Offshore—the blue water—begins the depths descend quickly, and beyond, where the shelf itself drops off to deep canyons and the seabed floor. It’s the realm of big game fishing, offshore tournaments, fun days at sea getting lots of good fish to eat like dolphin, wahoo and tuna, and bottom fish, primarily snapper and grouper in Florida. At first glance, it’s all open water, but anglers know the features and structures—both on the surface and below—that lead them to target species.
Reefs and wrecks are habitat for the bottom species like snapper and grouper and their prey, and they’re temporary ports for migratory fish. Reefs and wrecks are grouped together for good reason—they’re often found in the same vicinity, where the ship wrecks on the reef. Deeper, as the sea floor slopes downward, anglers know where the canyons and the humps and mounds are, attract bait and sport fish and create turmoil on the surface—called rips—as currents pass over them. These rips are likely trolling grounds for surface feeding fish. Even deeper, at the edge of the Continental Shelf and along its cracks and crevices, is habitat for bottom dwelling species of snapper and grouper and the hunting grounds for the biggest gamefish, including marlin, big tuna and swordfish.
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; 22 to 27 soft dorsal rays; 20 to 23 soft anal rays; origin of anal fin slightly behind origin of second dorsal.
Permit, Falcatus, Palometa, 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. Found: 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.
usually less than 3 pounds.
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, dorsal fin insertion directly above that of the anal fin; 17 to 21 soft anal rays.
Pompano, Carolinus. The Permit is deeper bodied; dorsal body profile forms angle at insertion of second dorsal fin. 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.
Feeds mainly on bottom-dwelling crabs, shrimp, small clams, and small fish
Grayish-blue-green on top of head and along the back; bright silvery sides; yellow on breast; elongated dorsal and anal fins; dusky or black with bluish edges; deep body, with four narrow bars high on the sides, and traces of a fifth fin nearer the tail.
Pompano, Carolinus; Permit, Falcatus. Found In clear water along sandy beaches and bays, occasionally found over reefs; most common in South Florida.
Rarely over 1 pound, reported to 3 pounds.
A deep-bodied amberjack; sometimes darker in coloration; front of soft dorsal and of anal fins high and elongated; body more flattened than banded rudderfish or greater amberjack.
Wide-ranging in offshore waters, not a common catch; young are associated with Sargassum.
Usually less than 20 pounds. Spawns offshore, during spring, summer, and fall.
Dark stripe (variably present) extends from nose to in front of dorsal fin and “lights up” when fish is in feeding mode; soft dorsal base less than twice the length of the anal fin base.
Offshore species associated with rocky reefs, debris, and wrecks, typically in 60 – 240 feet of water; sometimes caught near shore in south Florida; juveniles associated with floating objects and may occur in water less than 30 feet deep.
Common to 40 pounds. Largest of the jacks; thought to spawn off shore throughout most of the year; feeds on squid, fish, and crustaceans.