Unveiling the Most Common Saltwater Fish to Catch in Your Fishing Adventures

Maya Brown

April 28, 2023


Fish stories never get old – they just become more outrageous over time! As a fisherman, you’ve certainly encountered some unusual catches. But have you ever wondered what the most common saltwater fish to catch in the USA are? From striped bass to marlin, there’s no shortage of species in the deep blue sea that can be found year-round. So, let’s take a fishing trip and discover the who, what, when, and where of these fantastic aquatic creatures.

Some of the most common saltwater species are striped bass, tautog, bluefish, mackerel, and scup. Besides these sea creatures, there is a wide range of species that are also commonly found in deep blue or coastal waters. With the right gear, tasty saltwater bait, and a little bit of research into the fishing regulations of the region, you’re bound to end up with a fishy surprise.

Top Most Common Saltwater Fish to Catch

Saltwater fishing is a popular recreational activity that provides anglers with the opportunity to catch a wide variety of species that are not found in freshwater environments. No matter if you’re a beginner fisherman or a seasoned veteran that’s mastered the art of fly fishing, there’s always plenty of fish in the sea seemingly waiting to be caught on your fishing hook.

From fast and powerful species such as tuna to bottom-dwelling tautog, the saltwater fishing world offers a diverse range of rewards for anglers of all skill levels and entails just as many different fishing styles. Here are the most common catches, with a description of their physical characteristics, habitats, and preferred recreational and sport fishing methods:

Striped Bass

Striped bass, often simply referred to as striper, is a popular large saltwater species that is found along the Atlantic coast of North America, from Florida to Nova Scotia, in tide rips, estuaries, bays, reefs, and inshore bars. This species is known for its distinctive stripes along the body, which can sometimes reach lengths of over 4 feet and weights of over 50 pounds.

These opportunistic feeders will get caught on various baits and lures, including sea worms, squids, eels, herring, plugs, and jigs. They can be found from the middle of April all the way to October and are usually caught with different fishing types such as casting, trolling, and nymph fly fishing.

Due to their popularity, striped bass is now under strict regulations to ensure their sustainability for future generations and are available only for the catch-and-release practice.


Tautog has many nicknames – tog, white chin, and Blackfish, to name just a few. This species is found along the eastern coast of North America, from Nova Scotia to Georgia, and compared to most other species, tautog is very slow growing and does not migrate far from where they originate.

These bottom-dwelling fish prefer rocky habitats such as wrecks and jetties, and they can be found from April to November when they move offshore during the winter. Tautog is known for their robust bodies and their strong fighting behavior due to their powerful jaws used for crushing and eating prey.

This species can grow to impressive sizes, with some individuals reaching lengths of over 2 feet and weights of over 20 pounds. They are the most popular saltwater game fish for boat and shore-based anglers and can be caught with crabs, clams, and all types of shellfish using a variety of techniques, from jigging to bait fishing.


Bluefish, saltwater species that can be found along the Atlantic coast, from Maine to Florida, are known for their especially aggressive feeding behavior and hard-fighting nature, which makes them a popular coastal fish choice among anglers as they’ll strike at any type of fishing hook you give them.

Small bait fish, spoons, jigs, plugs, flies, spinners – June to the middle of October, bluefish will certainly end up on the end of your fishing rod. This species is known to have a torpedo-shaped body with a forked tail and are generally bluish-green in color. They have sharp teeth and can grow to impressive sizes, with some being over 3 feet long and weighing over 20 pounds.

They are a popular target for shore-based anglers, as well as those that like to cast from a boat, using a variety of techniques, from trolling to maneuvering a fly fishing tippet.


Mackerel is a popular saltwater species that is found in oceans around the world, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are highly migratory and can travel long distances in search of prey, which typically includes small fish and plankton.

Fast swimmers and ferocious feeders, this species can put up quite a fight, no matter the delicious lure or bait that is on the fish hook. Mackerels are known for their streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies and their metallic blue and green coloration. They’re popular sea fishing trophies for both boat and shore-based anglers and can be caught using a variety of different techniques, including trolling, casting, and jigging.

