When it comes to saltwater angling, we are talking about being on the big fishing stage. Everything is bigger, more exciting, and, frankly, more expensive. Think of it this way: Saltwater game fishing is to fishing what Monday Night Football is to the NFL.
But, we are not here to talk gear, or tours, or even techniques. No, we are here to talk about the fish themselves, and particularly to answer the question: What are the most popular saltwater game fish?
We are talking, of course, about the stars of fishing, namely the tuna, bluefin, seabass, snapper, barracuda, mackerel, sturgeon, marlin, sharks, salmon, and more. So, let's get to it and call out the ten most popular saltwater game fish of 2018.
Fish Rating Basics
But first, we should take a minute to talk about our rating scale, as there are too many appealing fish out there. Of course, we have read the rating, looked at the lists, and parsed the species. We have also opted to assign a numerical value to each fish, based on specific criteria known to be associated with saltwater game fish.
For instance, we used metrics like size, speed, stamina, aerial moves, market value, and reputation. We also used a range to determine high and low marks (e.g., 1-10, ten being the highest). Although this rating scale is part of our decision-making process, we will not be showing all of our numbers on every fish.
Instead, we will be providing a sort of bio on each fish, explaining its place in our list and fully exploring its abilities and reputation. Of course, popularity is often a race of prominence, too, and so population numbers and the sheer availability of fishing the species will come into play as well.
10 Most Popular Salt Water Fish
Moreover, many of the fish on this list will be available only to offshore anglers. By and far, these fish are also known fighters, and that just adds to their popularity. Many of them also have tasty and valuable meat, while others are known for their sky-high antics.
So, without further ado, let's get right into it and begin our countdown of the top saltwater game fish, starting with a fish many of us consume every day.
We know the Yellowfin, Bluefin, and Blackfin tunas as delicious additions to sushi and sashimi rolls or to a protein-packed lunch. The Bluefin, in particular, is always looking for a fight, as he is considered an apex predator known for its stamina and strength, which make it notoriously difficult to hook.
Moreover, the biggest Bluefin on record weighed in at just under 1500 pounds. In comparison, its Yellowfin cousins are equally strong and fast.
The Blackfin tuna, however, unlike his deep-sea brethren, is a surface-schooling tuna typically only reaching around 50 pounds. You’d never know it though, as this black-colored tuna variety has the same well-known fighting spirit.
The Dorado is a warm-water fish that was so-named for its golden color. El Dorado is the name the Spanish gave to the mythical lost city of gold that they thought was hidden somewhere inside the Inca empire.
But the Dorado (the fish, not the golden city) is also known by other names. It's also called the dolphin fish, or mahi-mahi which means "very strong" in native Hawaiian.
Dorados are prized for their brilliant colors, their aerial acrobatics, and their incredible speed, and ability to jump high when hooked.
However, despite having been on many different culture's radars for centuries, the Dorado remains an abundant saltwater fish. It is also one of the tastiest fish in the ocean, making it a favorite in fish tacos and soup dishes the world over.
8. White Sturgeon
These heavily armored bottom feeders are closely linked to sharks because of their similar look and shape (the largest being 468 pounds). Though the two species are unrelated, that doesn't mean the sturgeon is an easy target. This saltwater fish is notoriously difficult to bring up from the ocean’s depths and it can repeatedly leap, completely clearing the water’s surface.
White Sturgeon can be found throughout the western coast of America, from Alaska down to California. Their roe is a prized and tasty treat, leading to their fishing being heavily protected. In many areas, the sturgeon is limited to catch and release only, but the thrill of getting one on the line is said to be very similar to hooking a giant shark.
Wahoos are considered to be one of the fastest fish in the sea and, shaped like torpedos, you can easily see why. Reportedly capable of sustained speeds of up to 15 knots, these heavily-muscled fish are prized for their tasty white flesh that is similar to mackerel.
That is because the Wahoo is in the mackerel family and they travel the tropical seas in schools, searching for food. Their white flesh is both flavorful and versatile, and the largest one ever caught weighed in at around 180 pounds.
6. Blue Marlin
First discovered off the coast of the Bahamas sometime during the 1920s, the blue marlin instantly became game fishing favorites for offshore anglers. Marlins, in many respects, represent the pinnacle of saltwater game fishing, as they are smart, powerful, fast, and large, and they often jump high when hooked.
