Giant Trevally

(Forsskal, 1775); CARANGIDAE FAMILY; also called turrum or ulua, previously known by the misnomers “lowly” or “lesser” trevally

Inhabits coral and rock reefs in warm coastal waters of the Indian and central Pacific Oceans, eastward to the Hawaiian and Marquesas Islands. Common in the waters off Kenya and other parts of Africa as well as off Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Hawaii. This is the most common of the trevallys found in Hawaii’s and Kenya’s waters.

The giant trevally, which grows to over 130 lb (62 kg), is the largest of the eight Caranx species which occur in the Indo Pacific region. It has a small oval shaped patch of scales in the center of the larger scaleless area on the breast in front of the ventral fins, distinguishing it from the bigeye trevally (Caranx (Caranx) sexfasciatus) whose breast is fully scaled. In some specimens (about 5%) this oval patch of scales is extensive enough to make detection of the scaleless area difficult. The body and head are usually very deep with a blunt snout. The lateral line is strongly curved anteriorly. The straight portion is covered with scutes; 25 33 in the giant trevally and 28 37 in the bigeye. The first dorsal fin consists of 8 spines, the second of 17 21 soft rays, and anal fin of 3 spines and 15 17 soft rays. Gill rakers on the first arch total 18 23. There is no spot on the operculum such as is found on the bigeye trevally, nor is there a spot at the base of the pectoral fins such as appears on the crevalle jacks (Caranx hippos and Caranx caninus), the close Atlantic and eastern Pacific relatives of this species.

Adults are sedentary, prefer rocky areas near shore or outside reef drop offs, and feed most actively at night. Hawaiian anglers report that the darker the night the more actively they feed. It is a highly rated sport fish in the waters of Hawaii and Kenya both for its large size and for the hard fight it gives. Fishing methods include surf fishing, drifting, or still fishing using live or cut baits. Trolling with baits and lures can also bring results. Baits and lures include mullet, herring, sauri, garfish, anchovy, squid, cut strip baits, Konaheads, knuckleheads, bulletheads, feathers, plastic jigs, plastic fish and squids, drone spoons, and rope lures. The pinkish flesh is highly esteemed as food in some areas and is also frequently used for strip baits, cut baits or chum


Grey Snapper

(Linnaeus, 1758); LUTJANIDAE FAMILY; also called mangrove snapper, mango snapper

Grey snapper are one of the most abundant species of snapper throughout their range, which includes Bermuda south to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. They are found in a variety of habitats, which includes inshore seagrass beds and mangrove lagoons, but the largest are located on offshore reefs and wrecks. They also be found in completely freshwater areas in parts of Florida. They often form large aggregations, but have the habit of becoming difficult to catch once several of their cohorts have been hooked. Grey snapper feed on a wide variety of prey items including shrimp, crabs, and fish. It is a popular species with anglers and its varied diet allows it to be taken on natural bait, artificial lures, and even flies. It is also an excellent eating species


Red Snapper

(Poey 1860); LUTJANIDAE FAMILY; also called northern red snapper, pargo colorado, vermelho, pargo del golfo, huachinango del Golfo,

Red Snapper occur in the Gulf of Mexico and in the western Atlantic along the eastern coast of the USA as far north as Massachusetts, but rarely north of the Carolinas. They are absent from the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Juveniles occur in shallow water over sandy or mud bottoms. Adults are more plentiful offshore in 60 to 440 ft of water associated with rough, rocky bottoms and wrecks.

The pinkish to red color and sharply pointed anal fin (rather than rounded) distinguishes the red snapper from most other Gulf of Mexico snappers. The snout is long and triangular and the eyes are a distinctive red. Adults have no dark lateral spot, but juveniles have a dark spot on the upper sides below the anterior soft dorsal fin.

The Red Snapper is sometimes confused with the Southern Red Snapper, L. purpureus, found throughout Caribbean Sea from Cuba southward to northeast Brazil. There are differences, however, in scale and anal fin ray counts. The Red Snapper usually has fewer scales in a row along the midside (usually 47-49 not 50-51 and fewer scales between the beginning of the dorsal fin and the lateral line, (usually 8-9, not 10-11). The Norther Red Snapper has more soft rays in the anal fins (usually 9 instead of 8).

