Saltwater Fish Identification Guide

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spines. Dull red body coloration occasionally with white blotches. RKW. Nassau Grouper. Epinephelus striatus. Dark stripe through eye. Black saddle on caudal.

Inshore Fishes

Red Drum (Spottail, redfish, channel bass, puppy drum,) Sciaenops ocellatus May have multiple spots along dorsal surface..

RKW

Black Drum Pogonias cromis Broad black vertical bars along body.

Barbells on chin.

Spotted Seatrout (Winter trout, speckled trout) Cynoscion nebulosus Numerous distinct black spots on dorsal surface.

Most commonly encountered in rivers and estuaries.

RKW

Most commonly encountered just offshore around live bottom and artificial reefs.

Weakfish (Summer trout, Gray trout) Cynoscion regalis

RKW

Silver coloration with no spots. Large eye

Sand Seatrout Cynoscion arenarius

RKW

Spot Leiostomus xanthurus Distinct spot on shoulder.

RKW

Atlantic Croaker (Hardhead) Micropogonias undulatus

Silver Perch (Virginia Perch) Bairdiella chrysoura

RKW

RKW

Sheepshead Archosargus probatocephalus Broad black vertical bars along body.

RKW

Pinfish (Sailors Choice) Lagodon rhomboides

Distinct spot.

RKW

Southern Kingfish (Whiting) Menticirrhus americanus

RKW

Extended 1st dorsal filament

Northern Kingfish Menticirrhus saxatilis

Dusky 1st dorsal-fin tip

SEAMAPSA:RPW

Black caudal fin tip

Gulf Kingfish Menticirrhus littoralis

SEAMAPSA:RPW

Southern flounder Paralichthys lethostigma

RKW

Bluefish Pomatomus saltatrix

RKW

Inshore Lizardfish Synodus foetens RKW

RKW

Ladyfish Elops saurus

Florida Pompano Trachinotus carolinus

RKW

Lookdown Selene vomer

RKW

Spadefish Chaetodipterus faber

Juvenile

RKW

Juvenile spadefish are commonly found in SC estuaries. Adults, which look identical to the specimen shown above, are common inhabitants of offshore reefs.

Cobia Rachycentron canadum

Adult

D. Hammond

Juvenile

RKW

D. Hammond

Adult cobia are considered a coastal migratory species and are commonly encountered in near shore and offshore waters. Juveniles may occasionally be caught inshore.

Other Inshore Fishes

Striped Burrfish Chilomycterus schoepfi

E. Vernon

Northern Puffer Sphoeroides maculatus

E. Vernon

Northern Searobin Prionotus carolinus

RKW

Batfish (sp. Unknown) Ogcocephalus sp.

RKW

“Baitfish” or fish commonly caught in cast nets or traps.

Striped Mullet Mugil cephalus

RKW

Atlantic Menhaden Brevoortia tyrannus

RKW

Striped killifish Fundulus majalis

RKW

Mummichog (Mudminnow) Fundulus heteroclitus

RKW

Bay Anchovy Anchoa mitchilli Dorsal fin originates over origin of anal fin.

RKW

Atlantic Bumper Chloroscombrus chrysurus

Black spot on caudal peduncle.

RKW

Offshore Fishes

Grouper

Black Grouper (Carberita) Mycteroperca bonaci Dull red dorsal coloration.

Distinct orange spots.

RKW

Gag Grouper (Grey, Black Grouper) Mycteroperca microlepis

Mottled brown body.

Large Specimens (40+inches) typically have black bellies.

USCG

Yellowfin Grouper (Fireback) Mycteroperca venenosa

Distinct Coloration.

RKW

Yellowedge Grouper Epinephelus flavolimbatus Tip of dorsal and pectoral fins bright yellow.

Species is typically caught in deepwater (300+ ft).

Long filaments on tail and anal fin.

RKW

Scamp (Broomtail) Tip of dorsal and pectoral fins Mycteroperca phenax bright yellow.

Even

Yellow

Jagged

Deeper Body USCG Tail and anal fin lack long filaments.

Yellowmouth Grouper Mycteroperca interstitialis

Snowy Grouper Epinephelus niveatus Small specimens have a black “saddle” on caudal peduncle.

11 Dorsal Spines.

Usually, small species have white spots.

