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Fishing Lines Field Guide

Saltwater Fishing How-to Videos

Learn everything you need to know about Florida saltwater fishing.

The Fishing Lines field guide is a booklet developed to provide information about Florida's marine resources. This webpage includes all content from the booklet such as information on saltwater fishing, important habitats, fish handling, marine fisheries conservation and fish identification for 145 species.

Fishing Lines Field Guide:

measuring a fish while using the Fishing Lines field guide

This guide is intended as an educational tool. Information about Florida’s marine resources is provided so that you can get the most out of Florida’s vast recreational fishing opportunities and learn about the importance of conserving the amazing array of fish and wildlife that call Florida home.

This publication includes articles about saltwater fishing, important habitats, catch-and-release techniques, outreach and education programs, fisheries management and more.

Due to an extensive coastline and rich diversity of species, saltwater fish identification in Florida can sometimes be a daunting task. This identification guide contains important information for 145 commonly encountered saltwater species to facilitate proper identification and a better understanding of Florida’s fishes. Information such as distinguishing features, sizes, habitats, similar species and notes are provided for each listing to enhance your Florida saltwater experience.

Cite as: FWC 2016. “Name of Article” in Fishing Lines: An Angler’s Guide to Florida’s Marine Resources, 9th edition. Melissa Crouch (editor). Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Marine Fisheries Management.

Illustrations in the fish identification section are copyrighted by Diane Rome Peebles and Dawn Witherington. This free publication is produced by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Division of Marine Fisheries Management, Outreach and Education Program with funding from Florida recreational saltwater fishing licenses and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program.

FWC strives to ensure information in this field guide is accurate, but assumes no liability for any errors that occur in this publication.

On the cover: Photo by Tim Donovan, FWC. Kayak angler fishes in Apalachee Bay near the St. Marks Lighthouse.

Fishing Lines Field Guide:

FWC Marine Fisheries Management Director Jessica McCawley

Greetings Anglers,

I’m so glad you’ve picked up the newly-remodeled version of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fishing Lines: An Angler’s Guide to Florida’s Marine Resources.

The new Fishing Lines has several changes we think you will find useful. This publication includes information on saltwater fishing, catch-and-release techniques, Florida’s marine habitats, conservation efforts, marine fisheries programs and an updated saltwater fish identification guide.

We all want Florida’s precious marine fisheries to thrive for years to come. FWC is constantly working to improve your fishing experience, but it is ultimately up to you to help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the beauty and excitement of fishing in Florida’s unique ecosystems. Each one of us can take simple steps to do our part in conserving fisheries for the future.

A basic way to conserve fisheries is to become familiar with the fishing regulations and commonly caught species in your area. You can also learn how to properly handle fish that will be released to give them the best possible chance of survival. Be sure to keep trash out of the water and dispose of any fishing line and other garbage in a proper receptacle ashore. Finally, be sure to follow safe boating practices, become familiar with waterways, proceed carefully through seagrass beds and always abide by the law.

Keep reading to learn more about how you can positively impact our treasured fisheries. By following these simple steps, you can help conserve Florida’s marine resources for generations to come.

Have an idea on how to improve our communication with you? Share it by emailing Marine@MyFWC.com or calling (850) 487-0554.

Tight Lines,
Jessica McCawley
Director, Division of Marine Fisheries Management
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Fishing Lines Field Guide:

Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program

User pay, public-benefit flow chart of SFR program

How You Participate
The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is one of the most successful conservation efforts in our nation’s history. This program provides funding used to benefit fish and wildlife resources while enhancing recreational fishing and hunting opportunities across the country. Funding for the program is derived from a portion of the sale of motorboat and small engine fuels as well as equipment purchased by anglers, boaters, hunters, archers and recreational shooters.

Funds collected go to federal accounts used specifically for wildlife and sport fish conservation. The USFWS redistributes the funds to states based on the number of resident licensed recreational anglers and hunters, as well as the land and water area of the state. When states receive funding, they are required to make a 25% matching contribution to grant funds. In Florida, funds are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Sport Fish Restoration
Every time you purchase fishing equipment or fuel for your boat, you are contributing to fisheries conservation. Even better, the small contribution you make with each purchase translates into millions of dollars toward restoration and management of fisheries each year. In fact, with your help, Florida receives around $13 million annually to support both freshwater and saltwater fisheries resources.

