Broadbill Swordfish are a gamefish specie that inhabit depths of water between 300’-2,000’ feet. They can be caught up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, but Fort Lauderdale, Florida is a hotspot for these incredible fish. Feeding mostly on squid and mackerel, swordfish can range anywhere from 60-500 pounds. Swordfish are excellent fighting fish, make beautiful wall mounts and are one of the best eating fish in the ocean. Swordfish are traditionally thought of as nocturnal feeders, but they can be caught on both night fishing trips and daytime trips. These are a once in a lifetime fish for most fishermen and quite possibly the coolest big game fish you will ever catch. Read more on swordfishing
Sailfish are another of the world’s most sought after game fish. Sailfish are abundant in South Florida waters from the months of October-February. Sailfish can be caught throughout the year here in Fort Lauderdale, but those months are considered the hot season for them. Sailfish can be caught by a variety of methods, such as trolling rigged baits along the reef, slow trolling live baits from the outriggers or by a very unique style of fishing called kite fishing. Sailfish are mostly surface feeding fish, and as soon as you get the hooks into one, they come jumping out of the water in a beautiful aerial display. One great thing about sailfish is that they can be caught on light tackle equipment. Since they are a surface fish, they tend to stay near the top of the water when fighting. They sporadically leap into the air, shaking their heads side-to-side in an attempt to dislodge the hook. This allows us to use the boat to maneuver and back down to ‘chase the fish down’, aiding in the fight and makes it possible to land a sailfish on light tackle fishing gear. Sailfish are mostly between 5-7 feet in length and weigh on average 60-90 pounds.
Mahi-mahi, the Hawaiian name for dolphin fish, are an abundantly common species found off the coast of South Florida. These dolphin fish (not the same as the friendly porpoise mammal) tend to travel in schools ranging from 5-50 fish. They are usually caught when fishing offshore, anywhere from 3-20 miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. Mahi-mahi are delicious fish and are found in fine seafood restaurants throughout the world. Schools of mahi-mahi commonly congregate near and around floating objects that offer protection and shelter to baitfish schools. Things like big patches of seaweed, seaweed lines and floating boards or debris, are all great places to find a school of mahi-mahi. Mahi-mahi can range in size from 3 pounds-60 pounds. Small mahi-mahi are known as schoolie dolphin, medium sized ones are known as gaffer dolphin and the biggest mahi-mahi are known as bull dolphin. Bull dolphin are a highly prized game fish.
Most tuna are considered a cold water fish, but blackfin tuna, the tuna that we catch fishing in Fort Lauderdale, prefer the warm Gulfstream waters. Blackfin tuna can commonly reach 25-35 pounds. As is any tuna, blackfin tuna are exceptionally strong and built like a torpedo. They can take long hard runs and put up a good fight on any tackle. Blackfin tuna are a great eating fish no matter how you cook them (and even if you don’t- tuna sushi is good!). Other tuna frequent the reefs of Fort Lauderdale as well. Bonitos are a species of tuna which are caught in mass numbers throughout the mid-late summer months. Bonitos are not very good eating, but make exceptional baits because of their very bloody and oily meat. Bonitos average 5-15 pounds and although not good eating like blackfin are, they are equally strong and fight very hard. Yellowfin tuna are the largest tuna you can catch in Fort Lauderdale, but are not caught commonly. You have to get very lucky to find and land a yellowfin tuna off the coast of South Florida. We have caught some of them over the years though, which is always an exceptional treat.
Whenever you catch a wahoo, it is absolute fishing law that you must shout from the top of your lungs, “WAHOOO!” Wahoo are a beautiful, long and sleek fish, colored with an iridescent purple back, with vertical stripes of silver and gold running down the length of the fish’s body. Wahoo are known to be the fastest fish in the ocean and have been clocked stripping line off a reel at over 60 miles per hour. Wahoo are shaped like a spear and are about the most hydro-dynamically evolved fish in the sea. Wahoo are excellent eating fish. Wahoo have a jaw fitted with a row of tiny razor sharp teeth, almost like a serrated-edged knife. They use their incredible speed and razor-sharp teeth to swim right through their prey, slicing their quarry in half. Wahoo have a very soft jawbone, which makes it very easy for the hook to slip out when near the boat. Catching a wahoo is always exciting.
