Top 35 Florida Game Fish – Fishing Tips and Techniques

Florida is one of the few places where you can still catch many different types of game fish from warm-water species like trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass to big-game fish.

The diverse geographical location of Florida makes it an ideal fishing destination for avid anglers. There are some special areas in Florida that produce large numbers of striped bass and a lot of salt water activities go on around these bays which attracts various marine life including huge schools of baitfish.

We have compiled a list of Top 35 Florida Game Fish caught in FL. These were based on the popularity of the fish or the popularity of the area where they were found.

If you want to know more about techniques used to catch these fishes then read our article here.

1. Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are popular freshwater fish all over the world. They are also known as Bullhead bass because of their dark coloration and bulging eyes.

Largemouth bass reach maturity at age 4 years old and live up to 30 years in fresh water if left alone.

The best time to fish for them is during winter months when there is colder weather and less sunlight.

They feed mainly at night and bite mostly at dusk and dawn. When fishing for largemouth bass use soft plastics such as Stimulators and Berkley Gulp style lures.

Use soft plastic jigs with rubber legs. You should position these jigs near cover so they will be out of sight from predators like catfish and turtles.

2. Small Mouth Bass

Small mouth bass are also called channel bass but they do not fit into any particular family. If you look closely you might see them resemble small sunfish.

Adult bass grow to 35 inches and weigh up to 3 lbs. They prefer shallow lakes with plenty of vegetation growth.

The best times to catch them include spring through fall. The summer months are very hot and most people would rather avoid fishing in those conditions so try to find cooler locations.

In wintertime you can also find small mouth bass in manmade reservoirs that hold cool waters.

3. Striped Bass

Striped bass are a saltwater fish that range in size from 1/4 lb to 7 lbs. It lives along coasts throughout North America but it is more abundant in warmer coastal waters.

Its scientific name is Morone saxatilis. The average weight of adult fish is 6 lbs.

Stripers eat primarily shrimp and zooplankton. The best time to catch them is early morning hours before sunrise.

To attract stripers use live shad and cut bait. To make your baits move faster, add hooks and sinker weights.

4. Salmon Trout

Salmon trout are a true native of Florida. The average size of this fish ranges between 6 oz and 34 lbs. This type of fish consumes almost anything that swims, breathes and has gills.

Most of the salmon trout are found in clear creeks. They can tolerate low salinity levels better than other fish and prefer slower currents.

The best time of year to catch them is spring until late fall. Spring and Fall are good times to seek saltwater activity since there are fewer other fish present.

5. Black Drum

Black drum are bottom dwellers and occur in great abundance only in deeper parts of rivers and lakes. The average length of black drum is 18 inches and the heaviest weighs 100 pounds.

Black drum eat mostly invertebrates in deep clear waters. Black drum prefer temperatures above 80°F. They spawn under cover.

6. Spot

Spot bass are usually smaller versions of largemouth bass. Although spot bass are normally 10 to 12 inches long, some can get larger.

Fish often spend much of their days buried on or close to the bottom of shallower areas where they feed on insects, worms, crayfish, and small crustaceans.

Spot bass typically take either artificial lures or spinnerbaits. Because they tend to stay buried longer than other types of fish, keep your lure moving slowly to give spot bass ample opportunity to get hooked before you let go.

7. Bluegill

Bluegill live in ponds, marshes and slow streams. They have blue-green backs, silvery sides and yellow bellies and can grow to 5 feet long. Average weight is one pound.

Bluegill eat a variety of foods including insect larvae, plant material and small fish. They are active during the day and night. At night, they rest on the bottom feeding while awake.

8. Catfish

Catfish are large predatory fish. Most cats can grow to 60 inches in length, and weigh 20 to 50 pounds. Catfish are carnivorous. Their diet consists mainly of frogs, snakes, and small mammals. Catfishes thrive in fast water with lots of vegetation.

9. Speckled Perch

Speckled perches are popular game fish and are usually seen in smaller bodies of freshwater. These fish generally weigh less than two pounds. A speckled perch’s body colors indicate its age. Younger ones are dark below, and older individuals develop white stripes.

10. Redbreast Sunfish

Redbreasts are sunfish. They reside in many cold freshwaters such as northern lakes, ponds, and stream tributaries. Fish can reach lengths of up to 6 inches at maturity. The average weight for redbreast sunfish is roughly 2 pounds.

11. Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass are among the world’s top sport fish. In addition to being tasty, largemouth bass have historically been integral to conservation efforts because they provide important food for wildlife such as birds and humans.

When angling largemouths, be sure to match coloration and body shape to the natural habitat of these fish. Many species exhibit characteristics which help them blend into their surroundings. Look for largemouth that use plants, rocks, and woody debris to hide from predators. Anglers should also try different presentations, such as casting with a bobber or using an open face spoon rig.

12. Channel Catfish

Channel catfish may be found in nearly every state in the country and represent one of the most important aquatic resources, especially along the Mississippi River Delta. The channel catfish population provides the foundation for commercial and recreational fisheries throughout North America.

13. Flatspinners: Spinning lures are very effective for catching flathead and silver salmon. Flatheads are generally caught by trolling over drop offs or points in shallow flats near structure with a bait like a shrimp or cut shad tail. Silver salmon will also take a spinning lure.

14. White Bass

White bass are common in all but highly polluted waters. They range from 3 to 8 pounds and live primarily in coastal areas ranging from brackish waters to salt water. However, white bass can also inhabit inland lakes and reservoirs.

15. Trout

Trout are a popular game fish and are widely distributed worldwide. They occur naturally in both fresh and oceanic waters and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.

16. Crappie

Crappie are perciform fishes native to fresh and marine waters. They prefer murky water close to shorelines. They are often abundant in warm springs, swamps, sloughs, and other slow moving waters.

17. Stripers & Hybrid Striper/Gafftops

Hybrids are produced when female striped bass mate with male hybrid stripers , and gafftops . Some hybrids are more aggressive fighters than either parent, and therefore pose a larger threat to other fish populations. The hybridization rate varies depending on how often males get to breed with female striped bass.

18. Black Bass

Black bass are found in all but highly polluted and eutrophic rivers and streams. Female black bass spawn from mid-April through October, and are typically 10–40 pounds. Black bass frequently school within a few feet of the bank. They feed on insects, worms, snails, tubular insects, and small and medium sized invertebrates.

19. Carp

Carps are popular among anglers. Like many freshwater fish, carp prefer clear, cool water that has some form of vegetation. They feed on vegetables, roots, and plant matter and rarely eat meat. When fishing for large carps, make sure you have enough line in your reel so you don’t loose line too quickly. If an angler loses line when fishing for carp, it’s best to let the baits go away first before reeling in any slack.

20. Bullfrogs

Bullfrogs are usually fished only after heavy rains when the ponds fill up. This is when bullfrogs migrate to ponds, lakes, marshes, and creeks to spawn. Fish around docks, bridge pilings, and other structures to locate hiding places where they spend their early lives. A good way to catch them is to use a cane pole and cast a soft plastic frog.

21. Northern Pike

Northern pike are coldwater fish found in northern climates. Their average size is between 16 – 20 inches long. Females lay eggs in late spring and summer with some spawning occurring all year round. Fish spawn in deep pools, riffles, and shoals.

22. Bluegill

Bluegills are one of the most commonly caught sunfish. Most people find bluegills by swimming along the bottom using night crawls. A strong swimbait like a spinnerbait or minnow under a bobber will attract them to strike.

23. Yellow Perch and Rooster Eels

Perch and roosters, also called yellow eels, are two members of the perch family . Both species prey on mosquito larvae, mayflies nymphs and other aquatic insect pests. While the perch is native to North America, the rooster eel was originally introduced from Europe and Asia. These fish can grow up to 15-20 inches in length, making them one of the largest edible fish.

24. Walleye

Walleyes are a voracious predator feeding mainly on crayfish, leeches, midges, and insect larva. They spawn during the fall months. Anglers target walleyes in winter and spring months. Walleye hide out in deep holes and coverts, river channels, and other deep spots.

25. Shiner

The shiner is a cool weather gamefish that feeds primarily at dawn and dusk. Shiners tend to be concentrated near banks and logs, which makes them great for flyfishing.

Shad-like baitfish such as mudcats, white suckers, and sculpins work well when targeting shiners. Lure patterns used to entice these fish include topwaters, surface poppers, crankbaits, drop shot rigs, buzzbaits, and tube jigs.

