded than in either of the others.

Where found: Bonnethead sharks prefer shallow, inshore waters, bays and estuaries. They are common in sandy, soft bottom areas, and are often caught by recreational fishers at estuary mouths.

Size: Bonnetheads grow to approximately 5 feet in length.

Florida Record: This species is not currently eligible for a state record.

Tackle and Baits: Medium to heavy spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait will work.

Remarks: Bonnethead sharks feed primarily on crustaceans, mollusks, and small fishes.

Blacktip Shark

Carcharhinus limbatus

Description: This somewhat slender shark grows to 6 - 8 feet in length. The snout is somewhat pointed and long. Body color is blue-gray to gray above, with a distinctive white stripe along the sides beginning beneath the first dorsal fin and extending to the tail. Ventrally, the animal is typically white or light gray. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature in this species are the black tips of the pelvic fins. The other fins also bear black tips, however, these markings are not always reliable, as they tend to fade as the shark ages. Pelvic fins are falcate in shape. No spiracle or mid-dorsal ridge is present. This shark is considered to be dangerous to people and has been implicated in attacks on humans.

Similar Fish: Blacktip sharks closely resemble spinner sharks, Carcharhinus brevipinna. Both share a similar range, black tips on the pectoral fins, and a habit of sometimes leaping out of the water and spinning several times while in pursuit of prey or if caught on fishing line. However, spinner sharks can be distinguished by the shape of the snout, which is long and almost V-shaped. The snout of the blacktip shark, while long, is more blunt in shape.

Where found: Blacktip sharks inhabit both coastal and offshore waters and are often seen in estuaries and embayments. Mature specimens are considered primarily pelagic, but smaller individuals readily utilize nearshore waters. These sharks sometimes form large schools and are known to follow baitfish close to shorelines. They are also known to school for winter migrations to deeper waters.

Size: This somewhat slender shark grows to 6 - 8 feet in length.

Florida Record: 152 lbs.

Tackle and Baits: Medium to heavy spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait works.

Remarks: Blacktip sharks that form feeding schools often are associated with schools of Spanish mackerel, a preferred prey. These sharks also feed on smaller sharks, rays, mollusks such as octopus and squid, and large crustaceans. I caught one about 2 feet long in the Indian River at Vero Beach.

Bull Shark

Carcharhinus leucas

Description: Bull sharks are robust and heavy-bodied, growing to 11 feet in length. Body color is typically black to gray dorsally, fading to whitish ventrally. The snout is shorter than the width of the mouth and rounded when viewed from beneath. The large pectoral fins are quite broad, tapering to pointed tips. Two dorsal fins are present, but there is no mid-dorsal ridge between them. The first dorsal fin is significantly larger than the second and originates in front of the midline of the pectoral fins. The second dorsal fin is set opposite the anal fin. No spiracle is present. Like other requiem sharks, the upper lobe of the caudal fin is extended and points upward away from the body. This species is considered to be dangerous to people and accounts for the third highest number of attacks on humans.

Similar Fish: Bull sharks are similar in appearance to other sharks of its genus, but is especially close in appearance to the sandbar shark, Carcharhinus plumbeus. However, sandbar sharks tend to be smaller as adults and have a slight mid-dorsal ridge extending between the dorsal fins.

Where found: Bull sharks are perhaps the most common shark species to be found in shallow bays and estuaries. It is common within the Indian River Lagoon, especially during the spring and early summer when pups are born and the lagoon is utilized as a nursery area. It is commonly known to enter freshwater and is documented to occur far upstream in some river systems, sometimes hundreds of miles upriver from the coastal zone. It is rarely observed far offshore.

Size: Bull sharks grow to 11 feet in length.

Florida Record: 551 lbs.

Tackle and Baits: Heavy tackle.

Almost any cut bait works.

Remarks: Bull sharks are highly opportunistic predators with varied diets that include a number of estuarine species, including rays, other sharks, dolphins, sea birds, and sea turtles.

Atlantic Stingray

Dasyatis sabina

Description: There are many types of rays in Florida waters but the most common is the Atlantic Stingray. This stingray is one of the smallest rays in the family Dasyatidae. The flattened pectoral fins of the disc are continuous and extend anterior to the head and posterior to the pelvic region. Unlike most rays, the snout is elongated. The head is slightly elevated and contains spiracles that enable the ray to take in water dorsally while lying on the seabed. The gills, which expel the water, are located ventrally. The disc is approximately 1.1 times as broad as it is long. The tail is long and tapered, oval in the cross section, and extends behind the body like a whip. Dorsal and ventral tail folds are present. The dorsal fold is located posterior to the tail spine.