Fort Lauderdale is home to dozens of species of big game sharks. Different species migrate down our coastline throughout the year. For instance, spring months are great for big Hammerhead Sharks, while summer is great for Dusky, Sand Bar and Spinner Sharks. Winter is a good time to fish for Bull Sharks around the wrecks and fall months are good for the really unusual sharks such as mako and thresher. Sharks are the absolute top of the food chain and are some of the biggest fish we have swimming off the Fort Lauderdale coast. A plethora of baitfish varieties brings these sea monsters back to our waters year after year. Sharks are famous for their fascinating Jaw full of teeth. Each visible tooth along the perimeter of the jaw has 6 rows of teeth hidden behind. Shark jaws have hundreds of teeth which sometimes break off when they fiercely attack their prey. A shark can lose thousand of teeth in its lifetime, which are continually replaced by new teeth growing in. A shark feeds on literally anything it wants. I’ve found beer cans, sea turtles and even other sharks in the bellies of sharks over the years. Now a days, all sharks are catch and release. If you are after the ultimate apex predator, then a shark fishing charter is as good as it gets.
Kingfish are caught in 80-200 feet of water, up and down the coast of Florida. They average in size from 5-10 pounds, but sometimes grow to as large as 50 or 60 pounds. Kingfish are in the mackerel family and are a close relative of the wahoo. They tend to hunt in schools and can decimate a good sized ball of baitfish in minutes. We catch kingfish in Fort Lauderdale by trolling, drifting, live baiting and kite fishing. Kingfish are a great fish to catch on light tackle and will make your reel scream when they take their powerful and lightning quick runs. The largest of kingfish are called ‘smoker kings’, named because they pull drag off a reel so fast that the reel smokes (from drag friction) and also because they are extremely good tasting when cooked on a smoker. There are many tournaments all over Florida for these very cool inshore gamefish.
Everyone who has ever eaten seafood knows that snapper are delicious. Fort Lauderdale is home to many species of snapper, both shallow water and deep sea. Mangrove and yellowtail snapper are our shallow water snapper. They commonly live in 20-100 feet of water (sometimes deeper) and are great light tackle fish. They average in size from 2-4 pounds, but don’t get much bigger than that. Mutton snappers are our larger deep sea snappers. Mutton snappers are caught around shipwrecks and reefs where there is a lot of food. Mutton snapper average from 4-10 pounds, but can get to nearly 20 pounds. Muttons are caught anywhere from 20-300 feet of water. Vermillion snapper, also known as red snapper or B-Liners, are also a deep sea snapper. They mostly live in depths of 100-300 feet and live within hugely populated schools. We fish for these snappers with ‘chicken rigs’, a rig that has 10 hooks, each baited with its own piece of squid. When we deep drop for these snappers, it is common to come up with 6 or more fish at the same time. Catching them at this rate allows us to catch a lot of fish, very quickly.
Another bottom dweller, groupers can be caught most anywhere in Florida waters. There are many grouper species in the Fort Lauderdale area. Black, gag, red, warsaw and scamp groupers are some of the big grouper species that we catch on our deep sea fishing trips. All of these are good eating and are strong fighters. Groupers tend to live around shipwrecks and rock piles in anywhere from 20-600 feet of water. Groupers are very smart fish in that as soon as you hook into one, he will try to take you down into his hole and cut you off. When we go grouper fishing, we always use very strong drag so we can pull him up off the bottom quickly. Once a grouper gets into his hole, you have very slim chances of getting him out.