This catch is especially rewarding, as mackerel is an important commercial and recreational species, prized for its flavorful flesh. Because of this, populations are carefully managed to ensure their sustainability for future generations.


Last but not least, we have the scup, also known as porgy, a saltwater species typically found along the Atlantic coast, from Maine all the way to Florida. From May to September, scup is a popular target for anglers that like to try out their luck in bait fishing or jigging.

They are bottom-dwelling species of fish that prefer rocky habitats and are most commonly found near wrecks and reefs. Scups are known for their distinctive look – their round, flattened body is decorated with silver and blue coloration.

They feed on smaller fish and crustaceans and can grow to lengths of up to 1.5 feet and weights of over 3 pounds. As with all other popular and common saltwater species, scup is also the subject of many regulations that are put in place to manage overfishing and habitat loss.

Striped Bass

The Striped Bass, or “striper,” is a highly prized coastal gamefish known for its distinctive dark stripes running along its silvery body. Inhabiting the Atlantic coast of North America, from Florida to Nova Scotia, Striped Bass can be found in various environments. Renowned for their opportunistic feeding habits, stripers strike a variety of baits and lures, making them a favorite among anglers.

Blue Marlin

The Blue Marlin, a majestic and powerful pelagic species, ranks among the most sought-after ocean game fish in the world. With its distinctive cobalt-blue coloration, long bill, and formidable size, the Blue Marlin embodies the thrill of offshore big-game fishing. Inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters, these giants can exceed 1,000 pounds.

Known for their acrobatic leaps and fierce battles, Blue Marlins are often targeted by skilled anglers trolling large lures or rigged baits. Due to their popularity in sportfishing, conservation efforts focus on responsible practices to maintain healthy populations of this iconic species.

Red Drum

The Red Drum, also known as Redfish or Channel Bass, is a vibrant copper-bronze fish with a distinct black spot at the base of its tail. Found along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, these feisty fighters are known for their powerful runs and impressive size, with some individuals reaching lengths of over 40 inches.

Red Drum inhabit estuaries, bays, and coastal waters, providing an exciting challenge for anglers. They have a diverse diet, feeding on crustaceans, fish, and mollusks. Recognized for both their sporting qualities and delectable taste, Red Drum are subject to catch-and-release practices to ensure their sustainability.

What Are Other Popular Saltwater Fish Species to Catch – Explore the Marine Diversity

As you can clearly see by now, saltwater fishing brings an exciting and diverse range of opportunities, no matter where in the world you’re angling. From fast-swimming species to bottom-dwelling ones, here’s a brief overview of other frequently caught saltwater fish:

Species Habitats Saltwater Fishing Techniques Baits and Lures
Black Sea Bass Rocks, reefs, and wrecks on the south side of Cape Cod Bottom-fishing from a boat Green crabs, clams, cut squid
Weakfish (Squeteague) Channels, bays, and estuaries of Massachusetts Chumming, drifting, trolling, still-fishing Seaworms, shrimp, eels, tinker mackerel
Winter Flounder Tidal streams, shallow bays Still-fishing, chum pot Bloodworms, sandworms, clams, cut squid
Summer Flounder (Fluke) Rocks, reefs, and wrecks on the south of Cape Cod Casting, trolling, still-fishing, drift-fishing Cut squid, clams, shrimp, minnows, spinners, jigs
Bonito Rocks and reefs of the southern Cape Cod Bait casting, trolling, fly fishing Squid, strip baits, small jigs, plugs, flies, spoons
Tuna Cape Cod Bay and south of the Islands Chumming, trolling Baitfish, plastic squids, daisy chains, artificial lures, jigs
False Albacore Warmer water of Cape Cod Trolling, fly fishing, baitcasting Strip baits, small jigs, flies, spoons
Pollock Whole coast north of Plymouth Casting, trolling, still-fishing Clams, mackerel, strips of fish, crabs, jigs, sea worms
Halibut Cool and deep whole coast waters Fishing from a boat Clams, sea worms, strips of fish, jigs, sandlace
Cod Deep waters of Massachusetts Bait-fishing from boat or shore Clams, mackerel, sea worms, strips of fish, jigs, crabs

And this is not even all – it’s evident that there is almost an endless variety of marine fish species that anglers can target in saltwater. With different species found in different regions and environments around the world, there is always something new to discover.

