When identifying fish it is best to use the shape of the fish not the color.   
       The color of a fish changes with the color of water and/or their surroundings.

These are fish you could catch here in Charlotte Harbor and not all
         of them are listed here yet. This is not an official list or any thing but my opinion
        about these fish. and When it comes to taste well, this is my opinion.

    The C.B. means this fish is commonly used as cut bait and is legal to cut up for bait,
      Keep in mind that some edible fish are also used as bait.   If a fish has a size limit it can not be cut into pieces.                             

            Here is how the tide effects the fishing           
 More general fishing information            



                           Black Drum Stories

                       Black Drum                                                   

                       Good eating                                                      
 The meat of a Black drum, is as close to steak as a fish can get.       

    Small Back Drum are know as bearded Sheepshead,  A favorite for F.W.C. because they look so similar but have different size limits

                          Sheepshead have teeth, Black drum a beard & no teeth.

Small Drum also have stripes when young, which fade as they get older.
Many people think once the stripes are gone/faded from the sides of a black drum they are no longer good to eat.
I am not sure, But I do not keep any lager black drum from June to November as that is when they are full of the parasites

Really big 30 pound or more Black Drum, May have parasites.
which look like, little white worms. They are not harmful to humans and do not
have any flavor, you can not taste them. Even uncooked they can not hurt you.               
It is just a little disgusting. Just cut them out, being tuff gets you a great tasting meal.  





               Blue Runner   / C.B. 
       Can be eaten if really hungry







This is on of the fish that when smaller like the ones we catch here in Charlotte Harbor are pretty good to eat.
a trick I use is not to leed them but put the fish on ice as soon as I take the hook.
If it is alive when placed on ice the cold will draw out most of the bad/fishy taste from the Blue and then I use a recipe
which has some spice to it like blacken and in my opinion you will enjoy eating these smaller blue fish.




                           Blue Crabs

  Charlotte Harbor is one of the last, best places for these angry Crabs
  They are sold as food or as bait.

  For bait uses click here



  food value is excellent
  you can eat the meat from the body & the claws
 or cook them whole, or whole as a soft shell.



Stone Crabs are not really found in-side of Harbor or ICW ,
They live in the gulf of Mexico, We do have some cousins I guess you would say which are found in the back waters
you may only take ONE claw from a Stone Crab



       Blue Fish                                 

          Good eating if you are from the northeast. Not so good for the rest of us.




                     More about Bonita
Bonita  / C.B.                     

               Little Tunny  
No way, tastes like a tin can
           Maybe? maybe not. Check out the More about Bonita button
     up dated this 2014, There is a big interest in Bonita as there are
So many if the gulf,
I have found ways to cook them click the button
they are not my recipes, So if you like them click the links and you
may find more ways. I went to these sites and they were all good go to them for your self & see.



Not often found this far north, But we have seen them caught on the beaches of Gasparilla Island and
by stump Pass.  Not a edible fish any way, But they are fast and pull hard



Cat Fish
These saltwater Cat fish are the most dangerous fish in Florida waters
 for every Dollar spent on Shark bites $10,000.oo dollars are spent on Catfish wounds
 The dorsal & pectoral fins have a very hard spine / spike on them, this sharp
 serrated edged spike can easily pierce a leather work boot.
Never, ever, never kick a catfish !!! it will end up hanging from your foot
only to be surgically removed. Scary huh just be careful and you will be fine.
 the only time you will have a problem is when you lose respect for what they can do.


        Hard Head   / C.B.                       

 Poor eating “mud flavor”                              

 Now having said that well it is not quite true.
hard head cats are much like Large Mouth bass, as far as one will taste
great & the next will have a strange muddy flavor.
 This is why I say they are poor eating the meat is white and can be quite good,
then the next one is just lets say YUCK. weird huh well that's life.



       Sail-cat   “Gaff-top”  / COB.


            Good eating


  The thing about salt water cat fish is they have Bards not ordinary Barbs
      barbs that will go through a leather work boot!
   NEVER KICK a Cat-Fish when trying to get one off the dock or pier!

   To clean a Sail cat for dinner you fillet them not skin them.

 Start your cut just back of the ribs, then basically you fillet the tail section.
These cats acn be pretty dry when cooking them, deep fry or any recipe which marinates,
other than that pretty tasty fish.

     Good meat, but possible they might have parasites like a Spotted trout or Black Drum.