Now part of a million-dollar sports fishing industry, the marlin not only offers a challenge for experienced fishers, but they are also beautiful creatures. And, their meat is prized at sushi and sushimi eateries worldwide.
5. Red Snapper
Not only is the Red Snapper an iconic menu item at seafood restaurants the world over, but it is the one fish on our menu that is a real brute. Any saltwater angler knows he needs some serious gear to hunt these big boys. The Red Snapper is also notoriously difficult to hook because it can be found hugging reefs and hiding in shipwrecks as it hunts for food.
The Red Snapper is reportedly plentiful throughout the Atlantic, but many anglers admit they only hook it incidentally. The record for this infamous fish is just under 103 pounds, which isn’t that large, but, if you manage to hook one, be prepared for a battle as they run, and run, and run some more.
4. Giant Trivalley
The Giant Trivalley is a member of the Jack family of fish, and it is known for its aggressive hunting style. Found in the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans, GT’s, as they are commonly known, are notorious of obliterating tackle before they are even completely reeled in.
Most serious saltwater anglers that fish the GT reportedly use at least an “80-pound braid with a locked-down drag“ to stop these monsters from running away with the line as they tend to apply round after round of punishing strain on your rod and line.
In Hawaii, this deep sea giant and apex predator is known as a warrior of the sea and such a tenacious hunter. It has even developed hunting strategies that use seals and sharks as camouflage.
The world record for a GT was 160 pounds. When sliced open and filleted, the meat of a Giant Trivalley is dense, slightly oily, and perfect for grilling or roasting.
The Barramundi is also called Asian Sea Bass because its flesh is well-known to be meaty and delicious, but it is more closely related to the snook, with its long, muscular body and pronounce jaw-line.
The resemblance, in fact, is pretty easy to see once you hook this hard-fighting, high-jumping considerably larger fish. So far, the record weight for one is 89-pounds.
But, despite its bullish reputation, the Barra is said to be part of the staple diet of around three-million people from Asia to Australia. The meat of this fish is so popular that it is now being stocked in certain ponds in Queensland.
2. Coho Salmon
While smaller than chinook salmon, cohos, often called silvers, are more abundant and possibly even more fun to fish. Cohos are known to strike hard and run fast, marked by wild direction changes and flailing leaps. Coho Salmon tend to feed higher in the water column than other varieties, which can make hooking them easy.
But you had better be prepared for a fight, as these mighty little salmon are fast and strong. Abundant in North America, Cohos appear in streams and lakes from Alaska to California, and they have even been found in the Great Lakes. Cohos will provide hours of fishing fun with the biggest one on record weighing just over 33 pounds.
Both mysterious and brutish, hook one of these monsters from the depths, and you are sure to know it. One of the most fantastic apex predators in the ocean, the swordfish is found around the world in both temperate and tropical and seas.
Hunting by night, the swordfish spends its days swimming around at 1,500 to 1,800 feet down in the ocean’s depths. Its diet consists of squid, shrimp, and other aquatic organisms, like plankton. These fish even have heaters built into their unusually large eyes, which they use for incredibly accurate hunting.
Swordfish, often called broadbills, do not use their long, pointed heads to spear other fish as often as they use the appendage to slice and slash their prey to slow it down.
Culinarily speaking, the meat of this fish is flavorful, oily, and can be dark. It is enjoyed worldwide as a steak-like, protein-packed dish.
The world-record weight for this favorite game fish topped the scales at 1,182-pounds.
Guide to the Most Popular Game Fish
So, one through ten, there you have our most popular saltwater game fish.
Notably, you can see we have left out the real gaming favorites, like sharks, sailfish, barracudas, and the muscular and imposing tarpon. We have skipped certain well-known game fish because our list also includes the factor of marketability and, more specifically, edibility.
With the state of our oceans fraught with overfishing and certain species of fish suffering, we felt our list had to balance the sport of game fishing with other values.
However, we will also concede that current efforts to put an end to non-sustainable fishing efforts have also been significant and, in some cases, successful. The catch and release strategy with the Tarpon is a perfect example.
But, for metrics such as speed, size, stamina, aerial moves, market value, and reputation, we think this list is a good one. We hope you have enjoyed reading through it.
Remember, no list is static. There are hundreds of popular game fish in the sea. So, until next time.
Experience the mystery and majesty of our planet and think about the mighty battle that took place out on the open waters to bring that game fish to your plate.
Featured Image via: Pixabay.com