The tail spines of stingrays are thought to be modified scales, tapering to a sharp point with retrorse serations along the lateral margins. Venom is produced along two narrow grooves on both the dorsal and ventral sides. At full length, the Atlantic stingray’s tail spine is approximately 25% of its disc width, with females having longer tail spines than males. The distance between the outer margins of the eye orbits is about the same length as the tail spine. The spine is generally round but slightly flattened dorso-ventrally to a breadth of 4-5% its length. A study has shown that freshwater rays replace spines on an annual basis, usually between the months of June and October.

Similar Fish: Other stingrays.

Where found: Atlantic stingrays are commonly found in the Indian River Lagoon and other shallow coastal waters of Florida. They are also common in the freshwater St. Johns River and associated lakes in central Florida.

Size: Atlantic stingrays in Florida coastal lagoons reportedly reach a maximum disc width of 12.8 inches for males and 14.6 inches for females. Males mature around 7.9 inches disc width with females maturing at 9.4 inches disc width.

World Record: 10 pounds, 12 ounces.

Tackle and Baits: Spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait works as will shrimp and squid.

Remarks: Atlantic stingrays feed primarily on mollusks, crustaceans, and occasionally on small fish.

Spanish Mackerel

Scomberomorous maculatus

Description: Color of back green, shading to silver on sides with golden yellow irregular spots found above and below the lateral line.

Front of dorsal fin is black.

Lateral line curves gently to base of tail.

Similar Fish: King Mackerel.

Where found: Spanish mackerel are prevalent throughout Florida waters: inshore, offshore and nearshore. They are frequently found over grass beds and reefs. These mackerel are absent from north Florida waters in winter.

Behavior: Spanish mackerel are a schooling fish that migrates northward in spring, returning to southerly waters when water temperature drops below 70 degrees F. They spawns offshore from spring through summer and feeds on small fish and squid.

Size: The average size of Spanish Mackerel is from 2-3 pounds, while a weight of 9-10 pounds is considered large.

Florida Record: 12 lb, caught near Ft. Pierce.

Tackle and Baits: Spinning, bait casting and fly tackle are all effective and sporting.

Almost any cut bait works as will shrimp and squid.

Bait & Bait Fish


Three important species of penaeoid shrimp occur on both coasts of Florida. The distribution of white shrimp, Litopenaeus setiferus, and brown shrimp, Farfantepenaeus aztecus, is intermittent in Florida waters. White shrimp do not occur from about St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic coast around the southern tip of Florida north to about the mouth of the Ochlockonee River. Brown shrimp do not occur on the gulf coast between Sanibel Island and Apalachicola Bay. All three shrimp species occur in nearshore waters and estuaries and use the estuaries as nursery areas. At various juvenile stages, penaeoid shrimp usually inhabit seagrass beds and algal mats within estuaries. Pink shrimp, F. duorarum, are most abundant at depths between 35' and 120'. White shrimp are most abundant in waters shallower than 90', and brown shrimp are most abundant in waters less than 180'. White shrimp are typically distributed in areas of low salinity over organic-rich, mud bottoms. Brown shrimp are found on similar bottoms but in higher salinities. Pink shrimp occur on more coarse sediments and in a wide variety of salinities. White shrimp grow rapidly until about 6.3 inches total length. Peak growth rates are 0.8 inches/month during summer. Brown shrimp can grow at peak rates of 1.8 inches/month during spring; pink shrimp peak growth rates have been reported to exceed 2.0 inches/month.

Shrimp is perhaps the ultimate fish bait and can be purchased live or frozen at any East or West Coast bait shop.

How To Rig Live Shrimp


Lagodon rhomboides

Description: Silvery with many narrow longitudinal yellow lines and, sometimes, dim vertical bars. Dark patch just behind gill cover. Spines of dorsal and anal fin are sharp, hence the name. Primarily used as bait.

Where found: Small pinfish swarm over inshore grass flats in warm or temperate weather, retreating to deeper water with dropping temperatures. They also can be found around other cover, such as rocks and bars.

Size: Most run 3-6 inches, but may range as high as a pound or more. World record 3 pounds, 5 ounces.

Tackle and Baits: Bits of cut shrimp, fish, or bacon, fished on tiny hooks with cane poles or ultra-light spinning outfits. Cast net will catch the most.

Remarks: All Florida coasts.

Sardine - Pilchard - Scaled Sardine

Harengula jaguana

Description: Again, we have several similar species that most anglers make little or no attempt to differentiate, and which are known by various common names, mostly regional. Actually, it would be a surprise to find a listing under the name "Pilchard" in scientific books. The Scaled Sardine is the one most widely called "Pilchard," at least on the East Coast. The same fish (with some others) is usually called "Whitebait" in the Gulf. Color is usually brassy above and solid silver on sides. Small black spot may be present on the gill cover. The similar Red ear Sardine, and False Pilchard, occur in South Florida but are less common. Both have an orange spot on the gill cover, but the False Pilchard is solid, whereas the Red ear Sardine shows dark broken streaks on the upper sides.

Where found: Roams widely in both shallow and deep water of both coasts. Bait-seekers look for them inshore on grassy flats and around bridges. Offshore, they frequently congregate near navigation markers, wrecks and reefs.

