The Best Deep-Sea Catches in Florida

The Best Deep-Sea Catches in Florida

Table of Contents

In search of the best deep-sea fishing catches in Florida? We’ve got you covered. This guide is packed with the best fish, for taste, stunning visuals and action-packed fights!

Our Florida fishing charter Captains have pretty much seen it all over the years on our deep-sea charters, but are yet to get tired of that heart-pounding moment of glory when the fish surfaces.

Let’s get into it!

The Legendary Grouper

I never get tired of writing about Grouper! They are the beasts of the Gulf. With various species to find, you’re always left for a Grouper surprise if you go bottom fishing for these hungry bottom feeders.

Spending their time around wrecks and rocky structures, you’ll need live bait and heavy-duty rods that are strong enough to withstand the challenge. With various species of Grouper around, here are our favorites:

Black Grouper

The most popular catch is the Black Grouper (also known as Grouper, Blackfin Grouper and Marbled Rockfish). As one of the largest species of Grouper found in the Gulf, they’re perfect for all skill ranges. Growing to over 4 ft and 100 pounds, they’re a true trophy fish. They love live bait, but be warned, they’ll take your bait and make a fool of you if you’re not quick enough!

Despite the black in their name, they actually have a more olive or gray complexion, with black spots.

  • Size: 7/10
  • Fight: 7/10
  • Difficulty: 6/10

Goliath Grouper

Another best deep sea catch in Florida is the Goliath Grouper.

Goliath Groupers are brutes, bordering on monsters. If you want that ultimate challenge, this is it. As the largest Grouper found around Florida, they can grow up to 1,000 pounds and 8ft! We usually find far smaller ones than that, but even then you’re in for a challenge. If you want to catch a Goliath, you’ll be tested to the max. Strength, reaction time and bravery are all needed. But hook one, and you’ve got bragging rights for the rest of your life!

Goliaths are regularly found around rocks and wrecks, lured in with crabs, shrimp and octopus.

The FWC requires that all Goliath Grouper catches are catch and release, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a photo to last the ages.

  • Size: 10/10
  • Fight: 9/10
  • Difficulty: 9/10

Delicious Snapper

Snappers are found all year-round, desperate to bite on any tasty bait that comes their way. Found around structures like sea walls, rocks and wrecks, they are hard to miss!

So why are they so popular? They’re delicious. Catch a flaky and delicious Red Snapper and you can legally take it home or to a nearby restaurant to have an incredibly fresh meal prepared for you.

Whether it’s Red Snapper, Yellowtail Snapper Mangrove Snapper or Cubera Snapper, they are also perfect and exciting for beginners!

Weighing as much as 30 pounds and growing, we find them anywhere from between 30ft to 300ft. You can catch Snapper with live bait, dead bait and even flicking soft plastics.

They’re not picky eaters and will go after small fish like pilchards, bonito and squids.

  • Size: 6/10
  • Fight: 5/10
  • Difficulty: 3/10

Lightning Fast Kingfish

Kingfish (also called King Mackerel) are lightning-fast and flavorsome fighters found in outer reefs and deep-sea territories in Florida.

Known for their stunning fights, they’re a charter Captain’s favorite. They will get your heart pounding as their razor-sharp teeth cling to your line in an epic showdown.

Weighing between 10-90 pounds, they often strike and swallow the bait instantly! But once they surface, the acrobatic show is unlike many other fish. Aggressively exploding out of the water, there are few other fish that provide such a spectacle.

Look out for their stunning silvery scales and fiesty-looking teeth. FWC regulations allow you to bag up to 3 Kingfish per trip!

Size: 6/1

Fight: 7/10

Difficulty: 7/10

Meaty Tuna

There are several species of deep sea Tuna catches in Florida: Skipjack Tuna, Blackfin Tuna and Yellowfin Tuna. Unlike in the Atlantic, Tuna in the Gulf requires more intensive deep-sea hunting.

Blackfin Tuna are our favorite. Identified with their dark blue striped backs and silver bellies, you’ll likely hook one from around 20-35 pounds.

Tuna may be a household name, but they’re difficult to catch due to their stunning speed used to evade predators. Look for their unique missile-like shape, big eyes and unique black fins.

These warm blooded fish are best found in spring during their migration when they’ll be found in large numbers. We advise that you look around structures such as reefs, wrecks, floating grass and ledges.

And of course, Tuna is delicious. Here in Florida, the FWC allows you to keep and eat your catch. Our deep-sea fishing trip customers can keep 2 fish per person, or 10 per vessel.

Size: 6/10

Fight: 5/10

Difficulty: 6/10

Little Fighting Cobia

Cobia are a popular best deep sea catch in Florida because they’re relatively easy to catch, easy to find and taste great!

Populating deeper waters in large numbers, Cobia is also considered a sustainable food choice. You may mistake Cobia at first for small Sharks due to their horizontal pectoral fins and similar complexions. But they’re unrelated to Sharks and swim alone.