How You Benefit
Increased fishing and boating opportunities provided through saltwater projects such as:

  • Angler Outreach: Interacts with the public to provide information, answer questions, promote fisheries conservation and collect feedback from anglers.
  • Aquatic Education: Provides hands-on opportunities to learn about responsible angling, basic fishing skills and marine conservation.
  • Marine Fisheries Research: Researchers gather life history, genetics, health and other biological data used to develop fisheries management strategies.
  • Stock Enhancement Research: Researchers develop efficient methods of raising fish species to enhance natural populations.
  • Artificial Reefs: There are over 3600 artificial reefs in Florida, with about 100 new reefs constructed annually, providing enhanced fishing and diving opportunities as well as tools for
    fisheries research.
  • Boating Access – 15% of annual funds: Maintains existing public boat ramps and funds construction of new boat ramps, marinas and other public launching facilities throughout Florida.
  • Publications: Boating and angling guide pamphlets, fish identification posters, this field guide and more.
    Available to the public free-of-charge by calling (850) 487-0554 or visiting our publications page.

Marine Fisheries Outreach and Education Programs

Using funds from Sport Fish Restoration (SFR) grants and the sale of saltwater fishing licenses, the FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management, Outreach and Education Subsection promotes the conservation of Florida’s marine resources by educating anglers about catch-and-release, habitat conservation, ethical angling, environmental stewardship, fisheries research and the public’s role in fisheries management. This work is achieved through a variety of statewide programs, several of which are listed below.

habitat station at a Saltwater Kids' Fishing Clinic

Aquatic Education Programs
Saltwater Fishing Clinics: Statewide events that teach youth and adults the vulnerability of Florida’s marine resources, demonstrate basic fishing skills at hands-on stations, explain the role of anglers in fisheries management, demonstrate fisheries conservation techniques and offer an on-site fishing opportunity to provide a positive fishing experience.

Saltwater Fish Camps: Local organizations can partner with FWC to provide youth saltwater fish camps. The program uses a 40-hour curriculum designed to create responsible marine resource stewards by teaching children the vulnerability of Florida’s marine ecosystems; teaching fundamental saltwater fishing skills while emphasizing ethical angling techniques for resource conservation; and providing children with a positive fishing experience.

High School Fishing Program: Teaches students about ethical angling, conservation, Florida's aquatic and marine habitats, basic fishing gear, and general fishing concepts to help create confident and responsible anglers. FWC works with each school, providing them with the curriculum, knowledge, and funding opportunities to run a successful fishing club. 

Aquaculture in the Classroom: Florida schools have the opportunity to receive hatchery reared red drum for Marine Science and Aquaculture programs in the classroom. This gives students a hands-on opportunity to learn about marine aquaculture and marine research while teaching them to become stewards of our natural resources.

Aquatic Species Collecting Workshops: Partnership with the Florida Marine Science Educators Association (FMSEA) to conduct workshops for educators that teach best-management practices for collecting and holding aquatic organisms used for educational purposes.

marine fisheries outreach booth at an event

Angler Outreach Programs
Angler Interactions: Staff engage anglers at fishing shows, outdoor events and club meetings; disseminate fisheries information; answer questions; promote habitat conservation, resource stewardship and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Program; and explain the role of anglers in fisheries management.

Hatchery Outreach: Informs saltwater anglers of the role of stock enhancement in managing Florida’s marine resources and how SFR funding contributes. Hatchery fishing events provide the public with an opportunity to catch marine sport fish, give instructions on basic fishing skills and teach participants to be ethical anglers and stewards of natural resources.

Catch a Florida Memory: Entices anglers to target multiple species and learn more about Florida’s marine resources while fishing. Participants provide photos of their catch and receive recognition for their achievements.

Florida Saltwater Fishing Records: Rewards anglers for catching record-sized fish, including 81 marine species in both conventional and fly fishing categories.

Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Programstatewide effort to educate the public on the consequences of monofilament line left in the environment, to encourage recycling through a network of line recycling bins and drop-off locations, and to promote volunteer cleanup events.

For more information about Marine Fisheries Outreach and Education Programs, please contact the Division of Marine Fisheries Management at (850) 487-0554 or Marine@MyFWC.com.