Angle of jaw is comparatively less sloped. USCG

Misty Grouper Epinephelus mystacinus Black “saddle” on caudal peduncle.

Verticle black bands.

D. Player

Warsaw Grouper Epinephelus nigritus Broad Maxilla. 10 Dorsal Spines.

RKW

With mouth closed jaw is at a steep angle and extends to posterior part of eye but not beyond.RKW

Goliath Grouper (Jewfish) Juvenile Epinephelus itajara

RKW

Updated 8/16/05

Membrane between dorsal spines even with the tips of the spines.

Red Grouper Epinephelus morio Dull red body coloration occasionally with white blotches

RKW

Nassau Grouper Epinephelus striatus Dark stripe through eye.

Black saddle on caudal peduncle.

RKW

Speckled Hind (Kitty Mitchell, Strawberry) Epinephelus drummondhayi Most common color pattern is a dark purple with white specks.

RKW

RKW

Coney (Red Phase) Epinephelus fulvus

RKW

Coney

Distinct spots on caudal peduncle.

RKW

Red Hind Epinephelus guttatus Black tipped fins.

Does not have 2 black spots on caudal peduncle like the Coney

RKW

Graysby Epinephelus cruentatus Rounded Tail.

RKW

Rock Hind (Strawberry Grouper) Epinephelus adscensionis

16”

RKW

Snapper

Red Snapper (AM Red, Genuine) Lutjanus campechanus

10 Dorsal spines Juveniles (8 - 10 in.) may have a diffuse black spot.

Red Iris

Angulate Anal Fin. RKW

Lane Snapper (Candy Snapper) Lutjanis synagris

Diffuse black spot, more prominent in smaller specimens.

Horizontal Yellow stripes.

Rounded Anal Fin.

RKW

Vermilion Snapper (B-liner) Rhomboplites aurorubens 11-12 Dorsal Spines

RKW

Queen Snapper Etelis oculatus

USCG

RKW

Yellowtail Snapper Ocyurus chrysurus

Deeper forked tail. Broad yellow stripe.

Deeply forked yellow tail.

RKW

Snapper Comparison Red Snapper

Silk Snapper ( Yelloweye) Lutjanus vivanus

Yellow Iris.

Blackfin Snapper (Hambone) Lutjanus buccanella

Rounded Anal Fin. USCG

Mutton Snapper Lutjanus analis Diffuse Black Spot.

Fork tail Blue line under eye. Angulate Anal Fin. RKW

Anchor- shaped tooth patch on roof of mouth.

Gray Snapper (Mangrove Snapper) Lutjanus griseus

Short Pectoral Fin.

Slightly angulate anal fin. RKW

Cubera Snapper Lutjanus cyanopterus Chevron - shaped tooth patch on roof of mouth.

Large Canine Teeth.

Long Pectoral Fin.

Rounded Anal Fin.

RKW

Dog Snapper Lutjanus jocu Anchor- shaped tooth patch on roof of mouth.

White triangular splotch under eye. USCG

RKW

Porgy

Red Porgy (Silver Snapper, Pinky, Pink Snapper) Pagrus pagrus 2nd nostril oval. Light red body color.

RKW

Whitebone Porgy (Chocolate Porgy) Calamus leucosteus 2nd nostril slit - like.

Small black spots on membrane between spines.

Lacks red body coloration. RKW

Knobbed Porgy (Jolthead) Calamus nodosus 2nd nostril slit - like. Very steep head profile.

Yellow Spots.

RKW

Littlehead Porgy Calamus proridens

Hump on head.

Blue lines.

RKW

Jolthead Porgy Calamus bajonado

Note: Specimen shown is 22.5”.

RKW

Jolthead Porgy (Anterior)

Distinct blue line under eye.

RKW

Orange on inside corner of mouth.

Sheepshead Archosargus probatocephalus

Incisor - like teeth.

Vertical black bars. RKW

Spottail Pinfish (Ringtail) Diplodus holbrooki

Large spot on caudal peduncle.

RKW

Seabass

Black Sea Bass (Blackfish) Centropristis striata

RKW

Black saddle below dorsal spines.

Rock Sea Bass Centropristis philadephica

Filaments on dorsal spines.

RKW

Bank Sea Bass Centropristis ocyurus No filaments on dorsal spines.

Dark bars with blothes below.

