Invasive Fish in Florida: All You Need to Know

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Florida is a superb place to dwell in the event you’re a fish. From warm-water canals to colourful reefs, the Sunshine State is a perfect dwelling for a whole bunch of various fish species. However not all of them are supposed to be right here. There are loads of non-native and invasive fish in Florida, and so they trigger all types of issues.

The place did these fish come from? What makes a few of them invasive? And what’s being completed to cease them from spreading? On this article, you’ll be able to be taught all about Florida’s “most needed” fish species and why it’s best to catch as a lot of them as you’ll be able to.

What’s an Invasive Fish?

The U.S. Geological Survey defines invasive fish as any species which is outdoors of its native vary and has the potential to break the native surroundings, financial system, or public well being. It might be an unique fish launched from an aquarium or a species from a neighboring state that begins to take over. A few of them have been really launched on goal to combat different invaders, however simply ended up compounding the issue.

Non-Native Fish vs. Invasive Fish

So are all non-native fish invasive? Not essentially. Solely fish which are actively inflicting issues depend as invasive. Some have discovered their place within the native ecosystem, whereas others are intentionally maintained or just too new to guage.

Peacock Bass are the good success story of Florida’s unique fish. They arrive from Brazil and have been launched in Florida within the ‘80s. Today, they’re one of many state’s hottest recreation fish and have slotted into the meals chain with out threatening native populations.

Different species are fastidiously maintained to ensure their numbers don’t get out of hand. The Asian Grass Carp is the proper instance of this. Grass Carp have been stocked in lakes and ponds round Florida to combat invasive flowers. To manage the inhabitants, the FWC solely shares “triploid” Grass Carp, which have been tailored to make them sterile.

Guidelines for Catching Invasive Fish in Florida

The overall rule for non-native fish is “kill as many as doable.” However some, like Grass Carp, are protected.

Generally, there’s no season or bag restrict for non-native or invasive fish in Florida. You may head out and catch as many as you want, everytime you need. Greater than that, it’s really unlawful to launch the fish alive. You both need to take them dwelling and eat them, make them into bait, or discover another technique to get rid of them.

As at all times, the exceptions show the rule. Peacock Bass are labeled as recreation fish and have a set bag and dimension restrict. Asian Grass Carp are unlawful to reap as a result of the FWC solely shares sterile, triploid Carp. The principles for different fish may additionally change sooner or later, so at all times examine in the event you’re unsure.

Invasive Fish Species in Florida

So, you recognize what an invasive fish is and get the foundations on learn how to take care of them. Now it’s time to check out the fish themselves. With that in thoughts, right here’s an inventory of essentially the most invasive fish in Florida.


Lionfish are public enemy primary amongst Floridian conservation specialists. We’ve written at size about these little monsters however we’ll cowl the fundamentals once more. As a result of truthfully, they’re an even bigger downside than a lot of the others mixed.

Lionfish have decimated fish populations all alongside the East Coast and proper across the Gulf. Florida is “floor zero” for the Lionfish epidemic, and so they’re such a giant downside that the FWC even put a $5,000 bounty out on them in 2018.

As with all invasive fish, there’s no bag restrict and no minimal dimension. The factor that makes Lionfish particular is that you just don’t even want a license to catch them in the event you’re utilizing a pole spear. On high of that, they’re scrumptious! Simply be careful for these spines – they’re stuffed with venom and can provide you a nasty sting.


Robust, aggressive, and extremely predatory, Snakehead seem to be a foul selection of pet. That’s in all probability how they arrived within the US, although. All we all know for positive is that they began displaying up in canals round Pompano Seaside within the 12 months 2000 and have since turn out to be essentially the most invasive freshwater fish in Florida.

There are two species of Snakehead in Florida: Bullseye Snakehead and Northern Snakehead. They each look just like native Bowfin and anglers recurrently combine them up. The easiest way to inform the 2 aside is by taking a look at their fins – Snakehead have for much longer anal fins and their pelvic fins are on the entrance, beneath the pectoral fins. Bowfin have a lot shorter anal fins and their pelvic fins are situated on their stomach.

Snakehead are apex predators and put up an ideal combat on mild sort out. They’re additionally a prized meals fish in Asia, the place they initially come from. Be sure you maintain your palms effectively away from a Snakehead’s mouth when dealing with it. They’ve a nasty chew that greater than earns them their title.

Clown Knife Fish

It looks as if all of the invasive fish in Florida get fascinating names. The Clown Knife Fish takes the cake, and it has outlandish appears to match. Of their native vary, they’re a well-liked meals fish. In Florida, they’re a predatory pest with plain star enchantment.

Clown Knife Fish originate from the tropical waters of Indochina. They’re a well-liked aquarium fish that both escaped or was launched into the waters round Lake Ida by a personal proprietor. Since then, they’ve established themselves because the menace of the Boca Raton/West Palm Seaside space.

They might not put up the identical combat as Snakehead, however their appears and acrobatics make them a well-liked catch amongst visiting anglers. In reality, some guides run particular “unique grand slam” excursions focusing on Clown Knife Fish, Snakehead, and Peacock Bass.

Blue Tilapia

Tilapia are a staple meals fish in Northern Africa and the Center East. They’re grown commercially all world wide for his or her flaky, chicken. Sadly, a few of them escaped from fish farms within the ‘60s and have been working rampant ever since.

In addition to the Blue Tilapia, Noticed Tilapia trigger massive issues in South Florida. They’re really the primary motive the state launched Peacock Bass. The Bass have completed an ideal job since then, and Noticed Tilapia are thought of non-native somewhat than invasive nowadays.

Tilapia don’t put up a lot of a combat, however they positive are scrumptious. As with each fish on this checklist, you’ll be able to catch as a lot of them as you want, so turn out to be a conservationist and luxuriate in a fishy feast on the similar time!

Mayan Cichlid

Mayan Cichlid aren’t technically invasive, however they’re an actual pest and have turn out to be a go-to goal for unique fish lovers and lightweight sort out followers in Florida. They first confirmed up in Florida Bay within the early ‘80s and have since unfold throughout South Florida. They’ve even reached Lake Okeechobee the St. Lucie Canal.

They might be small, however Mayan Cichlid are a ton of enjoyable on mild spinning or fly fishing gear. These “Atomic Sunfish” are aggressive and hardy and might punch effectively above their weight.

Mayan Cichlid often is the most widespread Cichlid in Florida, however they’re not the one one. Jewel Cichlid are additionally fairly widespread, as are Oscar. All these fish are non-native and scrumptious, so bag as many as you’ll be able to.

And So Many Extra!

There are loads extra non-native nuisances in Florida’s waterways. Brown Hoplo, Asian Swamp Eel, Jaguar Guapote, Sailfin and Suckermouth Catfish, the checklist goes on.

And that’s simply the overseas species. Blue and Flathead Catfish are thought of non-native in a lot of the state. They’ve at all times been round in elements of the Panhandle however have expanded a lot farther south and east in recent times.

Maintaining with all these fish is a continuing battle for the FWC, and so they may use all the assistance they’ll get. So subsequent time you’re down within the Sunshine State, why not give the native species a break and catch a few of these invaders as a substitute? They are often simply as enjoyable and much more tasty. Who mentioned conservation needed to be uninteresting?

These are essentially the most invasive fish in Florida, however what about the place you might be? What are the largest pests in your space? Which of them are your favourite to catch? Tell us within the feedback under!