Found pretty much anywhere in Florida, the best time to hook one is during Spring and Summer. They’re aggressive eaters though, so find them around structures that attract bait fish such as offshore reefs, wrecks and navigational markers.

Medium weight rods and even fly fishing are common catch methods, and you’ll have more luck using live bait such as Blue Crabs and eel.

Finally, although they’re easy to catch, they’re also little fighters. So you’re guaranteed to have fun!

Size: 4/10

Fight: 5/10

Difficulty: 4/10

Stunning Yellow Mahi

It’s time to get unique! Say hello to Mahi Mahi. Mahi have eye catching and stunning yellow green colorations with tints of blue, green and purple. This truly tropical and unique look makes them impossible to mistake.

Considered one of the most eye catching best deep sea catches in Florida, they also make for a tasty meal. So it’s great news that the FWC currently allows 10 catches per person!

Off the coast of St. Pete Beach is the best place to catch Mahi and you can do so all year (though spring and summer is considered best).

Mahi can grow up to 63 inches, but usually weigh around 30 pounds.

As an aggressive fish, Mahi will leap right out of the water! It’s a thrilling sight, especially with their colors shimmering in the sun. This is a bucket list catch!

Size: 7/10

Fight: 6/10

Difficulty: 6/10

Epic Sharks

A list of the best deep-sea catches in Florida has to include Sharks!

For obvious reasons, nothing beats the sight of seeing a Shark surface. From the moment they bite your line, you know you’re onto something different. They’ll get your heart pounding, before finally surfacing to reveal one of the Gulf’s true wonders.

However, Sharks are far from easy to catch! With various Shark species about, who knows what great fight you’ll encounter.

Black Tip Sharks will send shivers down your spine and are found around reefs, structures and even the bays. Their classic Shark look is enough to make this list alone. They’re fast swimmers and love eating rays, squids, crabs and lobster. They’ll leap about like crazy, but if you secure one, then you take pictures or a video of the fight and release it for another day.

There’s also various other Sharks such as the heavy-weight beasts, The Hammerheads. These uniquely shaped Sharks run and thrash all over the place.

On our Florida deep-sea fishing charters, we also catch Sharks such as:

  • Black Nose Shark
  • Fine Tooth Shark
  • Hammerhead Sharks
  • Shortfin Mako Sharks
  • Thresher Sharks

And more!

Size: 8-10/10

Fight: 8/10

Difficulty: 8/10

Jaw-Dropping Swordfish

Sharks aren’t special enough for you? Ok, you can’t beat the look of Swordfish. Their stunning sword-like nose alone is enough to entice people into the hunt.

Perfect for fall and sunset deep-sea fishing trips, Swordfish provide exhilaration and memories to last a lifetime. Known as the ‘Gladiators of the Deep’, you can find them all year round, but commonly during Fall.

Swordfish love deep canyons, so depths of over 1,000 feet can hook up some stunners. Deep-dropping squids are your best bet. But at night, they’ll come closer to the surface to feed.

But it’s not just all about their visuals. Swordfish are powerful beasts, weighing around 50 to 100 pounds. They are not for the faint of heart, but are a bucket list catch for sure!

Size: 9/10

Fight: 9/10

Difficulty: 8/10

Explosive Barracuda

Big, powerful and explosive. Barracuda will blast through the surface at lightning speed, giving you the ultimate adrenaline rush. Be warned, they’ll get your heart pounding!

Weighing from 15 to 30 pounds, Barracuda are a deep-sea fishing favorite due to the fight and their long shimmering silver bodies. We find them all year round, but prime time is November to March when the water is cooler.

Size: 6/10

Fight: 8/10

Difficulty: 7/10

Incredible Sailfish

Finally, the unique Sailfish is a deep-water stunner. With their unique sail-like fins, this type of fish presents the chance for a photo that you can brag about for the rest of your life.

Sailfish can be found on our longer deep-sea fishing trips, and depending on the technique, are attainable for all skill ranges.

Size: 8/10

Fight: 6/10

Difficulty: 5/10

Book a Deep-Sea Fishing Charter in Florida Today

We welcome you to call us today to book a deep-sea fishing charter in Florida. Our expert Captains have decades of experience helping anglers of all skill levels and ages to enjoy unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re on the hunt for your record catch or are looking to learn, CALL or TEXT: (727) 433-4200

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About the Author...
Matt Douglas

Matt Douglas

Captain Matt Douglas is the founder of YACHTFISH and is a licensed United States Coast Guard 100 ton Master Captain. Captain Matt grew up on the waters of Tampa Bay and lived and worked in Costa Rica for over 11 years. He has extensive experience in Central America, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Florida. Captain Matt is a tournament-winning captain who has an intense passion for boating, fishing and creating life time memories for his Clients. These passions, combined with his experience, were the catalysts for YACHTFISH. Captain Matt is laser-focused on what he enjoys the most, and knows the best, in Tampa Bay and Costa Rica.
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