Florida's Diverse Marine Habitats

mangroves and waterway

Florida’s 8,426 miles of tidal shoreline is home to an assortment of marine communities and diverse fishing opportunities. From the shores of Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic coast, south to the warm waters of the Keys and over to the Gulf beaches of Pensacola, lies a vast network of marine habitats that are essential to the health and productivity of many species. Visit the links above to learn more about Florida's marine fisheries habitats

Fishing Lines Field Guide

Fish Identification Guide

Saltwater Fish Identification

Pinfish caught

Learning to identify fish is a fascinating study in itself and is important to anglers. Misidentification can lead to fisheries violations. Saltwater fish and invertebrates commonly caught by anglers in Florida are included in the pages linked above.

Fishing Lines Field Guide

Catch and Release

Fish Handling

Photo of ethical angler holding fish

Fishing is a favorite pastime of both Florida residents and visitors. Fishing efforts in Florida have increased dramatically over the past decade, making it more important than ever to practice effective fish handling techniques to reduce fishing impacts. 

The majority of fishing trips in Florida result in some fish being caught and then released. Regulated species, such as red drum, are released if they are outside the slot limit, either too small or too large. Tarpon and bonefish are examples of fisheries that are strictly catch-and-release only. Some anglers even fish with the intention of releasing everything they catch.

Fish are released for a variety of reasons and increasing a fish’s chance of survival after it is released will help ensure that fish populations remain sustainable for future generations. Visit the links above and learn how you can help the fish you release survive.

How to Contribute to Marine Fisheries Management

Photo of angler with vermilion snapper

Stewardship of Florida’s vast marine resources is important to conserve our fisheries so future generations can continue to enjoy what Florida has to offer. Ethical fishing practices and marine resource management can help maintain healthy fish populations and enhance fishing opportunities.

  • Learn the fish common to your area and carry an identification guide.
  • Learn regulations for fish you target. Regulations are set by fisheries managers based on scientific data and public input to help maintain fish populations for the future. 
    • Common types of fishing regulations:
      • Bag Limit – Sets a limit on the number of fish harvested at one time.
      • Size Limit – Protects fish so they can reach a size that allows them to spawn.
      • Slot Limit – Includes a lower size limit and an upper size limit, which allows fish to reach maturity before being harvested and protects large females that produce massive numbers of viable eggs.
      • Season – Protects fish during spawning or limits the number of fish taken in heavily fished water
  • Provide feedback on marine fisheries management issues.
  • Participate in the Catch a Florida Memory program to help increase the diversity of fish you target and win prizes in the process.
  • Practice effective fish handling and release techniques.
  • Limit your take, don’t take your limit.
  • Protect important habitats and wildlife:
    • Properly dispose of trash, chemicals, oils and other hazardous materials.
    • Use charts to learn waterways, tie to mooring buoys and pole through shallow seagrass beds.
    • Set anchors securely so they do not drag.
  • Do not feed wild animals or marine life; they may lose their fear of humans and associate humans with food.
  • Recycle fishing line and dispose of trash in a proper receptacle ashore:

As the number of anglers continues to grow, it becomes more important than ever to be a marine resource steward. By respecting the marine environment and all of its components, we can help ensure good fishing for generations to come. After all, respect for nature and for other anglers is what fishing is all about.

Saltwater Fishing and Boating Basics

Things to Know Before You Go

Photo of tools and gear for fish handling

Anglers should be prepared for each fishing trip with important details such as the fishing location, supplies needed for the trip, methods for rigging tackle, common species caught, regulations for targeted species and proper fish handling techniques.

Click the accordions below to learn more about saltwater fishing supplies you might need. 

Cane Pole

cane pole

Simple fishing rod you can use to catch freshwater or saltwater fish. A piece of fishing line (the same length as the cane pole) is attached, along with a float and a hook. Instead of casting, the line is simply swung out into the water by holding the end of the pole in one hand and the line just above the hook in the other. While facing the water near the bank, hold the pole at about a 45 degree angle and let go of the line so it swings out over the water. At the farthest end of the swing, drop the end of the pole, thus dropping the bait and bobber into the water. 

Fly

fly rod and reel

A fly rod and reel uses the weight of the line to carry the lure to the fish. Lures for fly-fishing are very light and made from feathers, fur and fiber. Fly-fishing requires training and lots of practice to fish properly.

