Fish, Shellfish and Other Florida Seafood
Florida has a delicious and healthy array of seafood.
Florida saltwater fish include red snapper, several types of grouper, mahi mahi, king mackerel, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, Spanish mackerel, Florida pompano, mullet and others.
Florida shellfish includes wild caught shrimp, rock (spiny) lobsters, crabs, clams, calico scallops and other seafood.
Availability of Florida Seafood
Seafood lovers who are confused about the availability of Florida seafood products due to the Gulf oil spill can now get daily updates about the ongoing commercial harvest. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has implemented a new toll-free hotline to provide consumers with current information about the status of Florida's open and closed fishing harvest areas, the availability of seafood varieties, and general pricing information.
Seafood lovers can get daily updates about Florida's ongoing commercial seafood harvest by calling the toll-free Florida Seafood Hotline at 1-800-357-4273 or by visiting www.fl-seafood.com
"Because of the extensive news media coverage of the Gulf situation, many consumers are confused about whether Florida seafood is being harvested and if it is available in stores and restaurants," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson said. "We want consumers to know that Florida's commercial fishermen continue to harvest wholesome seafood products from the waters that are unaffected by the oil spill. Florida seafood is safe and plentiful."
Florida Seafood Links
Florida Stone Crabs
Stone crab is one of Florida's top commercial seafood products in terms of dockside value. Ranking second behind shrimp, Florida's stone crab harvest was worth close to $18 million during the 2009-2010 season.
The majority of Florida stone crab claws are commercially harvested off the southern tip of Florida from Sarasota to Fort Lauderdale. Stone crabs are caught in traps and only the claws that meet a regulated size are taken.
The live stone crabs are then returned to the water where they regenerate new claws in about 18 months. The fresh claws are cooked immediately after harvest and sold fresh-cooked or frozen in seafood markets.
Florida Saltwater Fish
Popular Florida saltwater fish include speckled trout, redfish, red snapper, several species of grouper, Spanish, king and cero mackerel, dolphin fish (mahi mahi), saltwater catfish, sharks and more.
In 2007, Spotted seatrout was the most popular catch among marine recreational anglers . The species is caught in the Gulf of Mexico and the south Atlantic regions, which have the highest combined concentration of saltwater anglers in the nation.
6.8 million fish were caught in 2006. One encouraging statistic is that 75 percent of spotted seatrout caught by recreational anglers are released to grow. In Florida speckled trout are often the most sought after gamefish.
Redfish are common in the southern USA. Redfish inhabit shallow bays and esturaries, targeting crustaceans and baitfish. They are highly prized as a recreational fish. Some redfish anglers compete in national tournaments that are similar to freshwater bass fishing events. These beautiful fish are also known as red drum.
Red snapper is one of the most sought after and highly prized Gulf Coast fish. Red snapper is low in saturated fat and sodium and is a very good source of protein. In 2006, Over 4.5 million pounds of red snapper, valued at over $13 million, were caught commercially in the USA.
Vermilion snapper are similar to red snapper, although smaller, seldom exceeding 15 inches. Their coloration includes yellow lines along their sides and a pale belly. The dorsal fin is tipped, and the tails and iris of the eye are vermilion. They are found year-round offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Vermilion snapper are often found among red and other snappers in the Gulf.
Spot are named and identified by the distinctive dark spot above the pectoral fin It is also known as lafayette, goody, or Norfolk spot. Spot are common from Cape Cod to Florida and through the Gulf of Mexico. The species is considered both a valuable commercial and recreational species throughout its range.
Spot rarely exceed 10 inches in length. The fish are highly sought after as a food fish by both commercial and recreational fishermen. These panfish are abundant in near-shore oceanic areas, coastal bays, and estuaries.
Pinfish, also known as sailor's choice, or pin perch is one of the most common inshore fish. It ranges from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico. Pinfish known to coastal anglers as a "bait stealer," but are sought after as a bait for other larger fish. Pinfish are abundant from Virginia south. They occur over a wide variety of bottom types but prefer vegetated bottoms. Pinfish can tolerate wide variations in temperature and salinity conditions. Pinfish reach lengths of about 15 inches, although most pinfish are 4-8 inches in length and are usually considered as baitfish.
Pigfish are colorful members of the grunt family. They are marked with a bluish upper and a silver lower body. Each scale has a blue center and bronze edge, which forms a series of yellow-brown stripes on the sides and sometimes exhibits orange bands on the snout and head. The full range of pigfish extends from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico, although they are rare north of Virginia. Pigfish are caught by recreational anglers and considered to be a good quality food fish.
Pigfish have limited commercial importance, and most commercial landings come as pigfish are mixed with other grunt species. Pigfish are also used as live bait especially in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Pigfish reach lengths of about 18 inches, with a maximum weight of about 2 pounds. Pigfish are short lived and rarely exceed 3 years of age.
Florida Pompano range from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico as well as in parts of South America. Florida Pompano are schooling fish that are often found in the surf. They average 1-2 lbs, are are highly regarded as a food fish. Florida pompano are said to bring the highest price per pound of any fish in the United States.
Golden Tilefish, Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps are brilliantly colored blue, green, yellow and rose. The species occurs in the deep waters of the Atlantic from Nova Scotia south to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Golden Tilefish live in burrows in the bottom which occur at depths of 250-1500 feet. Tilefish are slow growing and may live up to 45 years. Mature tilefish weigh up to 50 pounds, though 20 to 30 pounds is more common. They feed on small fish, squid, shrimp, shelled mollusks, worms, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and sea anemone
Blueline or gray tilefish (Caulolatilus microps) are another species of tilefish. They also burrow and sometimes live in communities along the bottom. Adults weigh an average of 10-25 pounds. Blueline Tilefish have firm, white meat with a mild flavor.
Amberjacks are large saltwater fish that love structure such as reefs, shipwrecks and rocky outcrops.
Yellowfin tuna are a favorite among anglers in many parts of the USA and worldwide. These fish are found where ever there is warm water and pods of baitfish. Yellowfin travel in groups and their aggressive feeding habits sometimes get them in trouble as anglers.
Mahi Mahi, also known as dorado or dolphin fish are fast growing, pelagic fish. They are among the most beautiful of all fish. Younger fish school in large numbers, orienting to sargasso weed or floating debri. Larger fish are loners or travel in small groups, but still orient to floating structure. The males develop a blunt forehead and grow larger than the females, sometimes reaching lengths of 5 feet and weighing 30-50 lbs.
Wahoo live in the open ocean and are common along much of the USA and Caribbean. The beautiful fish are caught in a variety of ways including trolling, jigging, fly fishing, kite fishing, live baiting and others. Their razor sharp teeth and incredible speed make wahoo a very difficult fish to land.
Florida Seafood Festivals
Florida Seafood Festival
The Florida Seafood Festival is a two day event annually drawing thousands of visitors to the historic town of Apalachicola in scenic Franklin County .The Festival is held at the mouth of the Apalachicola river under the shady oaks of Apalachicola's Battery Park. The festival features delicious seafood, arts and crafts exhibits, seafood related events, Musical Entertainment. Some of the notable events include Oyster Eating and Oyster Shucking contest, Blue Crab Races, Cooking Contest ,Parade, 5k Redfish Run and The Blessing of the Fleet.
Sebastian Clambake and Lagoon Festival
The Sebastian Clambake and Lagoon Festival celebrates Florida farm-raised clams with educational exhibits, concerts, a carnival, historical re-enactors of early area settlers and plenty of Florida seafood. The non-profit event chooses a local charitable or public-purpose project to benefit from the proceeds each year.
Ruskin Seafood Festival
Ruskin’s Annual Seafood Festival, held at E.G. Simmons pristine waterfront park right on Tampa Bay, features sun, fun and seafood. The seafood festival is Hillsborough County’s largest community event with over 18,000 in attendance. Feast on lobster, oysters, clams, grouper, mullet, shrimp and much more.
Two hard clam species occur in Florida waters. The northern hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) is the most commonly harvested of the two species. It is found from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. The southern hard clam, (Mercenaria campechiensis) replaces the northern hard clam in certain areas along the Gulf coast of Florida.
Florida Calico and Bay Scallops
The calico scallop (Argopecten gibbus) supports a small but locally important commercial fishery in Florida. Calico scallops are harvested from the Florida panhandle and the southwest coast of the state. The majority of scallops come from the calico scallop beds occupying the continental shelf between Ft. Pierce and St. Augustine.
In Florida, the harvest of calico scallops is not allowed if the average number of adductor muscles ("meat") in the catch exceeds 250 per pound (550 per kilogram), an amount equivalent to a minimum average shell size of about 1.5" (38 mm) maximum disk diameter.
During 1998, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council completed a calico scallop management plan that addressed concerns of overfishing and habitat destruction for the fishery in federal waters of the south Atlantic region. The federal management plan did not address calico scallop size limits as limits were set by Florida for all calico scallops landed in state ports.
Bay scallops (Argopecten irradians) inhabit higher salinity shallow areas of bays and estuaries the North American East and Gulf coasts. After being non-existent for a number of years, scallop enthusiasts are reporting that bay scallops have reappeared in several areas of Florida.
"Fresh from Florida" Branding
The Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign (FAPC), better known as "Fresh From Florida," is an identification and promotional program designed to boost the image of Florida agriculture and increase sales by helping consumers easily identify Florida products. This applies to Florida seafood and aquaculture products harvested from Florida waters or farms.
The FAPC program is administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Only members of the program are authorized to use the logos in advertising, packaging, signage and other promotional initiatives.
For information, visit www.fl-seafood.com/ or contact the Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing at (850) 488-0163.
Effects of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
On May 14, 2010, Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved disaster loan funds for businesses along Florida’s Gulf coast that have been impacted by the Deepwater Horizon incident.
“I am extremely pleased and appreciative that the Small Business Administration quickly approved our request for a disaster declaration to help the impacted businesses along Florida’s coastline,” said Governor Crist. “Though Florida has experienced no actual environmental impacts from the Deepwater Horizon incident, tourism-dependent businesses and other industries have suffered from this disaster. Now these businesses will have access to low-interest loan programs to begin the recovery process and assist them through this rough period.”
For more information on Florida’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon, follow www.Twitter.com/FLDEPalert or call the Florida Oil Spill Information Line at 888-337-3569.