RKW

Grunts

White Grunt Haemulon plumieri Blue stripes.

RKW

All species of Western Atlantic grunts have red on inside of the mouth.

Tomtate Haemulon aurolineatum Red on inside of mouth. Spot on base of tail.

Red mouth.

Yellow stripe from eye to tail.

RKW

Bluestriped Grunt Haemulon sciurus

RKW

When compared to the white grunt, the bluestriped grunt has a more golden appearance.

RKW

Cottonwick Haemulon melanurum

Black band unique to this species.

Red on inside of mouth.

Yellow stripes. RKW

Margate Haemulon album

Red on inside of mouth. RedThe on inside Margate of is the largest of the Western Atlantic grunts. mouth.

RKW

Scup Stenotomus chrysops Indentation above eye.

Blue line under dorsal fin.

10”

RKW RKW

Pigfish Orthopristis chrysoptera

Inside corner of mouth is red.

Small orange spots.

RKW

Jacks

Banded Rudderfish

Lesser Amberjack

Greater Amberjack RKW

Banded Rudderfish (Amberine) Seriola zonata

Greater Amberjack Seriola dumerili

More Streamlined.

Flat Boot Deeper Body.

Smaller Eye.

RKW

Juvenile Greater Amberjack Steep Head Profile.

“Boot” on maxilla. RKW

Juvenile Greater Amberjack Steeper Head Profile.

Boot

Lesser Amberjack Seriola fasciata

Larger Eye.

Flat RKW

NOTE: Lesser Amberjack are typically caught in deeper water than the other jacks. Fishing vessels having snowy grouper or tilefish will often have lesser amberjacks not banded rudderfish.

Lesser Amberjack Seriola fasciata Large Eye

Jaw does not extend to midpoint of the eye, and no “boot”.

Banded Rudderfish (Amberine) Seriola zonata

Jaw extends almost to the posterior part of the eye.

Eye is much smaller than lesser amberjack.

Larger Eye

Jaw extends past midpoint of eye.

RKW

The “Boot” The posterior part of the maxilla is much more broad on a greater amberjack. Banded Rudderfish

There is a very slight incline of the maxilla.

Almaco Jack

Greater Amberjack

Notice the steep incline of the maxilla (the boot). The maxilla is comparatively broader.

Greater Amberjack

Black Jack Caranx lugubris Steep head profile.

D. Player

Yellow Jack Caranx bartholomaei

Long pectoral fin.

Scutes on caudal peduncle.

Yellow underside. D. Player

Almaco Jack Seriola rivoliana Body comparatively deeper than rudder, lesser, and greater.

High dorsal fin.

“Boot” RKW

African Pompano Alectis ciliaris Filaments on dorsal and anal fin.

RKW

Crevalle Jack Caranx hippos Scutes on caudal peduncle. Scutes on caudal peduncle.

Distinct black spot on opercle.

Rainbow Runner Elagatis bipinnulata

Blue & Yellow stripes.

Finlets on caudal peduncle.

RKW

Blue Runner Caranx crysos Long Pectoral Fin.

Scutes on caudal peduncle. RKW

Cottonmouth Jack Uraspis secunda

D. Player

Triggerfish Filefish

Gray Triggerfish (Leatherjacket) Balistes capriscus Stout 1st dorsal spine.

Distinct body coloration. USCG

Queen Triggerfish Balistes vetula

RKW RKW

Ocean Triggerfish Canthidermis sufflamen

D. Player

Unicorn Filefish Aluterus monoceros

RKW

Wrasses

Hogfish (Hog Snapper) Lachnolaimus maximus Filaments Protruding snout with large canine teeth.

Black Spot

Female

Male

RKW

Spotfin Hogfish Bodianus pulchellus Black spot on pectoral fin.

RKW

Painted Wrasse Halichoeres caudalis

RKW

Puddingwife Halichoeres radiatus

RKW

Tautog Tautoga onitis

RKW

Mackerel

Spanish Mackerel Scomberomorus maculatus

Gradual dip in lateral line.

Steep dip in lateral line.

DBS

King Mackerel Scomberomorus cavalla Atlantic Bonito Sarda sarda Stripes on dorsal surface.