This species feeds primarily on fish, crustaceans, worms and cephalopods. They tend to be nibblers and pickers and soft touch is needed when angling. Red snanpper seem to prefer a still or slowly moving bait. Squid, whole fish and cut bait can be used to entice red snapper to bite. By chummming them up to the surface, flies can also be used.

The Red Snapper is one of the most valuable and heavily exploited snappers in American waters. It is now closely protected; shrimp fishing, accused of destroying young snappers, is currently restricted.

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Black Skipjack

Kishinouye, 1920; SCOMBRIDAE FAMILY; also called little tuna, false albacore, spotted tuna, mackerel tuna, skipjack

They inhabit tropical and warm temperate waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean from California to Peru, and rarely the central Pacific.

The dorsal fin has 13 15 spines and is high anteriorly. This distinguishes it from the bonito, Sarda, which have a relatively long and low first dorsal fin. The anal fin, which has 11 13 rays is similar to the second dorsal fin in size and shape. The body lacks scales, except on the anterior corselet and along the lateral line. This is the only species of Euthynnus with 37, instead of the usual 39, vertebrae. Each jaw has 20 40 small, conical teeth. Bonitos have fewer and larger conical teeth. Mackerels have flat, triangular teeth.

It is distinguished from similar species by the 4 or 5 broad, straight, black stripes which run horizontally along the back and by the dark spots between the pectoral and ventral fins. In live specimens, stripes may be visible on the venter as well as on the back, which has frequently led to confusion with the skipjack tuna, Katsuwonus pelamis. The stripes on the belly rarely persist long after death in the black skipjack, however, whereas they remain prominent in the skipjack tuna.

It is pelagic, schooling and migratory, feeding predominantly on small surface fishes, squids, and crustaceans. It can be hooked by trolling or casting small whole baits or strip baits, or small lures such as spoons, plugs, jigs, and feathers. It has been said that the black skipjack will strike any lure trolled at speeds up to 8 or 10 miles per hour (12 16 km).

It is rated as a good food fish by some and disdained by others. Its flesh is dark red and the taste is strong.

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Rainbow Runner

(Quoy & Gaimard, 1824); CARANGIDAE FAMILY; also called runner, rainbow yellowtail, skipjack, shoemaker, Hawaiian salmon, prodigal son

Occurs worldwide in tropical and warm temperate waters particularly temperatures of 70? 80?F (21? 30?C). Young are known to occur in the vicinity of floating rafts or debris and have been seen swimming with large sharks accompanied by pilotfish. It is rarely found in shore being more an inhabitant of the open sea. Young fish probably swim in relatively loose, small schools; older fish are more solitary.

There is a groove on the back and another on the venter in front of the tail fin of this species, but there are no bony scutes on the sides. The first dorsal fin has six spines. The second dorsal fin has one spine and 25 27 connected soft rays, followed by a 2 rayed finlet. The anal fin consists of a single detached spine that is covered by skin in most specimens over 1 ft (30 cm) long, followed by another spine with 16 18 connect soft rays and a 2 rayed finlet.

It resembles the cobia (Rachycentron canadum) in shape, but can be distinguished by its coloration as well as the finlet after the dorsal and anal fins. The back is blue green. On each side there is a broad, dark blue, horizontal stripe near the back and one or two narrower, light blue stripe(s) beneath the broader one. Between and around these blue stripes, the sides are a cadmium yellow. The belly is white or silver, often with a yellow or pink tint. The tail is yellow and the other fins are a greenish or olive yellow.

Fishing methods include trolling with small baits and lures or live bait fishing. The rainbow runner is sometimes caught on heavy tackle intended for larger fish, but its fighting ability is reduced when this

happens. When hooked on light tackle, it is an excellent game fish and a tough fighter prone to fast surface runs.

It is an excellent food fish with firm white flesh. In Japan it is cooked with a special sauce or eaten raw and considered a delicacy.

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Blue Marlin


This pelagic and migratory species occurs in tropical and warm temperate oceanic waters. In the Atlantic Ocean it is found from 45°N to 35°S, and in the Pacific Ocean from 48°N to 48°S. It is less abundant in the eastern portions of both oceans. In the Indian Ocean it occurs around Ceylon, Mauritius, and off the east coast of Africa. In the northern Gulf of Mexico its movements seem to be associated with the so called Loop Current, an extension of the Caribbean Current. Seasonal concentrations occur in the southwest Atlantic (5°-30°S) from January to April; in the northwest Atlantic (10°-35°N) from June to October; in the western and central North Pacific (2°-24°N) from May to October; in the equatorial Pacific (10°N-10°S) in April and November; and in the Indian Ocean (0°-13°S) from April to October.

