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Florida Sportfishing Species

Family Sciaenidae


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.

Similar Fish: Spot, Leiostomus xanthurus (has no chin barbels and has a dark blotch on shoulder).

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.

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

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

Size: Common to 30 pounds.

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

RED DRUM (redfish)
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.

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.

Description: Pale body color, yellow above, silver to white below; one or two prominent canine teeth usually at tip of upper jaw; inside of mouth yellow; no well-defined black spots on back; 10 to 12 soft rays in anal fin; no chin barbels.

Similar Fish: Silver seatrout, C. nothus.

Where found: A Gulf species that may occur in the Atlantic waters of extreme south-eastern Florida; adults predominantly found INSHORE residing in bays and inlets but may move offshore during winter months; young occur inshore in shallow bays.

Size: Usually less than 1 pound (10 to 12 inches).

Remarks: Matures during first or second year; prolonged INSHORE spawning season extends through spring and summer; feeds mainly on small fish and shrimp.

Description: Pale straw colored above, silvery sides and white below; no distinctive pigmentation, although faint diagonal lines may be present on upper body; 8 to 9 rays in the anal fin; large eyes; short snout; one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw; lower half of tail longer than upper half.

Similar Fish: Other seatrouts.

Where found: Most common over sand or sandy mud bottoms offshore along both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida; migrates into bays during cold months.

Size: Usually no more than 1/2 pound (less than 10 inches).

Remarks: Smallest seatrout; spawns offshore in deep water during spring, summer and fall; feeds on small fish and shrimp.

Description: Color silvery with yellowish fins; no spots; no chin barbels; no prominent canine teeth at tip of upper jaw; preopercle finely serrated; 5 to 6 chin pores; mouth terminal.

Similar Fish: Sand seatrout, Cynoscion arenarius (the seatrouts usually have 1 or 2 prominent canine teeth at tip of upper jaw and do not have chin pores).

Where found: Inshore in seagrass beds, tidal creeks and rivers, and marshes.

Size: Small, not exceeding 9 inches.

Remarks: Spawning takes place in shallow, saline portions of bays and other inshore areas, peaking between May and September; matures by second or third year (by 6 inches); adults eat crustaceans and small fishes; may live to 6 years.

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.

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.

Description: Dark olive or blue-green back; sides covered in tones of blue, purple, lavender, gold and copper; irregular diagonal rows of vaguely-defined dark spots appear above the lateral line; 1 to 2 prominent canine teeth usually present at tip of upper jaw; black margin on tip of the tongue; pelvic and anal fins yellow; pectoral fins olive on outside, yellow underneath; mouth yellow inside.

Similar Fish: Other seatrouts.

Where found: An Atlantic coast fish, possibly found in the extreme southeastern Gulf; adults move inshore and north during warm months inhabiting the surf, inlets, bays, channels and estuaries; adults move offshore and south during cold months; juveniles inhabit estuaries which serve as nurseries.

Size: 2 to 3 pounds.

Remarks: May mature as early as age 1; spawns in nearshore or estuarine areas between April and October; schooling fish; feeds primarily on shrimp and fish.





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