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FISH SPECIES IN CHARLOTTE HARBOR

 

BLACK DRUM FISH

The Black Drum have a high arched back, with 10 to 14 pairs of chin barbels.  The coloring is gray or black body in adults, and young have 4 to 6 vertical bars.  Their teeth are cobblestone-like and capable of crushing oysters.  The scales are large.

They are commonly found inshore.  They are bottom dwellers and often found around oyster beds.  

The common size is to 30 pounds.

This fish feeds on oysters, mussels, crabs, shrimp and occasionally fish.  Their longevity is to 35 or more years.

 

BLUEFISH 

The bluefish mouth has extremely sharp teeth. The existence of a spine in the second dorsal fin, the absence of head markings, and the lack of an interspace between the dorsal fins distinguish the bluefish from the similar looking greater amberjack. The bluefishs lack of finlets immediately distinguishes it from the mackerels.

The bluefish swims in large schools through shoals of bait fish, slashing and destroying everything in its path. They will bite anything, including unlucky swimmers. Bluefish can easily inflict serious wounds even when the fish is out of water; as many a careless fishermen has learned.

Same anglers sniff out bluefish by their smell, which is something like fresh cucumbers. Fishing methods include trolling, chumming, casting, jiggling, and live and dead bait fishing from boats, shores or piers. Live baits are best, but plugs, lures or feathers are also used. 

BOWFIN

The bowfin is easily recognized by its flattened head; long, stout body; large mouth full of small sharp teeth; long dorsal fin that extends along most of the back; and rounded tail. In the males there is a spot surrounded by an orange-yellow halo on the upper area of the caudal peduncle. In the females the spot either is not ocellated or is lacking entirely.

This fish is able to gulp air from the surface directly into the air bladder, which is connected to the throat and can be used as a lung. It can also withstand high temperatures, for which reasons it survives in waters unsuited to most other fishes. It is considered poor as a food fish, but an excellent fighter, better than some highly rated game fish.

CATFISH

The catfish has a deeply forked tails, with a rounded anal fin with 24-29 rays and scattered black spots along their back and sides. They have a small, narrow head. The back is blue-gray with light blue to silvery-gray sides and a white belly. Larger channels lose the black spots and also take on a blue-black coloration on the back which shades to white on the belly. Males also become very dark during spawning season and develop a thickened pad on their head.

 

The catfish prefers some current, and deep water with sand, gravel or rubble bottoms. 

The catfish feeds primarily at night using taste buds in the sensitive barbels and throughout the skin to locate prey. Although they normally feed on the bottom, they also will feed at the surface and at mid-depth. Major foods are aquatic insects, crayfish, mollusks, crustaceans and fishes.

Most catfish are caught by bottom fishing with baits.  They prefer dead or prepared stinkbaits to live bait, but at times will take live minnows and lures such as spinners and jigs. Strong fighters with good endurance.  

COBIA

Attaining a maximum length of 78 inches and maximum weight of 150 pounds, Cobia have spindle shaped bodies and broad, flattened heads. Their eyes are small and their lower jaw projects slightly past the upper jaw. On the jaws, tongue and roof of the mouth are bands of fibrous teeth. Their bodies are smooth with small scales, their dark brown coloration grading to white on the belly with two darker brown horizontal bands on the flanks. These may not be prominent except during spawning when Cobia lighten in colour and adopt a more prominently striped pattern. The large pelvic fins are normally carried horizontally (rather than vertically, so that, as seen in the water they may be mistaken for a small shark. When boated, the horizontal pelvic fins enable the Cobia to remain upright so that their vigorous thrashing can make them a hazard. The first dorsal fin is composed of six to nine ,independent, short, stout, and sharp spines. Mature cobia have forked, slightly lunate tail fins with most fins being a dark brown.  Cobia are powerful fish popular among sport fishermen, and a prized table fare. Cobia are primarily sought by sight casting small Chartreuse jigs to migrating fish, or to fish following Turtles or Manta rays. 

Cobia feed primarily on crabs, squid and other fish. Cobia will follow larger animals such as sharks, turtles and manta rays in hope of scavenging a meal. Cobia are intensely curious fish and show no fear of boats.

Cobia make seasonal migrations along the coasts in search of water in their preferred temperature range. Wintering in the Gulf of Mexico, they migrate north as far as Maryland in the Summer, passing East Central Florida in March.

FLOUNDER

The flounder's body color is brown, its shade depending on color of bottom, with numerous spots and blotches.  It has 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 It's teeth are strong canine-like.  It's caudal fin is in the shape of wedge, with its tip in the middle.