Japanese longliners report that the blue marlin is the largest of the istiophorid fishes. It apparently grows larger in the Pacific. All giant marlins are females, and male blue marlin rarely exceed 300 lb (136 kg). The pectoral fins of blue marlin are never completely rigid, even after death, and can be folded completely flat against the sides except in the largest specimens. The dorsal fin is high and pointed anteriorly (rather than rounded) and its greatest height is less than the greatest body depth. The anal fin is relatively large and it too is pointed. Juveniles may not share all the characteristics listed above, but the peculiar lateral line system is usually visible in small specimens. In adults it is rarely visible unless the scales or skin are removed. The vent is just in front of the anal fin, as it is in all billfish except the spearfish. The back is cobalt blue and the flanks and belly are silvery white. There may be light blue or lavender vertical stripes on the sides, but these usually fade away soon after death, and they are never as obvious as those of the striped marlin. There are no spots on the fins.

They are known to feed on squid and pelagic fishes, including blackfin tuna and frigate mackerel. A powerful, aggressive fighter, they run hard and long, sound deep, and leap high into the air in a seemingly inexhaustible display of strength. Fishing methods include trolling large whole baits such as bonito, dolphin, mullet, mackerel, bonefish, ballyhoo, flying fish and squid as well as various types of artificial lures and sometimes strip baits.

Some taxonomists believe that the Atlantic and Pacific blue marlins are closely related but separate species. They apply the scientific name Makaira nigricans, Lacepede, 1892, to the Atlantic species only and the name Makaira mazara (Jordan & Snyder, 1901) to the Pacific and Indian Ocean species. Others treat the two populations as subspecies, Makaira nigricans nigricans and Makaira nigricans mazara.

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Spanish Mackerel

(Mitchill, 1815); SCOMBRIDAE FAMILY

Occurs in the western Atlantic north to the Chesapeake Bay and occasionally to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and south to Yucatan, Mexico.

The Spanish mackerel can be distinguished from both the cero mackerel, Scomberomorus regalis, and the king mackerel, S. cavalla, by the presence of bronze or yellow spots but no stripes, on the sides and by the lack of scales on the pectoral fins. The cero, the Spanish mackerel’s closest look alike in the Atlantic, has both spots and stripes of bronze or yellow on the sides, and the king mackerel has neither spots nor stripes. Both the cero and the king mackerel have scales on the pectoral fins.

The anterior portion of the first dorsal fin in the Spanish mackerel is black (not true of the king mackerel), and the second dorsal fin and pectoral fins may be black tipped. The body is essentially silvery and typically mackerel like. The back is bluish.

This is an excellent game fish that can be taken on a wide variety of lures and baits. Nylon jigs are considered one of the best lures, especially when retrieved rapidly with an occasional jerk of the rod tip to impact a darting motion to the jig. Feather lures and spoons are also successful, while minnows and live shrimp are the best natural baits. Occasionally almost any lure or bait will work, while at other times, nothing will.

Spanish mackerel are a good food fish and although they are considered large at 10 lb (4.53 kg) some record specimens will grow to more than twice that size.


King Mackerel

(Cuvier, 1829); SCOMBRIDAE FAMILY; also called kingfish, giant mackerel

Found in the western Atlantic Ocean in tropical and subtropical waters, it ranges from Maine in the U.S. to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, and is common around south Florida in the winter months. This migratory species is constantly on the move. Stocks wintering in Florida migrate as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia during the summer. It also occurs around south Florida in the spring and early summer months.

A coastal, pelagic, schooling species, it is usually found in waters of 10 20 fathoms. Occasionally it may be caught from ocean piers and around inlets. Congregations often occur around wrecks, buoys, coral reefs, and other such areas where food is abundant. Schools vary in size and the largest individuals are usually loners.

They can be distinguished from other Spanish mackerels in the western Atlantic by the sharp dip in the lateral line under the second dorsal fin, by the relatively small number of spines in the first dorsal fin (14 16). The young have spots similar to those in the Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus, but these spots disappear with age. The first dorsal fin is uniformly blue; the anterior third of this fin is never black as it is in the Spanish mackerel and the cero mackerel, S. regalis.