Spincasting

spincast rod and reel

The reel has a push-button control for releasing the line off the covered spool. These reels are good to use in freshwater and require regular maintenance if used in saltwater to prevent corrosion. The spin-cast is also known as closed face reel or the push button reel. Spin-casting reels eliminate backlash tangles because the spool doesn’t move. During a cast, line is pulled off the fixed spool through a hole in the top of the reel by the weight of the lure.

Spinning

spinning rod and reel

Designed for use in either freshwater or saltwater and available in a wide range of sizes, depending on where you want to use them. These rods and reels have a bail that winds the fishing line onto the reel. To cast, lift the bail, hold the fishing line between your finger and the rod and cast while letting go of the fishing line. The spinning reel is also known as the open face or flip-bail reel.

Bait-Casting

bait caster rod and reel

These rods and reels can be used in either freshwater or saltwater. They are designed so the spool that holds the line rotates when letting line out or retrieving line. These rods and reels are available in a wide variety of sizes and styles for use in many situations. Some have a device to wind the line neatly onto the spool. Bait-casters have a high potential for tangles and take practice to fish properly.

Conventional

conventional rod and reel

These rods and reels are generally used to catch large fish from offshore. Most conventional rods and used for trolling or bottom-fishing, but not casting. Like bait-casting reels, conventional reels are designed so the spool holding the line rotates when releasing and retrieving line. But, they have a high potential for tangles and take practice to fish properly.

conventional rod and reel for offshore fishing

The type of fishing line to use depends on your situation and personal preference. Types of fishing line include:

  • Monofilament: Single strand of nylon. It typically holds knots better, is easy to cast, has low visibility, shows some abrasion resistance and is less expensive than other fishing lines. But, it can stretch out over time and deteriorate from ultraviolet light exposure. 
    • Suggested uses: A good all-around fishing line to use in many different situations.
  • Fluorocarbon: Single strand of polyvinylidene fluoride. It has very low visibility and stretch, resistance to abrasion and ultraviolet light, good knot strength and it sinks to the bottom. However, it can be very stiff to tie and is more expensive than monofilament. 
    • Suggested uses: As leader material or in clear water.
  • Braid: Fused or braided strands of polyethylene. It has a smaller diameter, further casting distance, low stretch and exhibits resistance to ultraviolet light and abrasions. But, only certain knots (such as the uni knot) should be used with braid, it is highly visible in the water and it costs more than monofilament. 
    • Suggested uses: Fishing near structure or on the bottom and while using lures that spin.
  • Leader: Material attached between the fishing line and the hook. Leaders can be made of low-visibility fluorocarbon, hard monofilament, steel, titanium or other materials depending on the target species. They provide increased protection from sharp edges and can be less visible than most fishing line. 
    • Suggested uses: When targeting large or toothy fish and when fishing near sharp structure

Things to Remember: Match the knot to a function, tie the knot correctly, wet the knot prior to fully tightening it and trim the tag end to 1/8 inch after the knot is completely tightened. The tag end is the active end of the line used to tie a knot. The standing line is the longer end of the line that is not used to tie a knot.

Improved Clinch Knot

how to tie an improved clinch knot

Used to tie line to hook, swivel or some artificial lures. 

  1. Thread line through the eye of the hook and double-back parallel to the standing line.
  2. Using the tag end, make five or more twists around standing line.
  3. Take the tag end back toward the hook and push it through the first loop nearest the eye. Then, bring the tag end through the big loop that was just created.
  4. Holding the hook and line, moisten the knot and pull it tight against the hook eye.

Uni Knot

how to tie a uni knot

Used to tie line to hook, light line to heavy line and in many other applications.

  1. Run line through the eye of the hook and double-back parallel to the standing line. Make a loop by laying the tag end over the doubled line.
  2. Make six turns with the tag end around the doubled line and through the loop.
  3. Moisten the lines and pull the tag end to snug up the turns. 
  4. Slide the knot down to the eye or leave a small loop, if desired.

End-Loop Knot

how to tie an end loop knot

Used to tie leader to lures that require freedom of movement, like jigs and plugs, by leaving a loop near the lure eye. 