The flounder is found inshore on sandy or mud bottoms, often ranging into tidal creeks, and occasionally caught on nearshore rocky reefs.

It's size is common to 10 pounds.  The flounder hatches into usual fish form, but it's right eye migrates over to left side early in life. They are bottom dwellers, thought to spawn offshore. They feed on crustaceans and small fishes.

GAR

The longnose gar is the most common and widely distributed of all the gars. It is found throughout the eastern half of the U.S.A. 

The gar is generally distinguished from other gars by its longer, more slender body, and especially by its longer, narrower beak (18-20 times as long as it is wide at its narrowest point). The nostrils are located in a small, bulbous fleshy growth at the very tip of the upper jaw. The bony, diamond shaped ganiod scales of the gars overlap to form a protective armor on the body that has been known to deflect arrows.

Although edible, it is not popular, and the eggs are poisonous, causing severe illness in humans and sometimes death in smaller animals and birds. Only fish seem to be able to consume them without harm.

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GROUPER SPECIES

The Grouper's body  has many forms of coloration.  It has a gently rounded preopercle.

The grouper is commonly found offshore.  The adults are associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop off walls in water over 60 feet deep, where the young may occur inshore in shallow water.

The common size is to 40 pounds, but it may attain weights exceeding 100 pounds.

This fish generally feeds on fish and squid.

GOLIATH GROUPER

The Goliath Grouper is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family. 

The goliath grouper is found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths of up to 165 feet.

The Young grouper may live in brackish estuaries, canals and mangrove swamps, unusual behavior among grouper.

They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths of 8.2 feet and can weigh as much as 800 pounds. In Florida, the largest hook and line captured specimen weighed 680 pounds. They usually are around 400 lb when mature. Considered of fine food quality, the goliath grouper were a highly sought after quarry for fishermen of all types. The goliath grouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature make it a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations returning like clockwork to the same locations making them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting. Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, the species was in rapid decline. The goliath grouper is totally protected from harvest and is recognized as a critically endangered species The U.S. began protection in 1990 and the Caribbean in 1993. The species' population has been recovering since the ban, however with the fish's slow growth rate it will take some time for populations to return to their previous levels.

Goliath grouper eat crustaceans, other fish, octopuses and young sea turtles. Grouper are preyed upon by large fish such as barracuda, moray eels and large sharks.

JACKS SPECIES

These fish are a deep-bodied amberjack, sometimes darker in coloration.  The front soft dorsal and anal fins are high and elongated.  Their bodies are  more flat than banded rudderfish or greater amberjack.

Jacks are found in a wide-range of offshore waters, they are a common catch.  Their size is usually less than 20 pounds. 

LADY FISH

The lady fish have a terminal mouth, slender body, and small scales.  The last dorsal ray is not elongated.  Their heads are small and pointed.

These fish are commonly found inshore.  They often form large schools and harasses bait at the surface.

Their sizes range from 2 to 3 pounds.

MACKEREL (CERO)

The Cero Mackerel's back is an iridescent bluish green, it's sides are silvery, and yellow spots form lines above and below a bronze stripe from the pectoral fin to the base of the tail.  The front of first dorsal fin is bluish black, and the lateral line curves gradually to base of caudal fin.

This fish is commonly found nearshore and offshore.  They especially stay over coral reefs and wrecks.

The common size is to 5 pounds.

MACKEREL (SPANISH)

The Spanish Mackerel's back is green, then it shades to silver on it's sides.  There are golden yellow irregular spots above and below the lateral line.  The front of the dorsal fin is black, and the lateral line curves gently to base of tail.

This fish is commonly found inshore, nearshore, and offshore, especially over grass beds and reefs.

The common average size is less than 2 pounds (20 inches).

They feeds on small fish and squid.

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 MANGROVE SNAPPER

The Mangrove Snapper is one of the most common species of snapper.  It can be found around all shorelines that have mangrove roots and other debris. They are frequently found around docks and reefs.

A great fighter on light tackle, they will eat small crabs, shrimp, squid and small white baits. In deeper water around structure, mangroove snapper can be caught up to several pounds.

 

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PERMIT

The permit's coloring is gray, dark or iridescent blue above, shading to silvery sides.  In dark waters it shows golden tints around the breast.  Small permit have teeth on it's tongue.  The dorsal fin insertion is directly above that of the anal fin.  There are 17 to 21 soft anal rays.

This fish is found offshore on wrecks and debris, inshore on grass flats, sand flats, and in channels. 

The common size is to 25 pounds.

