Florida’s Most Difficult Fish to Catch

There is nothing more satisfying than catching difficult game fish. This is the ultimate goal for anyone who has ever held a rod or reel. There are so many species in Florida that it was difficult to narrow down the list to just nine fish. The elusiveness and fight that fish can put up are the two main factors in this list. These are the nine most difficult fish you can catch in Florida.

Blue marlin

This fish is not surprising to be the first. The blue Marlin, undoubtedly the most valuable sport fish, is a formidable foe. It is large, hard to find, and can put up a great fight. These 800-pound acrobatic beasts are strong and can set a hook with difficulty. Blue marlin fishing is a challenge that requires endurance and strength. It is one of the most prized trophy fish in Florida.

You should head to the Lower Keys to catch this blue-eyed beast. Wood’s Wall, or The Wall, is located 20 miles from Key West. It’s where the ocean floor drops to nearly 2,000 feet. Marlin marauders looking for tournament trophies slow-troll this area using large live baits like blackfin tuna, from July through October.

Little Torch Key and Key Largo are also hotspots. Big Pine Key is another popular spot. Islamorada is another. There are many places along Florida’s offshore coasts where you can catch blue marlin. However, local anglers love the Panhandle region such as Destin in October.


The Amberjack is a large predator that can be found near large structures like wrecks and oil rigs. It is known for attacking any bait it sees and then quickly fleeing. Once it has snagged your bait it will quickly retreat to its home and pull your line against rough structures. It is known as the “Reef Donkey” in local languages. This animal is skilled at diving and navigation, so it is crucial that you don’t snap your line within the first 30 seconds. After fighting the Amberjack, expect sore muscles and a stiff back. This powerful and fast fish can knock you off your feet.

Many of the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) records for greater Amberjack were caught in Florida. The All-Tackle World Record was set off Key West at 140cm (55in), and it is the longest length ever recorded. The AJ can be found all along the Gulf Coast, as they are not difficult to spot. However, warm waters 200-300 feet below the oil rigs is where it prefers to be.


Grey Ghosts are elusive and difficult to catch. The grey ghost is fast and finicky. They can also appear invisible in the water because of their silvery-blue-green skin. This makes them a challenging target for anglers. The bonefish is known for its lightning-fast first runs, which can reach 40 miles per hour. They can pull a line with as much force as a fish twice their size. Although it is easy to spot them in shallow flats, they can be difficult to lure or bait. When hunting bonefish, anglers are known to return empty-handed.

Ghost hunting is best done in the flats of Key West, which are warmer than the water. Individuals can reach as high as 12 pounds. Elliott Key holds the IGFA All-Tackle record for length at 21 inches (53cm). They can also be caught during their migration along Islamorada. The Marquesas Islands are also home to a large number of bonefish. You can find endless flats in Miami where you can battle the bonefish. Stiltsville, located at the border of Biscayne Bay, is well-known for its clear, shallow waters that make it easier to hunt bonefish.


Permit are strong, muscular fish with sickle-shaped caudal fins. This fish is known for its unpredictable behavior and skittishness. Although they prefer to live on offshore wrecks, they will be more cautious when they go to the shallows for food. The Permit is a very good swimmer and can see right through your bait or lure. The permit will swim erratically once hooked.

Part of the Florida Key Grand Slam permit can be found throughout South Florida and Keys all year, but it is best to find them in spring and autumn, anywhere from Biscayne Bay and Key West to Florida Bay.

Jack Crevalle

The crevalle jack is a fighter and strong swimmer. It also has great endurance. You can expect a hard fight from this fish when hooked. Even the juvenile jack crevalle can put up a good fight against experienced anglers. It is a strong fish with a muscular body and a forked tail which allows it to swim fast. These fish often school in large groups, which can increase their aggressiveness when competing to eat food. They have also been the cause of many feeding frenzies. Key West and the Palm Beaches are known for their trophy Crevalles, particularly in spring and autumn. Although Jacks can be found in many areas, their preference for warmer water is what draws them to the South.


Every angler should make the Silver King a priority on their bucket lists. These majestic, ancient, and beautiful creatures are well-known for their spectacular aerial displays and their distinctive flapping gills when they’re fighting. The Tarpon is a tough fish to hook. They have sharp teeth and hard mouths. This fish is known for being elusive and can be difficult to catch. Tarpons can twist, turn and leap from the water up to 10 feet. Anglers should not try to defeat the Silver King. Instead, they should wait until they are exhausted before rolling on their side.

Boca Grande, on the west coast, is known as the “Tarpon Capital of the World”. It is home to shallow flats around Crystal River and Homosassa bay, and Apalachicola bay that is best in the summer. Some of the most popular spots in the Keys include Long Key and Seven Mile Bridge, Bahia Honda Bridge, and Marquesas Keys. The Key West Harbor is better from January to March. Government Cut is the best place to visit in Miami. The human-made water strip that runs between Fisher Island and the city’s beaches is most beautiful in the late afternoons and evenings. The best time to visit is April through June, as tarpon loves currents.

These areas can be quite crowded so anglers who want to have a more tranquil experience might want to visit the Ten Thousand Islands. There are endless flats with shallow water for the silver king to enjoy. The Everglade’s inflow makes the water less clear.


South Florida’s pride & joy is the sailfish. There are many tournaments dedicated specifically to this fast-game fish. Sailfish are known for their long, dorsal fins running along their sleek bodies. They have difficult hooks and hard bills. Anglers must wait for the fish to exhaust themselves before they reel them in. This fish is a tough fighter. Sailfish can be found off the coast of reefs, but they have been known to travel to South Florida from waters as shallow as 30 feet. Sailfish Alley is the best place to find this graceful swimmer. This prime spot runs along the Treasure Coast from Fort Pierce to St. Lucie Inlet, Stuart, and is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World”.

The article was written by a professional charter captain at Salty Knots Fishing Charters with 15+ years of experience in the Gulf of Mexico. Salty Knots Fishing Charters is a local fishing charter service based out of St. Pete Beach, Florida. “We know what it takes to catch a giant trophy fish!” Click here to learn more!