Using decades of combined experience our team has compiled a list of 7 types of Saltwater Fish for new anglers to target with details on where to find each species, what bait to use and methods that can give you the upper hand in catching your target species.
Below are the fish that we will cover in this article. Click on a species name to head straight to it.
When planning a saltwater fishing trip, check your state regulations for species that are in season. You also want to make sure you are familiar with the bag limit and slot limits for your state and get a fishing license.
Atlantic Cod are one of the more popular fish to eat in the western world. They are found in the Northwest part of the Atlantic Ocean from Greenland to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. They tend to spend most of their time along the bottom of the seafloor but will make their way to higher in the water column when feeding.
- Alternative Names- Cod, Codfish, Codling
- Region- Northwest Atlantic, from Greenland to Cape Hatteras, most commonly on Georges Bank and the western gulf of Maine
- Habitat-Inshore and Offshore
- Season- Year Round
- Baits and Lures- 10oz Jig paired with plastic worm or bait such as clams or squid paired with at least a 3oz sinker
- Method and Tackle- Vertical Jigging with 50lb Braided or Mono line paired with a 5-8 medium or heavy action rod, Diamond Jig, 4/0-7/0 hook
Black Drum is a migratory fish. Distinguish them by identifying their noticeable large spine in the anal fin as well as their barbells on their chin. They are part of the croaker family and resemble the famous sounds of croaker by making a grunting noise of their own that sounds more like a drum rather than a croak. They have the ability to sense their prey using their barbells and feed on the bottom for clams, mussel, oysters, crabs, and worms.
- Alternative Names- drum, drummer
- Region-Western Atlantic Ocean from Southern New England along the coast to Northern Mexico
- Habitat- Shallow coastal waters of bays, near structures, clam and oyster beds, and inlets
- Baits and Lures- Cut Mullet, Clams, Crab, Blood Worms. Try to avoid artificial lures
- Method and Tackle- Conventional bottom rig with sinkers (Carolina Rig)
Cobia is a gamefish recognized by its torpedo shaped body and chocolate like color. They are strong and aggressive pelagic fish that live a solitary life except when spawning.
- Alternative Names- Ling, Lemon fish
- Region- In coastal U.S. waters, most found from Virginia through the gulf of Mexico
- Habitat- Continental shelf waters near or under objects such as pilings, wrecks, buoys, and reefs
- Baits and Lures- Cut Bait, Squid, Large Spoons, Jigs, buck tails
- Method and Tackle- Trolling or bottom fishing near wrecks, reefs, navigational markers using wire leader paired with 15-25lb mono rigs
The Summer Flounder is one of the most sought after fish for recreational and commercial fisherman along the Atlantic Coast in the U.S., they are a flat, disc shaped saltwater fish that blend in with the bottom of the sea floor. They have the ability to adapt their coloring to match the bottom hence their nickname “chameleons of the sea”.
- Alternative Names-Fluke, Flounder
- Region- Both inshore and offshore along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia down the coast to Florida. Most commonly caught between Delaware and South Carolina
- Habitat- Flounder prefer sandy and muddy bottoms in high salinity waters. They are most in the summer months in around estuaries, bays, creeks, canals, and along shorelines
- Baits and Lures- Cut Bait, live minnows, buck tails, jigs
- Method and Tackle- Standard bottom rigs when drifting in inlets, surf fishing, trolling or pier fishing
King mackerel is a long and slender fish with greenish-blue coloration that may fade as the size of this species increases. They have large, forked tails which can reach up to two feet in length! These features are paired together with their lateral line starting high on the body before dipping sharply at its second dorsal fin – making these fish some of the fastest swimmers out there!
- Alternative Names- Kingfish, King, Cavalla
- Region- Southeast
- Habitat-King mackerel live in open ocean waters near the coast, from North Carolina to southeast Florida. They make inshore and offshore migrations that are triggered by water temperature and food supply; being found inside the Gulf Stream along the edge of continental shelf in winter months as well as congregating around beaches or at mouth of rivers during summer/fall
- Baits and Lures- Mullet, jacks herring pinfish croakers shrimp spoons feathers jigs
- Method and Tackle- Trolling or drifting either deep or on the surface using strip baits, lures, and small whole bait as well as casting and live bait fishing.
The Red Drum is North Carolina’s state saltwater fish. The most distinctive feature of Redfish are their muscular stomach and head, which they use to feed on shellfish by sucking in sand with a vacuum-like motion before expelling it from one gill slit at a time.
- Alternative Names- Redfish, Puppy Drum, Channel Bass, Spot Tail Bass
- Region-Red Drum inhabit along the coast in the Western Atlantic Ocean from Maine all the way down into the Gulf of Mexico.
- Habitat- The red drum is a fish that can be found in both salt and brackish water. They inhabit shallow estuaries, channels, inlets and shell beds near the shoreline on an incoming tide.
- Baits and Lures- Crabs, clams, jigs, plugs, spoons or strip bait
- Method and Tackle- Jigging along the bottom of the water column with flashy lures and live fish, bird dogging them on the flats with a fly rod
Striped bass have a large mouth with a long body and head, which is often black. They are dark olive-green to steel blue or gray on top. Their sides are silver with seven or eight black horizontal stripes that one follows the lateral line down their side as well as outlined in white scales along their backside. One of the most distinctive features about Rockfish is its lateral stripes, the top half and bottom are about equally divided
- Alternative Names- Rockfish, Striper, Rock
- Region- Rockfish can be found from the St. Lawrence River to northern Florida on America’s Atlantic coast; off of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico; and along our Pacific Coastline stretching from Washington to California
- Habitat- The striped bass is a migratory and anadromous fish. You can often find them around piers, jetties, surf troughs, rips, flats and rocks in saltwater
- Baits and Lures- Mullet, squid, eels, crabs, clams, bloodworms, plugs, spoons, flies, and casting lures
- Method and Tackle- Trolling, jigging and casting with artificial baits or bottom fishing with natural bait . They can also be caught in the surf using spoons and heavy lures
What to do next?
Be sure to get a fishing license before you cast your first line. Check out our guide on how to get a fishing license online.