                   Really good eating               


 Cobia are one of the best fighting, good eating, dumbest fish. I have ever fished for.
Cobia cruise the sand bar and the surface waters of Charlotte harbor looking for food.

They eat shrimp, fish, crabs, they have many nicknames "Ling" the crab eater. as well
as many other, but this should give you a clue they like crabs.
the problem with using crabs for bait the crab likes to hide,  when it hits the bottom,
so you will do much better with a crab under a float.

Cobia can be caught on the bottom or at the surface.
 Cobia like to relax in the shade on those bright hot days, "who doesn't" think about it
if you are fishing the reef or anchored up somewhere where would a Cobia find Shade to lay in ?
That's right under your boat !
 yes many times I have had my lines way out from the boat

looking for Cobia only to notice one sticking his nose right out from underneath my boat.
It will make you crazy when you are outsmarted by a fish this dumb. Happens every day.

Oh yeah when you are fighting a Cobia you will notice make a hard run way off into the distance,
then settle in to fight you,  from about 30 feet away you gain a little it will move away a little, madding.



I put this up as we do have a lot of Clams and Oysters.
I would not eat the ones from here, un-less there has been no rain and no Red Tide
for at least 4 months.



American Eel




American Eel

       Common name - American Eel (pencil eel, yellow eel,
 black eel, silver eel, Boston eel, Atlantic eel or common eel)

This eel is very common to Charlotte Harbor, alto few are landed.
It is the most common "rock" or "snag" in the Harbor.
What I mean by that is when an ell takes a bait
they will turn and go down into their hole "burrow" and when you pull it is
stuck on the bottom. and the upper harbor there are few if any rocks or snags,
when you snag bottom in the Open harbor, chances are you hooked a eel.









      Great eating          










                  Goliath Grouper      (can not)

            "Jew Fish”   endangered  ( keep )

                           Round Tail

         Goliath's can get to 600 pounds
     The tail tells the difference between the Gag and the
      Fish change color to match their surroundings. So the colors
      on these fish might be very similar.
     Jew Fish is believed to have gotten it's name from the white almost
     Blue meat of the fillets, like looks and tastes so good it's "kosher"

      If or when they become legal to keep it is one of the best eating fish
      even when they are 400 pounds or more.

      Goliath grouper can be found in most all canals and even in the peace
      and Myakka rivers, fish in excess of 150 pound are caught or hooked
      inside of Charlotte Harbor.




    Gag Grouper 

     Great eating             


  The flat tail edge of the Gags tail helps I.d.

  This tasty fish regularly comes into Charlotte Harbor
  The reef off Alligator creek or the Cape haze reef
  will often produce keeper size Gag.



 Red Grouper

 I have to say one of my Favorite eating fish.
 Found mostly in the gulf sometimes you can catch them in the Harbor
 but it is rare to catch a keeper in the Shallow waters of the Harbor
 Live bait or dead. even jigs work when trying to get them to bite.
 A true Game fish of Florida waters.











very good eating 
         easy to fillet,
      My Dad's favorite.


Green backs
Hard scaled sardine,
is very hardy in a live well,
but is difficult to keep in commercial tanks
they do not like changes in the levels
of salt, ph or temperatures, making then almost impossible to sell in bait shops.
This is one bait better caught when you go.
This is the fish originally called white bait, or salt-water shiner, 
 Now many fish have been lumped into the name of white Bait.





         Jack Crevalle  / C.B.     

       Ok eating, best smoked  

    Jacks are also known locally as Charlotte Harbor yellow fin tuna, amber jack, pompano, 
    of course this is a little silly but we hear all the time I caught a tuna in the canal, It is too disappointing
    to them to tell  them what it really is. So we try to suggest they look it up here. Sorry guys no tuna in the canals.    


        Jacks are one of the best fighters in the world pound for pound
        They are battlers, Anything is good bait for Jacks, you just have to get it in front of them
       Jacks are often mistaken for tuna or pompano by new comers, They are in most of the canals
       and shallow and deep waters of the Harbor.







            Lady Fish  / C.B.                                     

  Edible, must be starving                       
 First cousin to the Tarpon                    
 Pound for pound one of the                 
 best fighters, Jumping, thrashing           
 Crapping all over you and the boat.
 What more fun could you Have.
side note is that most of us have eaten lady fish at one time or another
"Fish Stix" yes many fish stick are made from them. the oil from these
fish are used and the rest is sold for
animal feed.




Lizard Fish,

Some-times you will catch these in Charlotte Harbor.
Lizard fish are often caught in the Gulf when trolling spoons,
They hit lures sometimes as big as they are.

