Types of Fish in the Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico, with its vast expanse of shimmering waters and abundant marine life, is a fishing paradise that attracts anglers from all corners of the globe.

From seasoned fishermen to eager beginners, everyone dreams of landing the catch of a lifetime in these rich and fertile waters.

In this guide, we’ll embark on an exciting journey to discover 15 remarkable fish species that call the Gulf of Mexico their home.

Atlantic Tarpon

Megalops atlanticus

The Atlantic tarpon, often referred to as the “silver king,” is a magnificent creature that commands respect among anglers. These ray-finned giants are highly valued for their size and incredible strength, making them one of the most sought-after game fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

Atlantic tarpons can reach awe-inspiring sizes, with the maximum recorded weight standing at a staggering 355 pounds and a length of 8 feet, 2 inches. While they are prized for their sport value, tarpon fishing is predominantly catch and release, as their meat is considered less desirable.

Additionally, certain states require special permits to harvest these majestic creatures. The tarpon holds a special place in Alabama, where it is the official state saltwater fish.

Red Drum (Redfish)

Sciaenops ocellatus

Known for their distinct dark red color on top that gradually fades towards their belly, the red drum, or redfish, is a popular game fish along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

These feisty fighters are beloved by anglers for their tenacity during battles, making them a thrilling catch.

On the Gulf of Mexico coast, you can commonly find red drum around 40 inches in length and weighing around 40 pounds. However, these formidable fish can reach astonishing sizes.

The largest recorded redfish weighed an incredible 94 pounds, 2 ounces, cementing their status as one of the Gulf’s prized catches.

King Mackerel

Scomberomorus cavalla

The king mackerel, also known as kingfish, holds the title of being the largest species of mackerel in the Atlantic Ocean.

These sleek predators are easily recognizable by their iron-gray upper body and silver sides and belly. King mackerel thrive in waters ranging from 115 to nearly 600 feet deep, making them a favorite target for trolling enthusiasts.

While the average king mackerel weighs approximately 11 to 30 pounds, these kings of the Gulf can reach remarkable sizes. Some individuals have been known to tip the scales at a jaw-dropping 100 pounds, stretching up to 5.5 feet in length.

The thrill of capturing these powerful and majestic fish is a cherished experience for Gulf anglers.


Rachycentron canadum

Cobia, often mistaken for sharks or remoras, are a fascinating species found in the Gulf of Mexico. These dark-brown predators can grow impressively large, sometimes reaching lengths of up to six feet and weights of 100 pounds.

Cobia are prized targets for sight fishing enthusiasts, as they are easily spotted when swimming near the surface.

One remarkable record-breaking cobia, caught off Shark Bay in Australia, weighed an astonishing 135 pounds and 9 ounces. Their unique appearance and impressive size make them a highly sought-after catch among Gulf anglers.

Atlantic Wahoo

Acanthocybium solandri

The Atlantic wahoo, with its elongated blue body adorned with vertical blue bars, is renowned for its incredible speed. These torpedo-like fish are among the fastest swimmers in the sea, making them a challenging and exhilarating catch for anglers in the Gulf of Mexico.

Atlantic wahoo typically measure between 3.3 to 5.4 feet in length and weigh in the range of 15 to 40 pounds on average. However, these swift and powerful fish can grow significantly larger.

The largest recorded wahoo, a true trophy, tipped the scales at a staggering 184 pounds and was caught off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Greater Amberjack

Seriola dumerili

The greater amberjack, a species currently considered overfished in the Gulf of Mexico, stands out with its brown or blueish-gray back, white belly, and a dark amber stripe adorning its head.

These impressive fish are usually found in the 30 to 50-inch range, with an average weight of around 40 pounds. However, adults can sometimes reach jaw-dropping sizes, tipping the scales at up to 200 pounds and measuring up to 6 feet in length.

While their numbers are in decline, encountering a massive greater amberjack remains a thrilling and memorable experience for anglers who care deeply about the Gulf’s marine ecosystem.


Coryphaena hippurus

The vibrant and dazzling mahi-mahi, known for their radiant gold, bright blue, and green colors, grace the Gulf of Mexico’s waters. These surface-dwelling fish are not only a delight to the eyes but also a treat for the taste buds.

Mahi-mahi, which translates to “very strong” in Hawaiian, are highly prized by both fishermen and seafood connoisseurs.

Most commonly, mahi-mahi catches fall within the 15 to 30-pound range. However, these captivating fish can grow much larger.

In a remarkable feat, an 87-pound mahi-mahi was once reeled in off the coast of Costa Rica. Their beauty, size, and delectable flesh make mahi-mahi an iconic species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Red Grouper

Epinephelus morio

Red grouper, named for their dark reddish-brown coloration, are a common sight in the Gulf of Mexico’s shallow waters, typically found at depths ranging from 10 to 60 feet.

These fish are known for their firm, white flesh, making them a prized catch for both recreational and commercial anglers.

On average, red grouper weigh between 5 to 10 pounds and measure up to two feet in length.