  1. Tie a simple overhand knot in the line several inches from the tag end; do not tighten the knot at this point.
  2. Insert the tag end through the lure eye, then insert the tag end through the wide portion of the overhand knot while keeping the knot loose.
  3. Loop size is determined by moving the overhand knot a desired distance from the lure eye. Make a simple half-hitch with the tag end around the standing part of the line ABOVE the overhand knot.
  4. Moisten the knot and pull tight on the line and lure to cinch the knot.

Albright Special

how to tie an Albright Special knot

Used to tie light line to heavier line, such as a leader.

  1. Make a loop with the heavier line. Run about 10 inches of the lighter line through the loop.
  2. Hold the three lines between your thumb and index finger. Wrap the light line back over itself and both strands of the loop.
  3. Make 10-15 tightly wrapped turns with the light line.
  4. Feed the tag end back through the loop, exiting the loop from the same side as it entered.
  5. Hold the light line and pull on both ends of the heavy line to slide the wraps to the end of the loop. Moisten and pull knot tight.

Palomar Knot

how to tie a palomar knot

Considered one of the most reliable knots and one of the strongest knots to tie for braided line. Used to attach a line to a hook, leader, etc. and is also best when tying braided fishing line to a hook.

  • Double about 10 inches of line and pass through the eye of the hook (step 1).
  • Tie a loose overhand knot in the doubled line, letting the hook hang loose at the bottom (steps 2-4). Avoid twisting the lines.
  • Pull the end of loop down, passing it completely over the hook (step 5).
  • Slide the loop above eye of hook. Moisten and pull both ends of the line to tighten the knot (step 6).

Circle Hook

barbless circle hook

Fishing hook with the point sharply curved back to the shank to form a circular shape. The curved shape causes the hook to catch in the corner of a fish’s mouth rather than in the gut. These hooks should not be set; instead, anglers simply reel and maintain tension on the line.

Jig Head

jig head

Fishing hook molded into a heavy sinker and can be covered with a soft artificial lure.

Swivel

swivel

Piece of metal that attaches the leader to a line and spins or rotates at the leader, which keeps kinks and twists out of the main line.

Snap

snap

Piece of metal that can attach to a swivel; it helps an angler switch tackle quickly.

Snap-Swivel

snap-swivel

Snap and swivel connected to each other. The swivel keeps kinks and twists out of the main line, and the snap allows an angler to switch tackle quickly.

Split Shot

split shot weight

Weight that can be pinched onto monofilament; adds weight to a lure quickly.

Egg Sinker

egg weight

Weight that is shaped like an egg with a hole in the center.

Pyramid Sinker

pyramid sinker weight

Weight with three or four sides that comes in different sizes and is used to keep bait on the bottom in waves and currents.

Float or Bobber

fishing float

Float that bobs at the surface and indicates a fish is biting the hook when pulled underwater. They may have weights that make a popping sound to attract fish.

Popping Cork

popping cork

Float that has weights and beads. When the float is jerked, it makes a popping sound that attracts fish.

Several bait options are available when saltwater fishing, including artificial and natural baits. The type of bait to choose depends on your targeted species, bait availability and personal preference. Remember, fish find food by detecting scent, sound and movement. Artificial Lures imitate the colors, shapes, sounds or scents of baitfish.

Spoon

fishing spoon

A dished-out or elongated spoon shape causes them to have a wobbling or darting motion in the water. The metallic finish provides a flashing effect to attract fish.

Plug

fishing plugs

Constructed from hollow plastic or wood to resemble baitfish or other prey. They have one to three treble hooks. One or two sets of treble hooks may be removed to make it easier to unhook fish. These lures can be fished at almost any depth and some are made to float, dive or both. Includes: crankbaits, jerkbaits, surface plugs, floating or diving plugs, rattling plugs and poppers.

Soft Body Lure

soft body lure

Molded from soft plastic and made to imitate natural bait. They come in countless shapes, colors and lengths and may be fitted onto a jig head. Some soft body lures come pre-rigged with a jig head.

Natural Baits – Usually preferred by fish, but can be difficult to catch and maintain. Natural bait can also be purchased. REMINDER: Circle hooks are recommended when fishing with natural baits.

Live Shrimp

live hooked shrimp bait

Insert a circle hook through the head and avoid dark spots in order to keep the shrimp alive; effective near the bottom or midwater using a float rig.

Live Crabs

Insert a circle hook up through back corner of shell, near swimmerets, or cut the body into halves or quarters; work well for bottom fishing.