Barracuda are the tiger of the sea. These stealthy shallow water predators are very aggressive and very territorial. Barracuda are a great fighting fish on light tackle. They have long, narrow and sharp teeth which they use to tear their prey to pieces. Barracuda are more common in shallow water such as the Intracoastal Waterway and around shallow wreck in 100 feet or less. They can be caught in deep water as well, anywhere there is food. Barracuda lay still and silent until an unsuspecting baitfish swims within range. Average size barracuda range from 20-40 inches in length, but can get to upwards of 4 feet or bigger. Barracuda are an awesome fish for light tackle enthusiasts.
Amberjack are probably the strongest fish in the ocean, pound for pound. They live in the vicinity of the deep shipwrecks, feeding on the multitude of bait fishes that live near the wrecks. Amberjacks average 20-30 pounds, but can reach sizes of over 50 pounds. Fort Lauderdale is a utopia for this big game species due to the vast amount of shipwrecks and artificial reefs sunken off the Ft Lauderdale coast. Amberjacks are also pack hunters, which means whenever you catch one, there are likely more of them down there. Our best tactics for catching amberjacks is to hover the boat over the top of a deepwater shipwreck and drop a live bait to the bottom. If there are any amberjacks in the area, you won’t have to wait long for a bite. They are very aggressive fish and when hungry, they will not let a frisky live bait last long on the bottom. Amberjacks are famous for taking a huge initial run and sometime cutting you off by rubbing the line against a piece of the shipwreck’s superstructure. When you hook into an amberjack, crank the drag down tight and hope the fish is far enough away from the wreck that he won’t cut you off. Amberjacks are beautiful fish with an amber colored back fading into the horizontal golden stripe that runs along the midsection of the fish. They also have a white belly with swirls of abalone (mother of pearl) color patterns mixed in. Also notable, they have a pitch black commando stripe running diagonally across their eye. Amberjacks are supreme powerhouses of the bottom.
One of the rarest gamefish to be caught off Fort Lauderdale, blue marlin are another top game fish species found in our waters. Blue Marlin are offshore fish, which feed on tuna, mahi-mahi, wahoo and other smaller offshore baitfish. The most effective method of targeting blue marlin is trolling lures and rigged baits at a quick clip anywhere from 3-20 miles offshore. For blue marlin, heavy tackle is a necessity. You do not want to hook up on a miracle blue marlin and have him on light tackle. If you’re lucky enough to get the bite from a blue marlin, expect a world class battle as you must fight for every inch of line you retrieve. Blue marlin are a billfish species, like the sailfish and swordfish, with notable differences in the dorsal fin, pectoral fins and overall size. Blue marlin average 80-200 pounds, but a huge one can be upwards of 500 pounds. White marlin, another marlin species, is very similar to blue marlin and can be caught fishing offshore in Fort Lauderdale. They are about as rare as blue marlin are though, so you must get very lucky to find one of these as well. Marlin can put on an incredible jumping display, or dive deep and stay down the entire fight. Every one of these fish fights differently. Blue marlin are the king of all offshore fish.
Cobia are a very interesting fish caught up and down the coast of Florida. Cobia are a species that follows behind sting rays and/or sea turtles and other slow moving sea creatures. Cobia feed on crabs, shrimp, lobster, and baitfish. The most common method that we catch cobia with is live baiting on the bottom around shipwrecks. Cobias are not known for strong runs or brutal fights. In fact, many times when you hook into a cobia, he swims right up to the boat, barely putting up a fight at all. The second you gaff a cobia, get ready for the fight. Cobia are renowned for putting up a stronger fight inside the boat, than in the water. When you throw a cobia in the boat, the crew will yell “Feet Up!” You’d better stand clear because a cobia tail swipe can knock you right off your feet. Cobia are excellent eating and are called ‘poor man’s lobster’ because their meat matches the flavor of the crustaceans on which they feed. Cobias are often misidentified until right next to the boat because their body shape so closely resembles a shark.