10 Top Saltwater Fish Species to Target and How to Catch Them

Saltwater fishing offers anglers the opportunity to battle monster fish that make freshwater species look tiny. This article covers the top 10 glamor saltwater fish worldwide and tips for catching each species.

Key Takeaways:

  • This article covers tips and techniques for catching the most popular monster saltwater fish like tuna, sailfish, and tarpon.
  • Matching the right tackle and baits to each species is key to offshore fishing success.
  • Learning to locate hot spots offshore takes experience trolling and analyzing conditions.
  • Saltwater fish put up extreme battles on rods and reels – being prepared is critical.

Mahi Mahi

Also called dolphinfish or dorado, mahi mahi put up an acrobatic fight on light saltwater tackle. Their habitat ranges from nearshore waters to offshore around structure and debris.

How to Catch Mahi Mahi

  • Troll baits like ballyhoo, squid, or plugs around floating structure
  • Look for debris lines, sargassum, and weed lines
  • Use 30-50 lb tackle to battle their speed and endurance
  • Landing them quickly helps keep their brilliant colors

Bluefin Tuna

Bluefin tuna are the largest tuna species and a top big game fish. Populations roam temperate and tropical oceans worldwide. Their torpedo-shaped bodies and crescent tails generate immense power.

Tuna Fishing Methods

  • Locate tuna with sonar and spotting leaping schools
  • Drift or slow troll with live baits to get bit
  • Cast topwater popping plugs, jigs, and soft plastic baits
  • Use stout 50-80 lb saltwater rods and reels
  • Fight tuna stand-up style in a fighting belt harness


Known for their iconic dorsal fins, sailfish use their sails to herd baitfish together before attacking them. They reach speeds over 60 mph making them one of the fastest saltwater fish.

Techniques for Catching Sailfish

  • Slow troll or drift live baits behind fishing boats
  • Look for areas of hot blue water temperature
  • Bring sailfish quickly to the boat to avoid losing them
  • Use circle hooks for ethical catch and release
  • Leave the sail extended for quick revival photos


Marlin comprise a family of apex predator billfish including blue, black, striped, and white marlin. Their spear-like bills allow them to stun and cut through baitfish schools.

How to Target Marlin

  • Troll offshore around temperature breaks and structure
  • Rig dead or live baitfish on heavy tackle and leader
  • Spot marlin tailing and feeding behind the boat
  • Use fighting belt harnesses to battle these marine brutes
  • Revive exhausted fish before release using the boat or tag lines


Snapper encompass a large family of bottom fish with over 100 species. They offer exciting light tackle action and excellent table fare. Reds, mangroves, and muttons are popular targets.

Catching Snapper

  • Bottom fish natural spots like reefs, wrecks, and ledges
  • Use live or cut baitfish to entice big snapper
    -Fish in depths from 30 to over 300 feet
  • Light spin tackle provides fun battles on smaller snapper
  • Slowly work jigs along structure for bites


Grouper lurk around heavy offshore cover waiting to inhale prey. Gag, goliath, and Nassau groupers grow to massive sizes with incredible strength.

Grouper Fishing Strategies

  • Get grouper bites by bottom fishing or jigging
  • Use strong conventional or spinning reels with 50+ lb braid
  • Send down live baits or whole fish on three-way rigs
  • Set the hook fast before grouper retreat to cover
  • Use heavy leader to withstand the reef

King Mackerel

King mackerel aggressively strike fast moving baits. Their speed, long runs, and sharp teeth make them a challenging opponent on tackle.

How to Target Kingfish

  • Troll spoons, plugs, and driggs at 5-9 knots
  • Look for kings prowling nearshore reefs and wrecks
  • Wire leader prevents getting bitten off
  • Approach schools rapidly and make repeated passes through them


Wahoo are known as blazingly fast ambush predators of the open sea. They strike lures and baits meant for other gamefish.

Techniques for Catching Wahoo

  • Rig dead baits like ballyhoo on planers or wire
  • Troll plugs and spoons at high speeds to trigger strikes
  • Cover a lot of offshore water until finding them
  • Use stiff offshore rods and 50 lb+ line for their speed


Barracuda use their razor teeth to immobilize prey by biting through them. They aggressively take artificials which makes them a popular sport fish.

How to Catch Barracuda

  • Find barracuda cruising shallow flats or guarding structure
  • Twitch jerkbaits and retrieve bucktails to get vicious strikes
  • Use tough fluorocarbon leader to prevent getting bitten off
  • Unhook barracuda using long nose pliers


Tarpon, also called silver kings, are one of the ultimate saltwater sport fish. Their leaps and drag-peeling runs make tarpon a catch of a lifetime.

Tips for Catching Tarpon

  • Sight cast live crabs, mullet, or baitfish to rolling tarpon
  • Time casts accurately as their heads roll out of the water
  • Use strong rods and drag systems for long battles
  • Keep heavy pressure to turn their heads during leaps
  • Revive exhausted tarpon at the boat before release


The top 10 saltwater game fish covered in this article offer the thrill of battling powerful ocean predators. Each species requires the right tackle, techniques and conditions for success. With knowledge of their habits and some experience, any angler can cross these brutes off their bucket list.

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