Live Baitfish

live hooked pinfish bait

Insert a circle hook across the “nose” of the fish, upward through the top of the mouth, or through the back of the fish, just in front of the dorsal fin. Common baitfish include ballyhoo, bonito, pinfish, pigfish, mullet and killifish.

Live Sand Fleas

sand flea bait

Used to catch pompano and other fish in the surf zone. Insert a circle hook up through the sand flea (also known as mole crabs or sand crabs).

Cut Squid

cut bait from squid

Sold frozen and can be cut into pieces; works well for bottom fishing.

Cut Fish

cut bait from fish

Cut fish into strips or chunks and attach to hook, using the smallest pieces possible to avoid losing the bait.

There are several different fishing rigs that you can learn to make yourself, or you can opt to purchase rigs that have been manufactured and are ready to use. Here are a few important rigs that can be used in a variety of settings.

Slip-Sinker or Fish-Finder Rig

fish-finder rig

Designed to hold your bait right where you place it on the bottom, whether by casting or dropping. Once the egg sinker reaches bottom, your bait is able to move around. This rig can successfully catch all kinds of fish, freshwater and saltwater alike.

  • Supplies Needed: Fishing line, leader, egg sinker, swivel, hook and bait
  • Directions: First, slide an egg sinker onto the fishing line, then attach a swivel using an improved clinch or uni-knot. Next, tie the leader to the other eye on the swivel. Finally, tie the desired hook at the end of the leader.

Float Rig

float rig

Used when targeting fish that feed away from the bottom. It has a float added to the main line above the swivel; this helps hold the line up and also helps reduce the erratic action of the rig.

  • Supplies Needed: Fishing line, float, leader, swivel, hook, bait and split shot
  • Directions: If the float does not have a quick-attachment mechanism, slide the fishing line through the float, then slide the plastic securing pin into the float. Tie a swivel on the end of the line, then attach a leader with hook to the other eye on the swivel. Adjust the float to the desired height above the bait. Split shot may be added to weigh-down the bait.

Bottom-Surf Rig

bottom-surf rig

Designed to hold your bait right where you place it on the bottom. The pyramid sinker maintains the rig’s position, while the bait is suspended just over the bottom. This rig works well with both live and cut bait.

  • Supplies Needed: Fishing line, leader, pyramid sinker, three-way swivel, hook and bait
  • Directions: First, tie a short piece of leader to one of the eyes on the three-way swivel, then attach a pyramid sinker to the other end of the leader. Next, tie a long piece of leader to another eye on the three-way swivel, then tie a circle hook to the end of the leader. Finally, tie your fishing line to the last open spot on the three-way swivel.

Live-Lining or Live Bait Rig

live-bait rig

Used when targeting species such as tarpon, snook, sailfish and dolphinfish. The rig allows live bait to be suspended in the water column without any weight.

  • Supplies Needed: Fishing line, leader, circle hook and live bait
  • Directions: Tie a piece of leader to a piece of fishing line using an albright special knot. Then, tie a circle hook to the end of the leader. Finally, attach your choice of live bait to the hook.

How to Fillet a Fish

  • Items needed: Sharp fillet knife, plastic cutting board or fish cleaning table, container for fillets and knife sharpener
  • Note: Filleting techniques may differ for fish of various shapes
  • Directions:

Step 1

step 1 of how to fillet a fish

Place the fish on the cutting board. Grasp the fish’s mouth, then take the knife and position it just behind the pectoral fin. Slice downward about a half inch, keeping the rear of the knife blade up (watch your fingers!) until you feel the knife hit the spine. Be careful not to cut into the fish’s backbone.

Step 2

step 2 of how to fillet a fish

Turn the knife blade toward the tail and continue cutting, staying on top of the spine. You will feel resistance as you cut through the rib cage, but be careful not to cut into the backbone. It’s better to cut too shallow than too deep. Continue your cut toward the tail, almost cutting the scaly fillet off, but not quite.

Step 3

step 3 of how to fillet a fish

With the fillet barely attached to the tail, flip it away from the fish. Position your knife onto the narrow portion of the fillet closest to the tail. While holding the fish, slice the meat from the fish’s skin. To obtain the maximum meat, cut very close to the skin; but if you want a less “fishy” taste, cut only the upper white meat from the skin, leaving the red meat attached.