The permit feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling crabs, shrimp, small clams, and small fish.

 

PINFISH

These small snapper like fish are silver in color with small stripes on their bodies running from top to bottom. They are all over the harbour and are a favorite meal for snook, redfish, shark and tarpon.

Pinfish can be caught in a cast net or on a small hook baited with a small piece of shrimp. While most Pinfish are 3 to 5 inches in length, many are caught up to seven inches in deeper water around structure.

 

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RED DRUM (RED FISH)

The Red Drum's (Red Fish) chin does not have barbels.  It's body is copper bronze, it is a lighter shade in clear waters.  It can have one to many spots at the base of it's tail, and there is rarely no spots.  The mouth is horizontal and the opening is  downward.  The scales large.

This fish is commonly found inshore 

The common average size is 27 inches and weighs about 8 pounds.

They feed on crustaceans, fish and mollusks.  Their  longevity is normally 20 years or more.

SHEEPSHEAD

The sheepsheadis a marine fish that grows to 30 in, but are common from 5 to 8 in. They are deep and compressed in body shape with 5 to 6 dark bars on the side of the body over a gray background. They have very sharp spines along the dorsal. Their diet consists of bivalves and crustaceans such as clams, oysters, barnacles, and fiddler crabs. They have a very hard mouth with several rows of stubby teeth which help crush prey.

 As sheepshead are crustacean and bivalve feeders, favorite baits include shrimp, sand fleas (molecrabs), and clams. Sheepshead have a knack for stealing bait, so a very small hook is necessary. Locating sheepshead in a boat is not very difficult: look for rocky bottoms or places with obstruction.

SHARK SPECIES

There are approximately 15 species of shark that inhabit our local waters.  From the small bonnet head shark to it's cousin the giant hammerhead shark.  

Sharks have cartilidge like bodies that make them excellent game fish. Their teeth are always sharp or serraded and occur in multiple rows allowing for immediate replacement when one falls out.

Sharks in the Charlotte Harbor range from 10 to 1200 LBS.  Their primary food is live fish that they sense may be wounded.

They are easily caught on fresh, frozen, and artificial baits.  Wire line is a must to catch local shark species.  

SNOOK

The snook inhabit shallow coastal waters, estuaries and brackish lagoons, often penetrating far inland in fresh water. Their movements between fresh and salt water are seasonal, but they stay close to shore and never stray far from estuaries.

They are very distinctive and it would be difficult to confuse them with any other fishes. The lower jaw protrudes and a highly prominent black lateral line runs from the top of the gill cover along the sides and all the way through the tail. The body is compressed and the snout depressed and pike-like. Two dorsal fins are separate by a gap. The second anal spine is conspicuous, spurlike, much thicker than the first and third. The margin of preopercle is serrate, with 1-5 enlarged denticles at angle.

One of the axioms relating to fish species is that the colors will likely be variable depending on the season, habitat, and/or any number of other conditions. The snook is no exception. The back of the snook may be brown, brown-gold, olive green, dark gray, greenish silver, or black, depending largely on the areas the fish inhabits. The flanks and belly are silvery.

Its diet consist mainly of fish and crustaceans. Fishing methods include trolling or casting artificial lures or still fishing with live baits like sunfish, mullet, shrimp, crabs, or other small fish. Best fishing is said to be on the changing tide, especially high falling tide near coastal shores and night fishing from bridges and in ocean inlets.

 It usually matures by the third year and has a life span of at least seven years. It is very sensitive to temperature and may not survive at temperatures below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

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SPOTTED SEA TROUT

 The Spotted Sea Trout are found throughout the harbor.  Trout are aggressive feeders. Their mouth has two or three large sharp gripping teeth to hold their prey. They are usually found in grass flats, deeper channels and at all ambush locations around sand holes.

The trout can be caught on all kinds of artificial baits, shrimp, white bait and other small fish that are found on the flats. Trout found in Charlotte Harbor are usually 12 to 18 inches, Frequently, trout are caught up to 24 inches.

TARPON

The Tarpon's last ray of dorsal fin extends into long filament.  It only has one dorsal fin.  The colors on it's back are dark blue to green or greenish black, shading into bright silver on the sides.  The colors may appear to be brownish gold in estuarien waters.  The tarpon's scales are huge.  It's mouth is large and points upward.

They are commonly found inshore.  Although adult fish spawn offshore where the ribbon-like larval stage of the fish can be found.

The most common size is  20 to 150 pounds.  But frequently exceed 200lbs. 

The Tarpon can breathe air at surface.  Their diet mainly consists of fish and large crustaceans.