Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Fish: Drums (2)
silver sea trout in Florida natureSilver Seatrout (Cynoscion nothus) The silver seatrout is pale straw colored above, with silvery sides and white below. it has no distinctive pigmentation, although faint diagonal lines may be present on upper body. The silver seatrout has large eyes, a short snout with one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at the tip of it's upper jaw. The lower half of silver seatrouts tail is longer than upper half. Silver trout are most common in the northern Gulf of Mexico, but can be found in both southern Florida and southern Texas. They frequent mud and sand bottoms from bays and estuaries out to 100-foot depths offshore. Many anglers confuse this species with the sand seatrout and lump the two species together as "white trout." The two species are distinctly different, however. The silver seatrout is entirely silver without any of the yellow coloration on the back and fins that the sand seatrout has. The silver seatrout has very small, darker spots arranged in rearward sloping rows or the upper sides. It is presumed to spawn offshore and feed primarily on crustaceans and small fishes. This is a small trout and only rarely reaches lengths over 10-14 inches.

spotted seatrout, a drum fish found in Florida watersSpotted Seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus)  Spotted seatrout males average 19 inches  in length. Females are 25 inches  long on average. Males and females weigh 2 to 3 pounds. Distinguishing characteristics of the spotted seatrout include a dark gray or green back and silvery-white below, with distinct round spots on back, fins and tail; black margin along the edge of tail; soft dorsal (back) fin with no scales; and one or two prominent canine teeth usually present at the tip of the upper jaw. Small trout feed primarily on small crustaceans. Medium-size trout feed on shrimp and small fish. Large fish feed almost exclusively on other fish. Predators of the spotted seatrout include alligator gar, striped bass, Atlantic croaker, tarpon and barracuda. Spotted seatrout swim near seagrass beds of shallow bays and estuaries during spring and summer, looking for prey. As water temperatures decline during fall, they move into deeper bay waters and the Gulf of Mexico. As water temperatures warm in the spring, the fish return to the shallows of the primary and secondary bays. Spotted seatrout prefer shallower bays and estuaries with oyster beds and seagrass beds that attract prey species. It occurs in the western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, ranging from Massachusetts to the Yucatan peninsula. Spotted seatrout are most common in the shallow bays during spring and summer. As water temperatures decline during fall, fish move into deeper bay waters and the Gulf of Mexico. As water temperatures warm in the spring the spotted seatrout move back into the shallows of the primary and secondary bays. During periods of low rainfall and runoff, many trout often move into deeper rivers and bayous with the first cool weather of fall. Similar concentrations occur at dredged boat harbors and channels.

silver perch or yellowtail, a saltwater fish found in Florida watersSilver Perch (yellowtail) (Bairdiella chrysoura) Widespread on the eastern seaboard, the silver perch is commonly caught by inshore anglers in search of larger species. The silver perch is a small silvery drumfish often mistaken for white perch; found along coasts of United States from New York to Mexico. Silver perch moves in schools, and when in the mood will dart at the bait in the liveliest manner, sometimes springing entirely out of the water when seeing it. An excellent fighting fish, silver perch are a popular target for many anglers.  Because of their small mouth, smaller baits and lures a best.  The best bait to catch silver perch is by far is freshwater shrimp, followed by scrubworms. The Florida record for the yellowtail is ten pounds, with the average weight being two to three pounds. Rarely attains a length of nine inches or more, the silver perch are an underutilized resource as they are excellent table fare and a welcome addition to any Southern fall fish fry

weakfish, a saltwater fish found in Florida watersWeakfish (Cynoscion regalis) The weakfish is a sleek-bodied fish with a dark olive back, iridescent blue and copper sides, and a silvery white belly. The weakfish is a slim, shapely fish, about four times as long as deep (to the base of the caudal fin), only slightly flattened sidewise, with rather stout caudal peduncle; a head about one-third as long as body, moderately pointed snout, and large mouth. Its upper jaw is armed with two large canine teeth and its lower jaw projects beyond the upper. The first dorsal fin (10 spines), originating a little behind the pectorals, is triangular; the second dorsal (26 to 29 rays), originating close behind the first, is more than twice as long as the first and roughly rectangular. Weakfish move in schools, often small but sometimes consisting of many thousands. Weakfish spawn from April through August in nearshore waters near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The name "weakfish" comes from the fish's fragile mouth, which tears easily when hooked by fishermen. Weakfish can live as long as nine years. Weakfish stocks are down to an all-time low of just 2.9 million pounds along its range from Massachusetts through Florida. To put this in perspective, the East Coast harvest in 1980 was 80 million pounds. It was at 31 million pounds in 1986 but had slipped to 8 million pounds in 1993. Researchers have no idea why these fish are not coming back each year, but think it's a good possibility that a predator like striped bass, bluefish or spiny dogfish (shark) is to blame. The commission also is looking at environmental changes as another reason for the decline.
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