Family Sciaenidae, DRUMS
Description: similar to the Southern Kingfish but caudal fin has a blackish tip; side silvery, without dark marks; tip of spinous dorsal fin often dusky; lining of gill cavity silvery; scales on chest noticeably smaller than those on side.
Size: to 46 centimeters (18 inches)
Where found: at water's edge, in surf
Other Names: Channel Mullet, Black Mullet, Sea Mullet, Ground Mullet, King Whiting, Whiting, Southern Whiting, Southern King Croaker, Southern Kingfish
Range & Habitat: This species is found Gulf-wide on sand and sandy-mud bottoms inshore in estuaries and offshore out to depths of about 30 feet.
Identification & Biology:
While many of its local names refer to both this fish and the Gulf kingfish as 'mullets', they are not mullets at all, but elongated members of the drum family. The body of the southern kingfish is somewhat triangular in cross-section and a single rigid barbel is located under the chin. Its background color is silvery gray to grayish-tan, and is heavily overlaid by darker bars.
Southern kingfish are bottom-feeders, preying on shrimp, crabs, worms, small fishes, amphipods, and crustacean larvae. They typically spawn offshore during the summer months, and depend upon tides and currents to carry their larvae into the estuaries they need to thrive and grow. Its small underslung mouth makes it very difficult to hook with artificial lures. Anglers pursuing kingfish do best with small hooks and natural baits.
Size: Can reach 16 inches and 2 pounds, but most average under 1 pound.
Food Value: Excellent, one of the firmest-fleshed fish in the drum family. When filleted, it has a high meat yield.