Tampa Bay On The Fly

Freshwater Fish

FISH IMAGE Description: Where found: FLORIDA RECORD:
Florida Largemouth Bass The largest member of the sunfish family. It generally has light greenish to brownish sides with a dark lateral line which tends to break into blotches towards the tail. Often confused with smallmouth and spotted bass, it is easily distinguishable because the upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye. Prefers clear, nonflowing waters with aquatic vegetation where food and cover are available. They occupy brackish to freshwater habitats, including upper estuaries, rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. Also, they can tolerate a wide range of water clarities and bottom types, prefer water temperatures from 65 to 85 degrees, and are usually found at depths less than 20 feet. 17 pounds, 4-1/4 ounces, caught in an unnamed lake in Polk County in 1986
Alligator Gar They are one of the most distinctive freshwater fish species. Alligator gars are the largest of all gar species with a head that looks very much like an alligator’s. They can be distinguished from all other gars species by the two rows of teeth in the upper jaw, their short-broader snout, and their size when fully grown. The body is long, slender, and olive or greenish brown (sometimes black) along the back and upper sides with white to yellow bellies. The sides are mottled toward the head with large black spots toward the rear and on the rear fins. They inhabit sluggish pools and backwaters of large rivers, bayous and lakes. They rarely are found in brackish or salt water. 123.00 pounds, caught in the Choctowhatchee River, Walton County, in 1995.
Crappie The black crappie is a silvery-green to yellowish fish with large dorsal and anal fins of almost identical shape and size. The sides are marked with black blotches which become more intense towards the back. The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins also are marked with rows of dark spots. Crappies have compressed bodies, small heads and arched backs. It has a large mouth with an upper jaw extending under the eye. Black crappies thrive in clear, natural lakes and reservoirs with moderate vegetation. They are also found in large slow-moving less turbid rivers, provided the water is not too murky. Crappies prefer water from 70 to 75 degrees but will tolerate water over 80 degrees. It is gregarious and often travels in schools. 3 pounds, 13.25 ounces, caught in Lake Talquin, in 1992.
Bluegills Bluegills have small mouths and oval-shaped, almost rounded, bodies. Body coloration is highly variable with size, sex, spawning, water color, bottom type, and amount of cover. In general, they are somewhat lavender and bronze with about six dark bars on their sides. Males tend to have a copper-colored bar over the top of the head behind the eyes. Females are generally lighter colored than males. Two distinctive characteristics are the prominent black spot on the rear edge of the gill-cover and a black spot at the base of the posterior portion of the dorsal fin. Found naturally throughout Florida, and across the United States because of widespread stocking. Prefers the quiet, weedy waters where they can hide and feed. They inhabit lakes and ponds, slow-flowing rivers and streams with sand, mud, or gravel bottoms, near aquatic vegetation. 2 pounds 15.25 ounces, caught in Crystal Lake, Washington County, Florida, in 1989.
Flier The flier is a small sunfish that has a strongly compressed, deep, round body and small mouth. The coloration is greenish or silver green to brown on back and sides with a cream or yellowish belly with a brown dot on each scale giving the appearance of numerous rows of dots. Young fish have a large black spot surrounded by bright orange in the soft rays of the dorsal fin. A dark vertical streak is present below the eye and extends to the lower edge of the operculum. The dorsal and anal fins are nearly symmetrical. Good fishing locations are around cypress trees and stumps, near brush piles, and at the mouths of small creeks and canals. They inhabit dark, acidic waters of coastal swamps, creeks, ponds, and canals. Fliers can tolerate waters too acidic for other sunfish and prefer water temperatures from 75 to 85 degrees. 1 pound, 1 ounce, caught in Lake Lamonia, in 1985.
Redbreast The redbreast is one of the brightest colored sunfishes. The most distinguishing characteristic of this species is a long, narrow (no wider than the eye) extension of the gill cover. These flaps, which may reach a length of one inch or more, are entirely black. Redbreasts inhabit sand-bottom areas as well as rocky areas of coastal-plain streams, rivers, and lakes. They frequently concentrate around boulders, limestone outcroppings, logs, aquatic vegetation, or in undercut tree roots. 2 pounds, 1.25 ounces, caught in the Suwannee River, in 1988.
Redear The redear is similar in shape to the bluegill, but lacks the dark spot at the base of the posterior portion of the dorsal fin and has a red or orange border around the “ear” flap. The body coloration is light olive-green to gold, with red or orange flecks on the breast. The breast of a mature redear is typically a rather bright yellow. Males and females are similar in appearance, although the male is generally more colorful. Redear are found in almost every freshwater aquatic system in Florida. They are typically found on sandy or shell-covered areas of ponds and lakes, and are often located near grasses. Redear spend a great deal of time offshore in open water, particularly in the winter. Other redear found in rivers prefer, quiet waters and have a tendency to congregate around stumps, roots and logs. They are common in lower, more slowly flowing reaches of rivers. They tolerate brackish water better than other sunfish. Like black bass and spotted sunfish, they may be abundant in tidal areas near the mouths of rivers. 4 pounds, 13 ounces, caught in Merritt’s Mill Pond, Florida, in 1986. (Please check link for updates). World record is 5 pounds, 3 ounces.
Spotted Sunfish Spotted sunfish tend to be olive-green to brown in color, with black or reddish spots on the base of each scale to form rows of dots on its sides. On some fish there is a red bar in front of many of the black spots, particularly below the lateral line. These bars give the fish a reddish hue. Body shape is thick and ovate, with the length about twice the depth. Some fish have blue on the lower portion of the eye. The preferred habitat is slow-moving, heavily vegetated streams and rivers with limestone, sand, or gravel substrates. They are virtually ubiquitous inhabiting large rivers to very small creeks. 51 lbs., 8 ozs.
Talapia Males during the breeding season are blue green with reddish edges to the fins, males and females the remainder of the year are a silvery blue. Varies from lakes and ponds to rivers and estuaries  
Carp Large, heavy bodied minnow with arched back small triangular head tapering to blunt snout; first ray of the dorsal and anal fins stout, serrated spine; small, subterminal and protrusible mouth contains no teeth; two pair of barbels on the upper jaw; body color brassy green on top grading to bronze or gold on sides with yellowish white belly; typically covered with large, round scales; not the problem in Florida it is reported to be in other states. Occurs throughout Apalachicola and Ochlockonee river systems in variety of habitats ranging from steep natural banks to gentle banks, dike fields, sand disposal areas, rocky outcrops, and backwater sloughs with or without submergent vegetation; not nearly as abundant in Florida as most other states, possibly due to our short and mild winters. State record is 40.56 pounds caught in the Apalachicola River.