Underwater wild world with tuna fishes
Follow our table and you'll know how to approach the fish

What Are Some Tips for Catching Saltwater Fish?

Having the right fishing rods and the matching fishing reels, as well as knowing how to make a fish hook and, in the case of emergency, knowing how to remove it from your finger, is only one part of the whole set of saltwater tackle essentials.

Sure, deep sea angling is a thrilling experience, but for it to be rewarding as well, it requires a certain level of skill and knowledge. So, let’s see what you can do to increase your chances of success and end up landing an impressive heavy hitter. Here are some effective deep-sea fishing tips.

Saltwater Species Can Be Picky Eaters – Use the Right Bait

Different species of saltwater fish require different types of marine fishing equipment, so it’s important to have the appropriate fishing tackle depending on what you’re targeting. However, maybe the most important part is using the right type of bait, as saltwater species are known to be picky, albeit ferocious, eaters. That’s why researching the types of bait most effective for the bluewater game fish you plan to catch is an unavoidable part of the process.

It’s Important to Understand the Sea Tides and Currents

Saltwater species are highly influenced by tides and currents, so it’s of utmost importance to understand how these natural factors impact their behavior and feeding patterns, as well as water temperature, clarity, and the movement of baitfish.

Anglers who take the time to understand the tides and currents in their region can use this knowledge to their advantage, identifying the areas where popular sea fish are likely to congregate and adjusting their bait and tackle accordingly.

Observe, Learn, and Most of All – Be Patient

Understanding the patterns and habits of the species you’re targeting is done by carefully observing their behavior and the environment around them. So, be mindful of all of these aspects whenever you take a fishing trip, and, most important of all, stay patient. Speaking from personal experience, landing a saltwater catch requires a lot of waiting and persistence, as well as breaking quite a sweat.

Man at a pier fishing
Saltwater fishing can be one of the most rewarding experiences of an angler’s career

Are There Some Regulations for Saltwater Fishing?

As was mentioned, most fish are also some of the most popular saltwater fish species when it comes to any angling technique. So, in most regions around the world, there are regulations put in place to protect and conserve fish populations, promote sustainable practices, and ensure that recreational and commercial anglers have access to healthy and abundant fish stocks.

Here are the most common regulations when it comes to saltwater species:

  • Bag and possession limits – regulations on the number of catches a fisherman can keep in a single day of fishing,
  • Seasonal restrictions – regulations concerning a specific period of the year during which it’s allowed to angle for a certain saltwater fish species,
  • Minimum size limits – sets a limit to the minimum size of the species that can be harvested,
  • Catch-and-release requirements – requires that certain species should be released back into the water unharmed,
  • Gear restrictions – certain requirements concerning saltwater fishing gear that can be used for certain species,
  • License requirements – regulates having a valid license for fishing certain species in a particular area.

Knowing What Are the Most Common Ocean Fish Species to Catch Will Help You Pack Gear Accordingly

Well, there you have it – the most common saltwater species to catch. All that’s left is to get out there on the water and try out your luck. So, break out those fishing rods and start having some fun – who knows what kinds of great catches await? Best of luck to all fishermen out in the salty depths!


What Is the Most Common Fish Caught in the Ocean?

The Bluefish is one of the most common fish caught in the ocean. With its aggressive feeding behavior and hard-fighting nature, Bluefish are popular among anglers along the Atlantic coast, striking at a wide range of fishing hooks and lures.

What Is a Common Saltwater Fish?

A common saltwater fish is the Striped Bass, known for its distinctive stripes and widespread presence along the Atlantic coast of North America. It’s a popular target for anglers due to its size and opportunistic feeding habits.

What Is a Common Saltwater Bait?

Squid is a common saltwater bait, prized for its versatility and attractiveness to a variety of species. Anglers often use squid in different forms, such as whole, cut, or as a part of bait rigs, to lure fish in both shallow and deep waters.