This Lizard fish is about 12 inches long which is good size for them.
I am not sure if you can eat them. I do know they make great Grouper bait.


They have a triangle shaped head, and a mouth full of teeth.

Lizard fish are not poisonous that I know of.

a fairly common catch in our area.









        The Mackerels



                                 King Mackerel  

                                 Good eating    

  Rarely found in the Harbor, but fish don't know the rules so every
once in a while they come into the Harbor.
Kings like 68 to 72 degree water and pass by here in the spring and fall as they migrate,

     The slower the water changes temperature the slower they move north or south.

   They can be caught with live bait, or with lures,
   most often they are a fish you would troll lures behind the boat, to catch.    





                 Poppin corks page

   Mackerel Recipe              More about Spanish Mackerel


                       Spanish mackerel 

                       Good, better smoked               

                              The most prevalent Mackerel in the Harbor
 Lots of conflicting, about how good eating these fish are.
One person says great the next says lousy, keep a couple and see hat you
  think, great fish for blacken or heavy spice recipes.







      More about Mullet                        

                            Mullet  / C.B.                   

                            Great eating.                  
One thing they are not vegetarians,
They eat bugs, worms, fish, shrimp, alga, plant or animal,
they eat every thing. The kicker is that they have a gizzard
just like a chicken, which adds to their nick names
like chicken of the sea. When I first moved to Fla. Mullet gizzard
was a favorite of the local rednecks.   
Mullet is one of the best eating fish you can have while visiting Florida
 whether baked, broiled, grilled, or even steamed it is quite a tasty fish.

      The Great Mullet debait real or not







                Pompano                                             Permit   

              Great eating                                         Ok eating








           Red fish / Red Drum                              

        This is a slot fish

         Very good eating        Poppin cork Page    Big red fish

      Red Drum is one if the most sought after fish in the southern salt waters.
    But I remember when I first came here walking up to a guy with a pile of fish
    behind him what are they I asked, Damn Slat water carp no good for anything
   just trying to kill as many as I can, get them useless fish out of here.
   you guessed it they were Red fish. it was not until the late 1980's that Red fish became a
  Game fish. and was considered a good catch or even good eating. Try to keep
 this in mind when you catch a fish that is considered "Not good" maybe in a few years
 It will be a highly prized great tasting Game fish, It is just that no one told you Yet.      











      Sand Bream  /  C.B.

     Great eating

     Other names, Silver Jenny, Mojarra,  

         Striped Mojarra, sand perch, goat, sand brim,
      Easy to I.D. because the mouth pulls way out from it's face.
      Easy to clean & fillet white meat, Mild flavor do not add
      much spice or you will not taste the fish at all.
      Best way to catch on rod and reel is with a bobber a # 6 gold hook,
      And peeled shrimp meat you must remove the shell of the shrimp,
      readily found around docks in the canals,





           Sharks    click here sharks 101 how to.



             Shark fishing 101    Shark set up riggin    another shark rigging story

           Sharp nose shark               

          Good eating                 



          Hammer Head                                Bonnet or shovel nose

                                                                       Great eating 










 Sheep head
sometimes called Convict fish because of it's suit of stripes
very tasty fish, sort of tough to clean, lots of heavy scales, and
hard rib bones. but worth the effort.     sheep head

Sheep head page









             Grey or Mangrove snapper

                      Great eating.

       This is the only snapper caught
       in the upper harbor or canals.
   When in the harbor they have a red belly,
   that fools people into thinking they are
           Red Snapper. They aint.




      Lane snapper

     Very good eating

You may catch a Lane Snapper in charlotte Harbor, every once in a while
while not a "rare catch" not common either









   Check all rules,
HEY this is Florida,
 if you don't have an attorney in your pocket,
 check the rules twice.








                 One of the absolute best.

Yes great eating but must be filleted if eaten with the skin on
they taste like soap, Hence the nickname soap fish, once thought to be
inedible, and sold for cat-food,

 Trolling for Snook


Snook are common in the canals and around
docks and piers. They are an ambush feeder laying behind

Pilings or in the roots of Mangrove trees, waiting for the next meal
to swim by.
Snook eat Shrimp "live is better", Any bait fish, " live or dead",
Snook also hit Spoons, jigs, lures of almost any type. That is
when they are in the mood,

They do have a weird trait if they see you, often they will not swim away
they will just lay there and not eat, It can be madding to bounce a bait on their nose
and nothing they just look at you and chuckle, You've been Snookered.







