The Catch

Typical Caught Species

Bonefish

Description

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the bonefish is the inferior mouth and conical nose that protrudes a third of its length beyond the mandible. The body is slender, round, and compressed, more so in large specimens than in young adults. The dorsal profile is more convex than the ventral profile. The first few rays of the dorsal fin are higher than the following rays and this lends a somewhat triangular shape to the dorsal fin when erect. The caudal fin is deeply forked, with the upper lobe slightly larger than the lower. Bonefish appear blue-greenish above, with bright silver scales on the sides and below. Dark streaks run in between the rows of scales, predominantly on the dorsal side of the body. The dorsal and caudal fins have dusky margins. Bonefish have no spines. Juvenile bonefish exhibit a series of nine dark crossbands on their backs. These bands extend nearly to the lateral line, with the third band crossing at the origin of the dorsal fin. Bands four and five are found under the posterior base of the dorsal fin. As the juvenile bonefish age the bands begin to disappear with the posterior bands the first to fade. Beyond about 3 inches (7.5 cm) the dark longitudinal streaks characteristic of the adults begin to appear and the last of the crossbands become obscured.

Habitat

Bonefish are predominately a coastal species, commonly found in intertidal flats, mangrove areas, river mouths, and deeper adjacent waters. The flats vary in composition from sand or grass to rocky substrates. Bonefish can tolerate the oxygen-poor water they sometimes encounter in coastal habitats by inhaling air into a lung-like air bladder. Bonefish typically school, sometimes in groups of up to 100 individuals. Studies in the Bahamas using ultrasonic telemetry demonstrated the daily patterns of bonefish consist of a movement to shallow water during the rising tide, and a retreat into deeper water during a falling tide. Bonefish are also known to move from particular sites (creek, channel, bay, etc.) after inhabiting the location for a maximum period of several days. Over the long-term movements between such “favorite” sites seem to occur without any discernable pattern. During summer months, larger individuals tend to remain in deep water, rarely moving onto the flats; they reappear in autumn, as water temperatures grow cooler.

Diet

The bonefish uses its conical snout to dig through the benthos to root up its prey, which it crushes and grinds with its powerful pharyngeal teeth. Bonefish feed on benthic and epibenthic prey, often in water less than 30 cm (12 inches) in depth. In south Florida, the prey consists primarily of crustaceans (xanthid crabs, portunid crabs, alphiid shrimp, penaeid shrimp), mollusks (clams and snails), polychaete worms, and fishes (primarily the gulf toadfish, Opsanus beta). The gulf toadfish is commonly found in the stomachs of larger bonefishes. Bahamian populations of bonefish appear to feed more heavily upon bivalves than do Florida Keys bonefish. Bonefish forage primarily on the flats, entering shallow water on rising tides. While in motion, schooling bonefish travel at the same speed and at a constant distance from each other. When feeding, the bonefish disperse slightly from the school but will reunite if frightened, again traveling in a patterned formation. Bonefish do not always travel in schools, but may also be found singly or in pairs. Schools of similar sized fish may consist of 4-6 individuals, or may number in the tens or hundreds. Large adult specimens are solitary.

Fishery

Bonefish caught by recreational fishers must be larger than 18 inches (45.7 cm), with a bag limit set at one fish per angler per day. This minimum length is less than the minimum length that the female must reach to be sexually mature. However, like the tarpon, permit, and other gamefish of the western Atlantic, bonefish provide the base for a large charter industry in Florida, the Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean. Thus, most bonefish guides and anglers esteem the bonefish to such a degree that bonefish are nearly always released unharmed. Most mortality attributed to human activity occurs from injuries incurred when being landed, such as “gut hooking” or sharks that take advantage of the hooked fish. Although this is considered an important game fish, the flesh is bony and not highly prized.

Size

In the Caribbean Sea and western Atlantic Ocean, the bonefish reaches a maximum length of about 31 inches (77 cm) and a weight of 13 or 14 pounds. Floridian and Bahamian fish often range from 4-6 pounds (1.8-2.7 kg), with fish over 8 pounds (3.6 kg) regarded as large. However, bonefish taken from Africa and Hawaii may attain weights over 20 pounds (9.1 kg). Bonefish reach sexual maturity between 3 and 4 years of age, at which point they are typically between 17 and 19 inches (43-48 cm) in length. Bonefish may live in excess of 19 years.