RKW

Tuna

Little Tunny (Bonita, False Albacore) Euthynnus alletteratus Chain Pattern

Spots

RKW

Skipjack Tuna Katsuwonus pelamis

Stripes RKW

Albacore Thunnus alalunga

Long Pectoral fin. USCG

Blackfin Tuna Thunnus atlanticus Pec. Fin does not extend past dorsal and anal fins.

No yellow. Pec. Fin extends past dorsal and anal fins.

Yellow finlets.

RKW

Yellowfin Tuna Thunnus albacares Juvenile Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus

Brackett

Other Offshore Fishes

Pinfish (Sailors Choice) Lagodon rhomboides

Distinct spot.

RKW RKW

Sand Perch Vertical black bar. Diplectrum formosum

Alternate blue and yellow lines.

Spot on caudal peduncle.

RKW RKW

Adipose flap

Tilefish (Golden Tile) Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps Yellow spots.

Lacks adipose flap.

Distinct blue line under eye. RKW

Blueline Tilefish (Grey Tile) Caulolatilus microps

Goldface Tilefish Caulolatilus chrysops

Body more elongate. Yellow Iris

RKW

D. Player

Sand Tilefish (Slippery Dick) Malacanthus plumieri

G. Steele

Bearded Brotula Brotula barbata

RKW

Southern Hake Urophycis floridana

Spots behind eye distinguish this from similar species.

RKW

Scorpionfish (Sp. unknown) Scorpaena sp.?

RKW

Blackbelly Rosefish Helicolenus dactylopterus

RKW

Spinycheek Scorpionfish Neomerinthe hemingwayi

RKW

Bermuda Chub Kyphosus sectatrix

RKW

Blue Tang Acanthurus coeruleus Retractable spine

RKW

Longtail Bass Hemanthias leptus

RKW

Yellowish tinge on dorsal fin.

Creole Fish Paranthias furcifer

Long filaments. RKW

Smaller Eye

Silky Appearance.

RKW

Spanish Flag Gonioplectrus hispanus Yellow stripes

Red blotch RKW

Soldierfish (Sp. Unknown)

Squirrelfish Holocentrus adscensionis

Large Eye.

Black tipped pelvic and anal fins.

Bigeye (Toro) Priacanthus arenatus

Cubbyu Equetus umbrosus

RKW

Lionfish Spines are extremely poisonous.

RKW

Mutton Hamlet Epinephelus afer Large eye very close to forehead.

RKW

Sharks

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark (Small Coastal) Rhizoprionodon terraenovae

Distinct white spots sporadic over body.

Distinct white spots.

Dorsal fin originates behind pec fins.

2nd dorsal is black tipped.

No interdorsal ridge.

Bonnethead (Small Coastal) Sphyrna tiburo

Scalloped Hammerhead (Large coastal) Sphyrna lewini Indentation on central part of head

Lacks interdorsal ridge

Sandbar Shark (Large Coastal) Carcharhinus plumbeus

Interdorsal Ridge Large dorsal fin originating over the midpoint of the pec fins.

Unlike the silky, short rear tip of 2nd dorsal fin.

Blacknose Shark (Small Coastal) Carcharhinus acronotus

Dorsal originates behind pectoral fins. 2nd dorsal and anal fin have no markings.

Lacks interdorsal ridge.

Dusky blotch at tip of snout more prominent in juveniles.

Blacktip Shark (Large Coastal) Carcharhinus limbatus Black tip on dorsal. No interdorsal ridge.

2nd dorsal is black tipped.

Anal fin is white.

Pectoral fin is black tipped.

Finetooth Shark (Small Coastal) Carcharhinus isodon No interdorsal ridge.

All fins are unmarked.

2nd dorsal and anal fin have no coloration.

Tiger Shark (Large Coastal) Galeocerdo cuvieri

Interdorsal Ridge

Distinct black stripes.

Sand Tiger (Large Coastal) Odontaspis taurus View shows underside of head.

Spinner Shark (Large Coastal) Carcharhinus brevipinna

No interdorsal ridge.

2nd dorsal and anal fin black tipped.

Dorsal fin is black tipped.

Dusky Shark (Large Coastal) Carcharhinus obscurus

Interdorsal Ridge.

Dusky (Carcass)

Silky Shark (Large Coastal) Carcharhinus falciformis

“Silky” texture.

Long posterior tip on both 2nd dorsal and anal fin. Anal fin is black tipped.

Interdorsal ridge.

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