Size: Averages 3-6 inches.

Tackle and Baits: Most are cast netted, but they can also be caught with either multi-hook bait rigs, or with "Pilchard rings", a series of small, interlocking rings fashioned of leader wire. Both rigs are sold in bait shops in areas where they are popular. If the Pilchards are present but not densely packed, they are first chummed up with grain, such as oatmeal, and then the bait rigs or Pilchard rings are lowered into the school. The Pilchards either strike the hooks or swim into the rings, which trap them.

Remarks: The belly bows deeper than the back bows upward, large eyes and occurs in coastal waters over mud or sand bottoms frequently near brackish. They form dense schools.


Brevoortia tyrannus

Other Names: Porgy, Mossbunker, Bunker, Alewife, LY, Fatback, Shad

Description: Three species of Menhaden are common in Florida, but all are similar in size and appearance, and interchangeable in their bait appeal. The Atlantic Menhaden, shown here, is slightly larger than its Gulf side counterparts, the Gulf Menhaden, and the Yellowfin Menhaden. The latter two can be distinguished by their spots, a lone prominent spot behind the gill cover of the Yellowfin, as opposed to a large spot and a series of smaller ones on the Gulf Menhaden. The Atlantic variety also has numerous spots. All three have dark greenish backs, yellowish fins and dull silver or brassy sides.

Where found: All the Menhaden's range widely in open water of the Gulf and Atlantic, but are most often sought by anglers fairly close to the beaches, or around shoals and wrecks.

Size: To about 12 inches. The average is about 8 inches.

Tackle and Baits: Most are cast netted, but many are caught on spinning tackle with Sabiki Rigs.

Remarks: Very oily. Best used for bait and for sliced or ground chum.

Spanish Sardine

Sardinella aurita

Other Names: Sardine, Shiner, Herring

Description: Both the Spanish Sardine, shown here, and the Orange spot Sardine, are more elongated and less flattened than other Herrings. Silver sides and green back. Spanish has no markings, whereas Orange spot has a gold or light orange streak on the side.

Where found: Common on inshore flats, but occurs in deep water too.

Size: Averages 2-4 inches; reaches 10 inches on so. Orange Sardine usually is smaller than the Spanish.

Tackle and Baits: Will respond to chum and can then be cast netted or taken on Sabiki Rigs.

Remarks: Good, but seldom eaten.

Atlantic Croaker

Family Sciaenidae, DRUMS
Micropogonias undulatus

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. Primarily used as bait.

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.

Tackle and Baits: Bits of cut shrimp, fish, or bacon, fished on tiny hooks with cane poles or ultra-light spinning outfits and cast net.

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

Striped Mullet

Mugil cephalus

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

Where found: Striped mullet are commonly found inshore.

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

Tackle and Baits: cast net.

Remarks: Adult striped mullet migrate offshore in large schools to spawn. Juveniles migrate inshore at about 1 inch in size, moving far up tidal creeks. These fish are frequent leapers and feed on algae, detritus and other tiny marine forms. Striped mullet are similar in appearance to the 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 striped mullet.
Mullet makes a great cut bait.

Fiddler Crab

Uca Pugnax

Description: Fiddler crabs are true crabs in the infraorder Brachyura. The Brachyura are the most advanced of the decapods. The crab body is generally short, wide and flat, and is characterized by having a reduced abdomen that lacks a tail fan and is flexed under the body. In all but a few small groups, all five pairs of walking legs are large and the first pair are always claws. The majority of brachyuran species pass through a number of planktonic larval stages with the megalopal stage being the last larval stage before settlement to the crab form. The megalopa stage resembles the adult; however, the abdomen hasn’t yet folded under the body. Fiddler crabs are in the family Ocypodidae characterized by having eyes that are set close together and at the end of long stalks and are easily recognized by their square body and marked difference in size between the right and left claws of males.

Where found: Fiddler crabs like to live near water on the mud or sand. They dig burrows (hole homes) that are 1/2 inch wide and go almost straight down in the mud. The burrows can reach a foot deep They may hook up with other tunnels and have more than one entrance. These burrows provide a quick escape from predators like fish, raccoons, and water birds. Most fiddlers look for food at low tide and stay near their burrows. If they are too far away when danger comes, they will jump into any burrow to escape. Burrows also offer a cool shady place for fiddlers to get away from the sun. Finally, burrows provide a place for the crabs to stay during high tide. Fiddlers often roll up a ball of mud and use it to plug the hole of their burrow during high tide. When the water covers their burrow, a tiny pocket of air is trapped inside for them to breath. All crabs have gills, but crabs that live on land, like the fiddlers, breathe air instead of water. Their gills must stay wet to work, so they must stay near water at all times.

Remarks: They can be bought at tackle stores along the coasts, but are easily attainable by catching them yourself.

How To Rig Live Fiddler Crabs

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