15 Best Tasting Fish in the Florida Keys

After an extensive investigation that included research, interviews, and many inquiries, we have came up with a list of the 15 best tasting fish in the Florida Keys. We are well aware that taste is that of preference and there is no science that can be used to factually prove our list. So the selections and rankings are for pure entertainment and to provoke discussion and debate amongst our followers. After all, in the Islamorada and the Florida Keys spirit, in these crazy times, does it not make sense that in our laid back and Keys style of living, that our controversies and disputes are about Fish? 

Of course the best tasting fish will always be the fish caught and served the same day and prepared to perfection. Assuming all these standards have been met and the fish is indigenous to the Florida Keys waters, here is our list.

15. Trout—There numbers have really increased in the past making it one of the go to species in the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. They have a light flavored flaky flesh with a good moisture content. Trout can be prepared in a variety of ways. Try it battered, breaded and deep fried.

14. Kingfish—The fall run is the best time to catch some fresh Kingfish. Related to the Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish are slightly oily with a meaty texture. The thick steaks are good for grilling but the best method may be smoked.

13. Amberjack—Maybe not the most popular Reef fish, Amberjack are fun to catch and have a surprisingly light flavor for a dense white meat. Great fish for grilling.

12. Mangrove Snapper—Winter season is a good time of year for Mangrove Snapper. Not as popular as its related species the Yellowtail Snapper, some claim it is the best tasting snapper in the Keys. With a light white flaky texture, it enhances those flavors that accompany the fish. Try it with Pineapples.

11. Cobia—A difficult fish to catch, but well worth it once on board. With sizes reaching 100lbs, the Cobia is a monster fish and a hard fighter. A meaty white textured fish has a sweet and nutty flavor all on its own, so just grill it with minimal additives and enjoy.

10. Yellowtail Snapper—Very popular and the go to species for those working the patch reefs. They are abundant most anytime of the year. They have a pinkish flesh with a light flaky texture. You can get them prepared a variety of ways in a variety of restaurants. You can’t go wrong with Yellowtail Snapper.

9. Swordfish— Yes we do catch swordfish in the Florida Keys, not as many as the popular Sailfish, but a highly pursued game fish. They have a meaty texture and are best when cut into steaks and either grilled or pan-fried with your favorite seasonings.

8. Blackfin Tuna—Those who know best claim you cannot tell the difference between fresh Blackfin Tuna and fresh Yellowfin tuna in a taste test. Experts say it is extremely important to keep the Tuna on ice and never wash down with fresh water. Trim the dark red meat out and cut into steaks or sashimi.

7. Red Snapper—out of all the varieties of snapper, the red Snapper has a bright red to pinkish tone. They are a delicious thin white fish and a popular cooking method is to roast the fish whole.

6. Yellowfin Tuna—We don’t catch as many Yellowfin tuna as we do Blackfin as they are a deep water offshore fish. Or maybe not. See this amazing catch http://miami.cbslocal.com/2014/08/05/crazy-yellowfin-tuna-catch-captured-on-camera-in-florida-keys/.  Worst thing you can do is to overcook this fish. Many will lightly sear or eat it raw with a bit of soy sauce.

5. Wahoo—This is one fish on our list that got many votes for Best Tasting Fish in the Florida Keys. A beast to catch because of their speed and long runs, they will make you earn your meal. The Wahoo is a lean firm fish with a mild flavor and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Grill, bake or poach this delicacy.

4. Mahi Mahi—Also known as Dolphin or Dorado. The fishery for Mahi in the Florida Keys is second to none. The season is April to August, but they are here all year round. Whether a schoolie (small) or a Bull (large), they are a meaty white fish and are one of the most popular fish in America. Great for grilling and pan searing.  

3. Grouper—There are many species of grouper. Gag, Black, Red, and White to name a few.  We ranked them so high because they have so many delicious species. We thought about doing the same with snapper, but we have very distinct snapper varieties here in the Keys. The groupers are hard to catch because they like to hide amongst rock and artificial reefs on the ocean floor. Once hooked they try to retreat back into the rocks and lines often get snagged and snapped off. Catch and Release only, the famous Goliath Grouper, is part of this famed family of fish. They can be enjoyed many ways, but if you have never tried a blackened grouper sandwich you are missing one of the best lunches in the Florida Keys

2. Tripletail—Not as popular as some of the other top 5 on our list, but Tripletail is a fish that has an intense flavor and is still mild tasting. It is dense and light at the same time. Firm and flaky. It doesn’t make sense, but try this fish and you will see what we mean. Best cooking method is pan searing with minimum additives. See more about tripletail and a recipe from our friends at Into the Blue at http://blog.intothebluefishing.com/blog/2015/2/17/how-to-filet-and-prepare-a-tripletail

And the number 1 best tasting fish in all the Florida Keys based on no scientific evidence and purely the opinion of those that participated is…..drum roll please….

1. Hogfish—Is it because of the cool name “Hogfish”? Is it their exotic look? Is it because most are caught by spear fisherman? No. Simply, Hogfish got our number one rating because it is the most delicious fish in Florida. Iconic in the State of Florida, but not as well know outside our peninsula and Florida Keys. A delicate white fish that is thin and cooks quickly. It will marry and enhance any flavor you introduce. Lemon, tomatoes, and basil all work well with our top dog. One of our respondents even said that the Hogfish “Super Lazy Days Style” from Lazy Days restaurant would be his death row meal. Read some other cool facts about Hogfish at https://www.islamoradatimes.com/7-things-didnt-know-hogfish/ Congratulations to the Hogfish!!  

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