Permit

Description

The deeply forked tail and elongated anterior dorsal fin provide the more distinct characteristics of the permit. Looking like long sickles, these fins impart the fish’s species name falcatus. However, one can also identify the permit by its highly laterally compressed body, making the fish appear thin and tall. From a lateral perspective, the permit shape looks round in juveniles, but becomes oblong as the fish ages into an adult. In addition to the long anterior dorsal fin, inserted directly above an elongated anterior anal fin, permit also possess 17-21 soft dorsal rays, and 16-19 soft anal rays. Permit have bright silver sides and bluish-green or brown backs. The belly will sometimes show yellow or an occasional black splotch. The fins appear dark gray or black.

Habitat

Permit primarily occupy inshore regions such as flats and sandy beaches, and deeper cuts, channels, and holes adjacent to these areas. The substrate of the flats may vary from sand, mud, marl, or sea grass. Permit often swim in water depths less than 2 feet, though due to large body depth, large individuals cannot occupy waters as shallow as other flats species such as bonefish. In deeper waters up to 30 m, permit often congregate around structures such as reefs, jetties, and wrecks where they frequently occur in large schools.

Diet

Permit primarily forage on flats and intertidal areas, entering shallow water on incoming tides from deeper adjacent channels and basins. They usually travel in schools of about ten, but may school in larger numbers; larger permit tend to be more solitary, feeding alone or in pairs. Permit also congregate around wrecks and other deeper-water structures. Like the bonefish, the permit uses its hard mouth to dig into the benthos and root up its prey. These food items usually consist of crustaceans and mollusks, which the permit crushes with its granular teeth and pharyngeal bony plates. However, as opportunistic feeders, permit will eat a variety of animals, including amphipods, copepods, mollusks, polychaetes, fish and insects. Developmentally, permit exhibit planktivorous feeding habits as juveniles, eating copepods, amphipods, mysids, larval shrimp, and fish. As they increase in size, permit begin to feed on benthic prey including mole crabs, coquin clams, flatworms, gastropods, and sessile barnacles. Larger adults feed on gastropods, sea urchins, bivalves, and crabs.

Fishery

Permit compose an important commercial fishery along with their close relative the Florida pompano. The permit commercial fishery yielded 10.4 metric tons in 2002, down from 68 metric tons in 2000. Florida landings comprised 100 percent of the catch in 2002. Sportfishers consider the permit an important gamefish, and this fish, in addition to the bonefish and tarpon, supports a large charterboat fishing industry. Many anglers regard the permit as one of the most difficult gamefish to catch, and consider a permit caught on fly the highlight of their angling achievements. Many fishing guides and anglers highly esteem the permit and release the fish unharmed. Most mortality attributed to human activity while sportfishing occurs from injuries incurred when being landed, such as “gut hooking” or sharks that take advantage of the hooked fish. Though conscientious anglers attempt to break the line, thereby releasing the permit from restraint when a shark is sighted, sharks occasionally leave the angler with only half a fish.

Size

Permit reach a maximum length of at least 48 inches (122 cm) and a weight of 79 pounds (36 kg). They grow rapidly until an age of 5 years, at which point growth slows considerably. Permit reach sexual maturity at about 2.3 years for males, and 3.1 years for females. Their size at sexual maturity ranges from 19.1 inches (486 mm) for males and 21.5 inches (547 mm) for females.

Range

Permit inhabit the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil. They occur throughout the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, and less-frequently in Bermuda. The species has been reported in the eastern Atlantic, but does not regularly occur there. The species is most abundant in southern Florida.