    Atlantic spade fish                                      

       Good eating                                Spade fish page           




 Star Gazer  





          Star Gazer page





    Squirrel Fish
considered a bait fish, but is good eating on it's own.
    Many think of them as Grouper candy.
    Caught on sandy bottoms in the near Gulf.


More and more people are thinking of  Squirrel Fish as dinner,
a good rule of thumb is if you can get a decent fillet, take it for eating,
if it is smaller use it for bait.
Yes these have become gourmet food for the Anglers, who are smart enough










      Triple Tail                                            

     Great eating                              










  Nasty, do not even bother you would have to be Starving to eat.

 This is one of the most beautiful Game fish,

 Great fighter, known for, it's ability to jump.






Sea Robin ,
Yes it is a edible fish, but it would have to be quite large more than 14 inches
to really have any meat, It uses it's legs to smell, much like the whiskers on a catfish.
These are a rather common catch in Charlotte Harbor. The average size is 6 to 8 inches here.





Here is the Eye of a Sea Robin
spectacular color.

















          Spotted Trout     Good eating          Best way to catch Trout is with a        
     This Fish also may have parasites            
Poppin cork,  click here   
     warmer weather seems to make          
     the worms appear.                               
     Great game fish readily caught           
     on live bait or lures. Jigs are the         
     but for me it is Top water lures .        




       Silver or Sand trout  / C.B.
   This is almost the same as a Spotted Trout.
   The big difference is no size or bag limits or the Sand Trout.
    No spots same vampire fangs on the top of the mouth.
    purple on the mouth makes I.D. easy.
    I am not sure but I don't think they get worms.
    Oh yeah, very good eating.




                   Sugar trout

               Good eating   C.B.
          A really big one would be 10 inches.
          This is more, of a perch than a trout,
          Good bait, cut into pieces or as live bait
         Fillet this little guy, with 20 or so of his
         buddies and you have a great meal.




                       Sting ray   /C.B.

              OK eating, “fillet like flounder”

               The cookie cutter is a myth.   




White Bait, this is not a certain fish, it is a name given to a group of fish,
     Mojarra,               Hard scaled Sardine                     Bunker                                 Soft scaled sardine
    sand brim                 "Green Backs",                         0Pilchards,                            "Threadfin Herring".                Spanish Sardines

Term white bait really is for hard scale sardine Green backs, which are the true white bait of Charlotte Habor, but over time, and people
catching and using other types of bait fish, the name now has a more general meaning.








  Whiting  / C.B.                       Good eating    
 Best way to catch these guys is with pieces of shrimp
It is amazing how big of a bait they can get in their mouth
But if you tear a shrimp in half, or peel the shell from a
Frozen shrimp, you will catch more.
Use a slip sinker rig for whiting as they are smaller.
 if the sinker is tied in place they find out about you,
 before you find out about them.
the sliding or slip sinker will let you feel the tiniest bite
 so you and the fish find out about each other at the same time.
So you can set the hook before they steal your bait.




                Pompano                                             Permit   

              Great eating                                         Ok eating











        Flounder                                           Sheeps-head

      Great eating                                 A pier fisherman's delight
                                                       easy caught around pilings of docks
                                                       tough to clean, but worth the work.   

Toad fish


Gulf toadfish - Opsanus beta This is a weird fish you have probably
 caught while fishing from one of the
local piers.

The most common names
Toad Fish
Mother-in-law fish
Oyster cracker.

A really big one would be 10 inches
They are all mouth, then the body
goes sloping down to the tail.

If his belly is full. "and they will eat anything"
it will protrude.

It's mouth is full of teeth.

no size or bag limit, I have never tried eating one, and do not think I will






               Commonly used bait fish


                Bally-hoo                             Menhaden




         Pin fish                              Green back



    Spanish Sardine                   Thread fin



     Glass minnow
This is too small for bait, but it is what fish eat.     


 Salt-water bait fish do not live well in captivity and are only available in stores as frozen bait. You must catch them yourself
if you wish to use them alive.


The / C.B. means often used for cut bait.

If a fish has a size limit it cannot be cut up for bait. Size limit fish may be used whole as bait if they are of legal size.
"I don't want you getting a ticket."


The eating rating is my opinion. Most fish are filleted the same as

a bass. They just taste better.


Check the F.W.C.  Regulations booklet for size and bag limits.

      Have fun fishing and enjoy beautiful Charlotte Harbor.

Fishin Franks