26. Channel Catfish

Channel catfish are highly territorial predatory fish, preferring shallow waters over deeper ones. They hunt during morning hours. In order to catch channel cats, anglers must learn to read the signs of aggression.

These fish are not known for their fighting spirit, but become angry if food is scarce. For instance, when they see another fish eating its own tail, this suggests that there is no food elsewhere.

Catfish will attack baitfish such as grass shrimp, minnows, zebra danio, and white sucker. There are several ways to catch channel cats: trolling crankbaits, casting jerkbaits and spookbaits, or drifting live bait.

27. Striped Bass

Striped bass are an aggressive predator, especially in fresh water. When fishing for striped bass, the key is to get downwind so you don’t scare off your target.

Stripey bass feed on mussels, crustaceans including crabs, mollusks, insects, and small fishes. The best baits are tubes, spinners, bucktails, lures, and natural baits.

Baited hooks should always have the lead running through the eye. Never use treble hooks on striper tackle.

28. White Sucker

White suckers prefer areas near sand bars, bridges, and shorelines as opposed to open water. They often gather in schools below the surface to hunt for food.

Some anglers use light spinning gear while others prefer heavier lines with bigger dropper rigs.

If fishing for white suckers, make sure you select the right equipment before setting out. White sucker do best in slow moving water. Use a single hook rig.

29. Lake Trout

Lake trout are large predatory lake dwellers. These fish are attracted to bright colors, and will aggressively chase many popular offerings such as worms, grubs, crickets, and small flies. Like most predatory fish, they feed at night.

Once caught, keep them cool until cooking. They need only 45 minutes of cooking time to reach optimal eating temperature. Lake trout are excellent eating and should never be thrown back due to size.

30. Arctic Char

Arctic char are unique fish because they thrive in icy cold environments. They are usually found in lakes and rivers.

During the wintertime, arctic char migrate into shallow pools and ice covered streams where they feed exclusively on algae or tiny invertebrates.

During the summer, arctic char like warmer temperatures and move offshore. Their bodies produce antifreeze protein as part of thermoregulation, allowing them to survive in freezing waters.

At times, arctic char can grow to more than ten pounds. Because of this, they command high prices in restaurants and markets.

31. Longear Sunfish

Longear sunfish inhabit both clear and turbid waters throughout the world. This fish likes rocky shores, weeds, muddy bottoms, and sandy flats. It eats virtually anything it can swallow and has been recorded eating snails, clams, sea urchin eggs, and even jellyfish!

Fish less than 1-pound rarely bite, so don’t hesitate to let go of the line immediately if you do land one. With larger fish, hold onto the line and wait patiently until the next bite comes.

32. Red Drum

Red drum are native to the Atlantic coast from Labrador all the way south to South Carolina and Alabama. They are also common along Florida’s east coast.

Though widely distributed, red drum aren’t very abundant in North America. They eat almost any type of food including shellfish, seaweed, and aquatic plants.

They are usually fished using either bottom-fishing techniques or boat drags. Bottom fishing in particular is an effective method of catching these fish.

33. Black Sea Bass

Blacksea bass are migratory game fish which feed mainly on soft crab larvae. A good thing about blacksea bass is that they are easier to catch than bluefish.

They respond well to swimbaits and tube jigs. Smaller blacksea bass can sometimes be caught by using soft plastics, jerkbaits, and other surface lures. Larger fish typically require deep diving retrieves.

34. Gizzard Shad

The gizzard shad is considered one of the top saltwater sportfish. Its primary hunting grounds include coastal estuaries, tidal creeks, bays, brackish marshes, and fresh and oceanic waters.

Although it tastes mild when cooked, feeding wild gizzard shads is quite dangerous. In order to avoid being grabbed, try not to approach them with your hands but rather grab their tails.

Gizzard shad have sharp teeth and strong jaws, and may feel safer around boats.

35. Jack Crevalle

Jack crevalle are fairly easy to catch, and are most commonly caught on live shrimp or cut bait. One of the more active predator fishes in Florida, they often feed at night, especially during the spring spawning season.

Jack crevalle are mostly reef-dwelling creatures, and are considered a “catch and release” species. As long as the hooks and lines used are kept clean, they pose no threat to humans.

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