Source(s)

Florida Museum of Natural History

Source(s) on the web

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/permit/permit.html

 

Barracuda

Description

The great barracuda has a slender, streamlined body that is round in the mid-section. The top of the head between the eyes is nearly flat and the mouth is large, containing many large sharp teeth and a projecting lower jaw. The pectoral fin tips extend to the origin of the pelvic fins. The spinous and soft dorsal fins are widely separated and the double emarginate tail fin exhibits pale tips on each lobe. Body coloration of the great barracuda is brownish or bluish gray on the dorsum and upper side, with a greenish cast shading to silvery on the sides and a white belly. The upper side may have 18-23 dark bars most often observable when the fish is resting or over a variegated substrate. The black spots on the lower sides of the great barracuda distinguish it from other species of barracuda. The second dorsal fin, anal, and caudal fins are violet to black with whitish tips. Young barracuda exhibit pale reticulations on the dorsum and a dark stripe on either side that breaks into spots as the fish grows. These patterns are somewhat ephemeral though as juveniles can alter their color patterns to closely match that of their surroundings. These changes in coloration serve to camouflage the fish from predators as well as well as wary prey. Adults have similar coloration along with a more silvery appearance that is advantageous to a fish that swims near the surface of the water.

Habitat

Great barracuda commonly occur in nearshore coral reefs, seagrasses, and mangroves. They may also reside in the open ocean, living predominantly at or near the surface, although they are at times found at depths to 325 feet (100m). Barracudas tend to be solitary but are sometimes found in small aggregations over reefs and sandy bottoms. Juveniles mature amongst mangroves and seagrass beds, habitats that offer cover from predators. During the second year of life, barracuda move to deeper reef habitats. Juveniles and some adults have been observed in areas that receive high amounts of freshwater input, however adults generally tend to avoid areas of brackish water.

Diet

Great barracudas feed on an array of prey including fishes such as jacks, grunts, groupers, snappers, small tunas, mullets, killifishes, herrings, and anchovies. Barracudas have a large gape and very sharp teeth, enabling them to feed on large fishes by chopping them in half. An opportunistic predator, great barracuda feed throughout the water column. Generally a diurnal fish, great barracuda locate their prey largely by sight. The body plan of the great barracuda is designed for speed and it is estimated that top speed for the species may be as fast as 36 mph (58 kph).

Fishery

Although not prized as a commercial fish in North American waters, the great barracuda puts up a good fight and is therefore esteemed by some anglers as a gamefish. They may be caught with a variety of gear including handlines, rod and reel, seines, trammel nets, and gill nets. The great barracuda has been implicated in cases of ciguatera poisoning within certain areas of its range. Ciguatera poisoning is caused by the bioaccumulation of ciguatoxins in the flesh of tropical marine fishes. Ciguatoxins are produced by marine dinoflagellates that grow attached to marine algae and as such may be incidentally ingested by herbivorous fishes. Large piscivorous reef dwelling fishes occupying the apex of the food chain become reservoirs for the highest amounts of ciguatoxin by feeding on other members of the reef community. Poisoned people report gastrointestinal maladies that may last several days, a general weakness in their arms and legs, and a reversal in the ability to differentiate hot versus cold. The illness is serious and symptoms may persist for weeks.

Size

Great barracuda are large fish. The record for a hook and line caught great barracuda is 1.7 meters (5.5 feet), 44 kg (103 lbs) and the species is reported to attain a size of 2 meters, 50 kg. Any barracuda over 4.8 feet (1.5 m) in length can be considered very large. Based on scale analysis of large specimens, great barracuda have a lifespan of at least 14 years. Sexual maturity is reached at a length of about 23 inches (60 cm).

Range

Occurring worldwide in near shore tropical and subtropical seas (30°N – 30°S), the great barracuda is common in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts (U.S.) to Brazil. It is also found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea as well as the eastern Atlantic Ocean, Indo-Pacific, and the Red Sea. It is rare or absent in areas of the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Source(s)

Florida Museum of Natural History

Source(s) on the web

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/GreatBarracuda/GreatBarracuda.html

 

Tarpon

Description

Externally, the almost vertical, silvery sides made up of large scales are the most distinctive feature of the tarpon. The tarpon has a superior mouth with the lower mandible extending far beyond the gape. The fins contain no spines, but are all composed of softrays. The dorsal fin appears high anteriorly and contains 13-15 softrays with the last ray greatly elongated into a heavy filament. The caudal is deeply forked, and the lobes appear equal in length. The anterior portion of the anal fin is deep and triangular. The fin has 22-25 softrays, with the last ray again elongated as in the dorsal fin, but shorter and only present in adults. The tarpon has large pelvic fins, and long pectoral fins containing 13-14 softrays. The synonym “silver king” refers to the predominant bright silver color along the sides and belly of the tarpon. Dorsally, tarpon usually appear dark blue to greenish-black. However, the color may appear brownish or brassy for individuals inhabiting inland waters. The dorsal and caudal fins have dusky margins and often appear dark.