However, the Gulf occasionally yields colossal specimens, with some reaching a whopping 51 pounds and stretching to 49 inches in length.

Whether you’re savoring their delectable fillets at a seafood restaurant or battling one on your line, red grouper are an iconic Gulf species.


Pomatomus saltatrix

The aptly named bluefish are a captivating presence in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters. These dynamic predators showcase a primarily blue-green hue on their backs, complemented by silvery sides and bellies.

Bluefish come in various sizes, with some individuals measuring as modestly as seven inches, known as “snappers.”

While bluefish of this size are ideal for younger anglers, the Gulf also harbors larger specimens.

The record-breaking bluefish weighed in at an impressive 31 pounds and 2 ounces. With a maximum estimated length of 39 inches, bluefish provide both excitement and variety for Gulf fishermen.


Archosargus probatocephalus

With a name as unique as their appearance, sheepshead fish are indeed an oddity in the Gulf of Mexico’s waters. These marine marvels earn their name from the shape of their mouth, which strikingly resembles a sheep’s muzzle.

Their mouth features several rows of teeth, with the front ones eerily resembling human dentition.

Sheepshead are typically gray in color, adorned with dark bars on their sides. The highest concentration of sheepshead can be found near southwest Florida.

These captivating creatures are popular targets for anglers due to their tricky nature and knack for stealing bait.

On average, sheepshead weigh in at 3 to 4 pounds and measure around 13 inches in length.

However, the world record sheepshead catch pushed the scales past 21 pounds, cementing their status as a remarkable species in the Gulf.

Spotted Sea Trout

Cynoscion nebulosus

Spotted sea trout, also known as speckled trout, grace the Gulf of Mexico’s waters with their dark gray or greenish appearance, adorned with striking black spots on their back, dorsal fin, and tail.

These captivating fish are a common sight, particularly among anglers seeking a thrilling yet delicious catch.

Female spotted sea trout are typically larger, with an average weight of approximately 5.5 pounds. While this size is considered common, the Gulf occasionally surprises fishermen with behemoth specimens.

The largest spotted sea trout, recorded near Fort Pierce, FL, tipped the scales at an impressive 17 pounds and 7 ounces.

Black Sea Bass

Centropristis striata

Black sea bass, known for their distinctive black coloration, find their home along the U.S. east coast. While their name suggests pure black, smaller varieties exhibit more of a dusky brown hue.

These fascinating fish follow a unique pattern of development known as protogynous hermaphroditism, starting as females and transitioning to males as they mature.

Black sea bass are slow growers, with most individuals weighing in at less than four pounds. However, the record-breaking catch, hauled in from Virginia Beach, shattered expectations with a weight of 10 pounds and 4 ounces.

Red Snapper

Lutjanus campechanus

Red snapper, adorned with their characteristic coloring and enlarged canine teeth, are a beloved species inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico’s depths.

Their vivid red hue intensifies with greater depth, creating a stunning spectacle for divers and anglers alike.

The average red snapper measures between 1 to 2 feet in length and weighs between 2 to 4 pounds.

Captain Doc Kennedy holds the prestigious record for the largest red snapper caught in the Gulf of Mexico, with a colossal catch weighing in at 50 pounds and 4 ounces.

These remarkable fish continue to captivate the hearts of those who venture into the Gulf’s waters.

Red Grouper

Epinephelus morio

Red grouper, thriving in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts through the Gulf of Mexico, are notable inhabitants of the Gulf’s shallow waters.

Their dark reddish-brown hue distinguishes them from their peers, and they are a favored catch among anglers seeking both sport and delectable meals.

Red grouper typically weigh between 5 to 10 pounds and do not exceed two feet in length.

However, the Gulf occasionally yields astonishing giants, with some individuals reaching an astounding 51 pounds and measuring 49 inches long. The red grouper’s combination of beauty and flavor makes it a cherished species in the Gulf.

Gulf Flounder

Paralichthys albiguttata

Our journey begins with the Gulf Flounder, a curious flatfish with a distinctive appearance. These fish are true masters of disguise, swimming on their side and boasting two eyes on the left side of their body.

This unique feature allows them to keep a watchful eye on their surroundings while gliding gracefully along the sandy bottom of the Gulf.

Gulf Flounder are olive-brown in color, adorned with captivating blotches that add to their charm. While they are not among the largest inhabitants of the Gulf, with most individuals weighing under two pounds, these flounder can occasionally surprise anglers by reaching sizes of up to six pounds.

These delectable creatures are a favorite for those seeking a tasty catch in the Gulf waters.


As we conclude our exploration of the Gulf of Mexico’s remarkable fish species, it’s clear that these waters are home to a breathtaking array of marine life.

From the elusive Gulf Flounder to the majestic Atlantic Blue Marlin, each fish has its own unique charm and allure.

Whether you’re a passionate angler seeking the thrill of a big catch or simply a nature enthusiast marveling at the wonders of the deep, the Gulf of Mexico offers something for everyone.

Its diverse ecosystem, teeming with life, reminds us of the importance of conservation and responsible fishing practices to ensure these species thrive for generations to come.

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