Step 4

step 4 of how to fillet a fish

Flip the fish over and fillet the other side, repeating steps 1 through 3.

Step 5

step 5 of how to fillet a fish

With the tip of your fillet knife, carefully cut out the rib cage of each fillet. To retrieve the most meat, angle your knife and slice close to the ribs.

Step 6

step 6 of how to fillet a fish

Carefully rinse and dry the fillets and eat them the same day, if possible. Avoid freezing fish for long durations and always check with the Department of Health for consumption advisories and fish handling tips.

Helpful Tips

using safe items such as sunscreen, hat, and life jacket
  • Sunscreen: Buy sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays. You need more sun protection during the middle of the day. If you plan on getting in the water, you may want to use a waterproof sunscreen. Sunscreen doesn’t last all day so remember to reapply product liberally to all parts of your body that will be exposed to sunlight.
  • Polarized Sunglasses: They protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays, help reduce glare and stop unwanted reflections that might hinder vision. They also provide better contrast, which enables visual clarity while fishing.
  • Hook Injuries: Always seek medical attention after being wounded by a hook, especially for hooks embedded in the eye, face, ear, neck and any tissue other than skin; special care or anesthesia may be needed. 
  • Marine Animal Stings: Always seek medical attention after any sting or injury! For more information, contact the National Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.
  • Avoid Catfish Injuries: When using dehooking tools, be sure to use a downward pop over the water instead of flipping the fish; flipping the fish can cause it to fly back toward you. You can also use a lip grip device to handle catfish safely.

Boating Basics

inshore fishing and boating

Carelessness and inattention are the leading causes of boating accidents in Florida. Pay close attention to your surroundings while on the water and you will be on your way to a safe and enjoyable outing.

Lifejackets
Did you know that Florida has the unfortunate distinction of being the national leader in annual boating fatalities? A majority of fatalities are boaters who said they knew how to swim. Drownings can be caused by strong undertows and rip currents, becoming tangled in gear, being knocked unconscious or getting hit by moving water craft. These deaths can easily be prevented by wearing a lifejacket. A variety of light-weight inflatable lifejackets are available, allowing you to stay cool and comfortable. Make yourself a good example by practicing safe boating habits – WEAR IT!

Follow Boating Regulations

  • Equipment and Lighting: The owner and/or operator of a vessel is responsible to carry, store, maintain and use the safety equipment required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG).
  • Vessel Registration: All vessels must be registered through your local Tax Collector’s Office, with the exception of non-motorized vessels less than 16 feet in length and non-motorized canoes, kayaks, racing shells or rowing sculls, regardless of length.
  • Vessel Speed: The vessel’s wake must not be excessive or create a hazard to other vessels. Vessel operators must adhere to requirements of “Idle Speed - No Wake” and “Slow Down - Minimum Wake” zones.
  • Boating Under the Influence: It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. 
  • Mooring to Markers or Buoys: Except in the event of an emergency, it is unlawful to moor or fasten to any lawfully placed navigation aid or regulatory marker.

Boating Safety Education
Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved Boater Safety Course and have in their possession photographic identification and a Boating Safety Education Identification Card issued by the FWC. Exemptions apply. 

Boating Access

  • Sport Fish Restoration Program: Provides funds used to create and improve over 200 public boat ramp sites throughout Florida. The program also funds the projects below.
  • Boating and Angling Guide Pamphlets: Offer information about marine resources and boating access sites for more than 25 coastal regions of Florida. Guides are available free-of-charge to anglers, boaters and resource managers at a variety of locations. 
  • Florida Public Boat Ramp Finder: Gives descriptive information, maps and photographs for over 1,800 public boat ramps throughout Florida. 

Marine Life Awareness

  • Manatees: Boaters must observe all manatee protection zone requirements. Boaters who accidentally strike a manatee are urged to report the strike to the FWC and may not be subject to prosecution, provided they were operating in accordance with any applicable vessel speed restrictions at the time of the strike.
  • Seagrass Beds: To help protect seagrass beds, boaters should stay within channels when in an unfamiliar waterway and avoid running through seagrass beds to help prevent propeller scars. It is a violation of Florida law to damage seagrass beds in some areas within state waters.
  • Also be aware of sea turtles, corals and other marine life while boating.

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