Habitat

Tarpon populate a wide variety of habitats, but are primarily found in coastal waters, bays, estuaries, and mangrove-lined lagoons within tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates (45° N-30° S). The normal habitat depth extends to 98 feet (30 m). Although a marine fish, tarpon can tolerate euryhaline environments (0-47 parts per thousand) and often enter river mouths and bays and travel upstream into fresh water. In addition, tarpon can also tolerate oxygen-poor environments due to a modified air bladder that allows them to inhale atmospheric oxygen. The only variable that seems to limit their choice of habitat is temperature, and research shows tarpon to be thermophilic. Rapid decreases in temperature have been known to cause large tarpon kills. During such temperature drops, tarpon usually take refuge in warmer deeper waters.

Diet

The tarpon employs different feeding techniques depending upon its level of growth and development. Stage I larvae absorb nutrients directly from seawater through the integument. Zooplankton (copepods and ostracods), insects, and small fish compose the diet of stage II and III tarpon larvae and small juveniles. As tarpon grow, they move away from zooplankton as a chief food source and prey more exclusively on fishes (especially poecilids and cyprinodontids) and larger invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs. While juvenile tarpon are planktivorous, adult tarpon are strictly carnivorous and mostly feed on mid-water prey such as mullets, pinfish, marine catfishes, Atlantic needlefish, sardines, shrimp, and crabs. Tarpon feed during both day and night. Since the tarpon have minute teeth only, they usually swallow the prey whole.

Fishery

In Florida, the commercial sale of tarpon is prohibited. Recreationally, the tarpon provides a huge industry for charter captains. In the Florida Keys, many of these guides make the bulk of their earnings from April through June, the prime months for tarpon migrations. Recreational anglers must obtain a tarpon tag (purchased prior to catching) in order to possess a tarpon. However, most tarpon guides and anglers esteem the tarpon and nearly always release the fish unharmed. Most mortality attributed to human activity occurs from injuries incurred when being landed, such as “gut hooking” or sharks that take advantage of the hooked fish. Though conscientious anglers attempt to break the line to release the tarpon from restraint, sharks occasionally leave the angler with only half of the fish. Although this is considered an important game fish, the flesh is not highly prized in the United States, though the natives of Panama, the West Indies, and Africa consider the tarpon a delicacy and sell it on a small scale.

Size

Female tarpon can grow to lengths of over 8.2 feet (2.5m) and reach weights of near 355 pounds (161 kg), with the males generally smaller. Tarpon are slow-growing fish and do not obtain sexual maturity until reaching an age of 6-7 years and a length of about 4 feet (1.2 m). Tarpon weighing about 100 pounds (45.4 kg) typically fall between 13-16 years of age. Male tarpon attain lifespans of over 30 years, while females may live longer than 50 years. A female tarpon held in captivity at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois died in 1998 at the age of 63.

Range

Tarpon inhabit a large range on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. The range in the Eastern Atlantic extends from Senegal to the Congo. In the Western Atlantic, the fish primarily inhabit warmer coastal waters concentrating around the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and the West Indies. However, tarpon are not uncommon as far north as Cape Hatteras, and the extreme range extends from Nova Scotia in the north, Bermuda, and to Argentina to the south. Tarpon have been found at the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal and around Coiba Island.

 

Snapper

Description

Snappers are a family of perciform fish, mainly marine but with some members living in estuaries, and entering fresh water to feed. Some are important food fish. One of the best known is the red snapper. About 100 species of snapper are currently recognised, divided into about 16 genera. A very large number of fish species have “snapper” in their common name; most but not all of these are members of the family Lutjanidae. Almost all the 60 or so species in the genus Lutjanus have common names including the word “snapper”.

Habitat

They live at depths of up to 450 meters

Diet

Most feed on crustaceans or other fish, though a few are plankton-feeders.

Size

They can grow to about a meter in length.

Range

Snappers are found in the tropical and subtropical regions of all the oceans.

Source(s)

Wikipedia

Source(s) on the web

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutjanus