A Boating and Angling Guide to the Florida Keys A Boating and Angling Guide to the Florida Keys Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Logo Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Logo Sport Fish Restoration Logo U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Logo Mote Marine Laboratory Logo
About This Guide
Catch and Release Information
Popular Sport Fish
Fishing Regulations
Fishing Piers
Artificial Reefs
Natural Resources
Managed Areas
Resource Directory
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Florida Fish and Wildlife
  Conservation Commission

Fish and Wildlife
  Research Institute
100 Eighth Avenue SE
St. Petersburg, Florida 33701

Mote Marine Laboratory
Tropical Research Laboratory
24244 Overseas Hwy.
Summerland Key, FL 33042

Protect Our Reefs License Plate
This project was funded in part by a grant awarded from Mote Marine Laboratory's Protect Our Reefs Grants Program, which is funded by proceeds from the sale of the Protect Our Reefs specialty license plate. Learn more at www.mote.org/4reef.

Additional funding for this project was obtained through the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Fund.
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Fish images © Diane Rome Peebles. Illustration provided for viewing purposes only.

Below is a small list of the popular sport fish caught in the Florida Keys.

Fish Identification: Often, sport fish look very similar and are hard to identify. This can be a problem when the regulations are different for each species or when species are protected from harvest. To help with the identification of similar species, the identification sheets below were developed and contain simple, easily seen identification keys that will anglers identify similar species. These sheets can be printed using a desktop printer and taken out on the next fishing trip.
Know Your Florida Fish: Groupers (PDF, 1.14 MB)
Know Your Florida Fish: Mackerels (PDF, 1.45 MB)
Know Your Florida Fish: Snappers (PDF, 1.07 MB)

Red Drum Red Drum (Redfish): Inshore near grass beds, oyster bars, and docks pilings; deeper channels during the warmest and coolest months
Snook Snook:  Canals, tidal creeks, and other deep warm waters in cool months; near tidal passes and mangrove fringe at high tide.
Spotted Seatrout Spotted Seatrout (Speckled seatrout): Inshore over grass beds, sand, and sandy/mud bottoms; deeper water during warmest and coolest months.
Tarpon Tarpon: Found mostly inshore near bridges, pilings, rock walls, harbors, around structures, and on flats.
Bonefish Bonefish: Primarily and inshore fish; found in shallows often less than one foot deep, usually over lush grass flats, occasionally over white sand.
Spanish Mackerel Spanish Mackerel: Inshore, nearshore, and offshore over grass beds and reefs
Cero Mackerel Cero Mackerel: Nearshore and offshore, especially over coral reefs and wrecks; common in south Florida.
King Mackerel King Mackerel (Kingfish): Nearshore and offshore; occasionally taken from piers running into deep water.
Wahoo Wahoo: Offshore game fish associated with the Gulf Stream and blue water.
Sailfish Sailfish: Offshore game fish associated with the Gulf Stream and blue water.
Red Grouper Red Grouper: Bottom dwelling fish associated with hardbottom; juveniles offshore along with adults greater than six years old; nearshore reefs
Black Grouper Black Grouper: Offshore species; adults associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop-off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young may occur inshore in shallow water
Gag Grouper Gag Grouper: Adults offshore over rocks and reefs; juveniles occur in seagrass beds inshore
Goliath Grouper Goliath Grouper: Nearshore around docks, in deep holes on ledges; young often occur in estuaries especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida. Protected species closed to harvest.
Nassau Grouper Nassau Grouper: Range limited to south Florida. Smaller individuals are found nearshore, adults are found offshore on rocky reefs. Forms large spawwning aggregations. Protected species closed to harvest.
Crevalle Jack Crevalle Jack (Jack Crevalle): Common to both inshore waters and the open sea.
African pompano African Pompano: Young are found in the open ocean. Adults are found to depths of 180 ft., often associated with reefs, wrecks, and rock ledges.

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permit Permit: Offshore on wrecks and debris, inshore on grass flats, sand flats, and in channels; most abundant in south Florida
Florida pompano Florida Pompano: Inshore and nearshore waters, especially along sandy beaches, along oyster bars, and over grass beds, often in turbid water; may be found in water as deep as 130 ft.
Mangrove Snapper Gray (Mangrove) Snapper: Juveniles inshore in tidal creeks, mangroves, and grass beds; adults generally nearshore or offshore on coral or rocky reefs.
Mutton Snapper Mutton Snapper: Inshore associated with grass beds, mangroves, and canals; larger adults found on offshore reefs.
Lane Snapper Lane Snapper: Juveniles inshore over grass beds or shallow reefs; adults offshore; most common in south Florid.a
Yellowtail Snapper Yellowtail Snapper: Juveniles inshore over grass beds and back reefs; adults nearshore or offshore over sandy areas near reefs.
Hogfish Hogfish (Hog snapper): commonly found over open bottoms and coral reefs at depths ranging from 10-100 feet (3-30m).
Spiny Lobster Spiny Lobster: Hardbottom, Seagrass, and coral reefs.
Stone Crab Stone Crab: Reefs and rocky areas, oyster bars in shallow to moderate deep areas. Stone crabs burrow on mud seagrass, or oyster beds.

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If you are out snorkeling, diving, fishing, paddling, or boating and see anything that may be unusual or out of the ordinary in Florida Keys waters, please record the location, date, and time, and contact the Marine Ecosystem Event Response and Assessment (MEERA) project. They can be reached by phone (305-395-8730), e-mail, or online.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this Web site, please e-mail us at Boating_Guides@MyFWC.com.

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