Southwest Florida is one of the best locations in the world for inshore and offshore fishing. With the incredible year-round weather and a host of seasonal fish to choose from, it’s always the perfect time of year to grab your fishing pole and head to your favorite spot. But you’re not a true SWFL fishing pro until you’ve experienced all of the underwater wildlife the area has to offer! Which one of these local fish can you cross off your bucket list?
Grouper: Grouper is the most famous and popular fish in Southwest Florida – ask anyone. They can often be found around offshore wrecks and reefs, but each type of grouper behaves differently and require different strategies for catching them. Each type of grouper has its own set of regulations but, generally, they must be at least 20 inches long and are limited to four harvests per day. To be on the safe side, consult each type of grouper’s individual regulations.
Ladyfish: While ladyfish aren’t exactly a delicacy on the dinner table, they’re fun to catch and currently have no limit or size regulations. They’re often found inshore in bays and estuaries and occasionally enter freshwater. If you’re looking for a show, ladyfish are known for leaping from the water when hooked. As far as bait goes, these fish are easy to catch in that they’re not picky about what you’re using.
Permit: Sometimes confused for the Florida pompano, permit are known to grow much larger and heavier than their smaller twin (15 to 20 pounds and up to 3 feet in length is a common sight). Though they’re still not the biggest fish in the sea, permit put up a hard fight and are known to pull hard on the line. Special permit areas can sometimes allow for relaxed regulations, but permit are generally limited to one harvest per day and must be between 11 and 22 inches long.
Redfish: Known locally as redfish, these creatures are formally named “red drum,” after their copper coloring and the drumming sound they make during spawning season and when taken out of the water. They’re one of the more popular Florida sport fish, especially for onshore and fly-fishing excursions. As a tip, one of the best ways to catch them is by floating a live shrimp under a cork as bait. Redfish should not be caught in federal waters, are limited to two harvests per day, and must be between 18 and 27 inches long.
Snapper: Snapper are a fickle fish when it comes to regulations and restrictions. Florida boasts multiple kinds of snapper, each with their own rules, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is known for changing bag limits throughout the season. To be on the safe side, consult the FWC website frequently before fishing excursions to make sure you’re up-to-date on the latest regulations.
Snook: If you have any fishing experience at all, you’ve heard all about the rare snook. With its heavy regulations and the difficulty it can take to catch one, snook are often sought out by locals and visitors alike. Snook are considered a sport fish (meaning they can’t be commercially fished or sold), so the only way you’re getting a taste is if you catch one yourself. Snook are limited to only one harvest per day, between December and February or May and August, and must be between 28 and 33 inches long.
Tarpon: Tarpon is a catch-and-release fish only, but its strong stamina and acrobatic fighting style makes it a challenging catch and a major prize for any fisherman or woman. The fish can be caught with hook and line only (no snagging) and the tackle used depends largely on the type of bait and the location and size of the targeted fish. One tarpon tag per person per year may be purchased when in pursuit of an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record.
Tripletail: These meaty fish, comparable to grouper, are often found near underwater or floating structures (like piers, buoys, channel markets, or stone crab traps). They’re called “tripletail” for their three posterior fins and catching one requires a bit of finesse. To catch a tripletail, you’ll be most successful with live shrimp on a light tackle with little or no lead. Tripletail are limited to two harvests per day and must be larger than 15 inches.
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