This is an important species, both commercially and as a sport fish. Fishing methods include trolling or drifting either deep or on the surface using strip baits, lures, or small whole baits as well as casting and live bait fishing. Balao, mullet, jacks, herring, pinfish, croakers, shrimp, spoons, feathers, jigs, and plugs have proven effective under various conditions, as have such combinations as feather strip bait and skirt strip bait. Chumming works well to attract and hold these fish.

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Goliath Grouper

(Lichtenstein, 1822); SERRANIDAE FAMILY; also called spotted jewfish, southern jewfish, junefish, Florida jewfish, jewfish

Known to occur in the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies. It is also known in the eastern Pacific from Costa Rica to Peru. This species is usually found inside of the 12 fathom bottom contour, though it may occur in deeper waters. It favors areas near rocky shores and islands, reefs, ledges, dock and bridge pilings, and wrecks, where caves and holes offer refuge.

The goliath grouper is the largest of the grouper in the western Atlantic, possibly reaching 8 ft (2.5 m) and a weight of 1000 lb (455 kg). The body, including the head and fins, is mottled with dark brown blotches and blackish spots. As the fish grows older, the body becomes darker and the spots and blotches become more numerous and less distinct.

It can be easily distinguished from the giant sea bass, Stereolepis gigas, because it has more soft rays (15 16) than spines (11) in the dorsal fin. The giant sea bass also has 11 spines, but only 10 soft rays. The goliath grouper can also be distinguished from the giant sea bass by its rounded tail fin, large, rounded pectoral fins, and different color pattern.

Goliath grouper feed primarily on crustaceans, but also on fishes and even an occasional turtle, which is inhaled into the goliath grouper’s enormous mouth. It is a very sluggish fish and an opportunistic feeder. Some very large specimens show an extraordinary degree of curiosity and will leave their caves to swim up to a diver. There are reliable reports of goliath grouper or giant sea bass interfering with diving operations and occasionally even attempting to swallow divers.

Despite poor fighting ability, its great size and weight and its habit of swimming into a hole or between rocks when hooked, make it difficult to land. They can be taken on live or dead bait fished on the bottom from boats, bridges, or shore. Slow trolling also works on occasion. Baits include crabs, spiny lobster, fishes and cut bait.

The goliath grouper is an excellent food fish at any size. But, it is now totally protected from harvest in Florida waters.

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Linnaeus, 1758; CORYPHAENIDAE FAMILY; also called dolphin, mahi mahi, dorado, goldmakrele, shiira.

Found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate seas, the dolphinfish is pelagic, schooling, and migratory. Though occasionally caught from an ocean pier, it is basically a deep-water species, inhabiting the surface of the open ocean. The dolphinfish is a distinctive fish, both for its shape and its colors. Though it is among the most colorful fish in the sea, the colors are quite variable and defy an accurate, simple description. Generally, when the fish is alive in the water, the dolphin is rich iridescent blue or blue green dorsally; gold, bluish gold, or silvery gold on the lower flanks; and silvery white or yellow on the belly. The sides are sprinkled with a mixture of dark and light spots, ranging from black or blue to golden. The dorsal fin is rich blue, and the anal fin is golden or silvery. The other fins are generally golden-yellow, edged with blue. When removed from the water, the colors fluctuate between blue, green, and yellow. After death the fish usually turns uniformly yellow or silvery gray.

Large males have high, vertical foreheads, while the female’s forehead is rounded. Males grow larger than females.

They are extremely fast swimmers and feed extensively on flying fish and squid as well as on other small fish. They have a particular affinity for swimming beneath buoys, seaweed, logs, and floating objects of almost any kind.

Hooked dolphin may leap or tailwalk, darting first in one direction, then another. It is believed that they can reach speeds up to 50 mph (80.5 kph) in short bursts. Successful fishing methods include trolling surface baits (flying fish, mullet, balao, squid, strip baits) or artificial lures; also live bait fishing or casting. If the first dolphin caught is kept in the water, it will usually hold the school, and often others will come near enough to be caught by casting.

In addition to being a highly rated game fish, the dolphin is a delicious food fish. It is referred to as the “dolphinfish” to distinguish it from the dolphin of the porpoise family, which is a mammal and in no way related.

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