What's in Season?
For easy-to-understand science-based facts to help you make smart sustainable seafood
provides information about U.S. seafood that is responsibly harvested under strict
regulations that work to keep the environment healthy, fish populations thriving,
and our seafood industry on the job.
Visit NOAA FishWatch
Black Drum is known as the largest of all drum fish with some reaching excesses
of 90 lbs. They’re often black and/or gray. Juvenile fish have distinctive dark
stripes. Their teeth are rounded and they have powerful jaws capable of crushing
oysters and other shellfish. Black Drum can be found all over the Gulf but are most
abundant in Texas and Louisiana.
Mahi-mahi are more commonly known as mahi-mahi—which means "very strong" in Hawaiian.
It’s a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish that thrives in offshore temperate, tropical
Mahi-mahi are distinguishable by dazzling colors: golden on the sides and bright
blues and greens on the sides and back. Females are usually smaller than the males
and have a rounded head, while males have prominent foreheads protruding well above
Primarily caught in Louisiana and Florida, Mahi-mahi are in peak season from May
Gulf Flounder grows up to 15 inches and typically weights up to 2 lbs. It is a left-eye
flounder, which means the left side is the "up side" of the fish.
Flounder are typically found in Louisiana, Alabama and Florida with October and
November being peak season.
Grouper (Black, Gag, Marbled, Snowy, Red, Yellowfin, Yellowedge)
Black Grouper prefer deeper water, especially during warmer summer months. During
the winter and spring however, they can be found in very shallow waters. Black grouper
typically have an olive or gray body, with black blotches and brassy spots.
Gag Grouper is usually 25 lbs., but can grow to more than 70 lbs. It’s caught between
September to November.
Red Grouper is a shallow-water grouper characterized by a robust body and large
mouth with protruding lower jaw and sharp teeth. The color of its head and body
is a dark reddish brown, shading pink or reddish below.
Yellowfin Grouper is considered one of the more popular Gulf game fishes. Yellowfin
Grouper generally live in deeper reef areas but may venture into shallower waters,
especially during the cooler seasons. It is distinguished by bright yellow trim
on the pectoral fins. The Yellowfin grouper is a hearty fish, often reaching 20
Yellow Edge Grouper is found in waters 250-650 feet deep off of Texas and Louisiana
and west of the Mississippi River. It tends to prefer relatively flat rock bottoms
encrusted with living growths. Yellow edge grouper reach 46 inches in length and
over 30 lbs.
These types of grouper can be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico ranging from Texas,
Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
Spotted Grouper: Hind (Red, Rock, and Speckled)
Red Hind Grouper is the most common of the spotted groupers in the southern Gulf,
but it can be found elsewhere on offshore reefs. It prefers waters 80-130 feet deep,
although it may be found as deep as 400 feet. This fish has a yellowish, pinkish,
or greenish background color and is covered with many bright red spots.
Rock Hind Grouper usually has a tan background color and is heavily covered in red
or orange spots. They can grow to nearly 10 lbs., but is usually smaller—typically
5 lbs. or less.
Speckled Hind Grouper is the only grouper with a dark background color and light
spots. It’s a rare fish, which is why a strict federal limit of 1 bag per vessel
has been instituted.
These spotted grouper species can be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico ranging
from Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
Mackerel (King and Spanish)
King Fish, or King Mackerel, is a medium-sized fish that ranges from 5 to 30 lbs.,
but can exceed 90 lbs. It migrates from the Texas coast in summer to the middle-east
coast of Florida from November through March. The Spanish Mackerel’s slender, bullet-shaped
bodies are blue and silver and spotted with golden-yellow or olive ovals. They migrate
to the northern Gulf of Mexico in spring, and return to South Florida in the Eastern
Gulf and to Mexico in the Western Gulf in the fall.
Striped Mullet is found in highly salty to fresh waters that are warm or temperate.
This species of mullet spends most of its time close to shore near the mouths of
streams and rivers or in brackish bays, inlets and lagoons with sand or mud bottoms.
Striped Mullet can often be seen in coastal waters, jumping to evade predators.
Because it’s one of the most common prey items of other commercially important coastal
fish such as spotted seatrout, people often use it as bait. In Florida, Striped
Mullet can be found on the menus of many restaurants, but in the western Gulf of
Mexico (Texas and Louisiana waters), it takes on an oily taste and is not generally
eaten. Instead, Mullet is harvested for use as a baitfish.
Snapper (Yellowtail, Red, Mangrove or Gray, Lane)
Yellowtail Snapper are typically caught in 30-120 feet of water around reefs and
other structures. Yellowtail must be at least 12" long to be harvested in most areas.
Bag limits apply in most regions. Yellowtail Snapper is highly prized for its light,
flaky meat and is considered by some to be one of, if not the best of the snapper
Red Snapper commonly inhabit waters 30-200 feet deep, but can be found at 300 feet
deep. They prefer rocky bottom ledges, ridges, and artificial reefs. Red Snappers
have short, sharp, needle-like teeth, but lack the prominent upper canine teeth
found on the mutton, dog, and mangrove snappers.
Mangrove Snapper is one of the most common species of warm region snapper. Mangrove
Snapper is highly prized for its light and flaky meat. It can be caught on a variety
of baits, but is typically caught with live or frozen shrimp, squid, and minnows.
Lane Snapper has irregular pink and yellow lines on its sides along with a black
spot. Lane Snapper is prized for its tasty white meat. Lane snapper is typically
caught in shallower waters unlike many of its snapper counterparts.
Snapper naturally occur along the southern Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of
the United States, including the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi,
Swordfish are found Gulf-wide. They commonly feed from the top of the water column
to the bottom. Swordfish is an aggressive predator that uses its heavy bill both
in its defense and to stun prey fish.
Found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Swordfish can also be found in deeper Atlantic
Tuna (Yellowfin, Black fin)
Yellowfin Tuna—also called Ahi or Bigeye Tuna—often travel in schools. Its streamlined
body is a metallic, deep blue-black, changing to yellow and silver on the belly.
Yellowfin Tuna can grow up to 80 lbs., and occasionally reach 200 lbs., but no more
than 400 lbs. They’re also the tuna species most threatened by overfishing, and
therefore, most seafood sustainability guides encourage consumption of other types
Blackfin Tuna is the smallest tuna species, generally maxing out at 46 lbs. Blackfin
has an oval shaped body, black back with a slight yellow on the finlets, and yellow
on the sides of their body. Blackfin tuna is a warmer-water fish, preferring water
temperatures over 68ºF.
Blackfin Tuna can be found throughout the Gulf of Mexico ranging from Texas, Mississippi,
Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
The Gulf has many other finfish, so keep checking back for more.