There are six species of tilefish found around the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico in the United States. However, two of these sought-after species can be found off the coast of Florida. Thus, there is an abundance of the blueline or gray tilefish, but its golden variation is the favorite among this species. Known as the “clown of the sea” for its colorful appearance, the golden tilefish is a little-known gem for its mild and succulent meat. Here’s everything you need to know about catching one of Florida’s Golden Tilefish.


How To Identify A Golden Tilefish?

Nevertheless, with 600 species of fish available to catch off the coast of Florida, identifying them can get confusing. To distinguish a tilefish, look for iridescent blue-green scales on the back. With further yellow or golden spots stippled throughout the body, with a white belly. The head will be a rosy pink with sky-blue eyes. When it comes to size, these fish are larger, growing up to 43 inches, and can live up to 50 years old.


What Are The Catch Limits For Golden Tilefish?

Of the tilefish species found in Florida, both the gray and golden variations have restrictions. Alas, according to Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) restrictions on golden tilefish will vary based on location. The following is a breakdown based on Florida’s coast.

Gulf State

There is no minimum size limit. However, it is important to note that there is a catch limit. Whichever of the following is greater, an angler can take either; two golden tilefish or 100 lbs.


Atlantic State

There is no minimum size limit. But, there is an allotment of one per person or three under the three-grouper aggregate.


Federal-Gulf or Atlantic

There is no minimum size limit. In the Gulf, however, there is a limit of 20 reef fish under the reef fish aggregate. Along the Atlantic, there is a catch limit of one per person or three under the grouper/tilefish aggregate.


What Are The Rules For Catching A Golden Tilefish?

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Anglers must know that golden tilefish can only be taken utilizing the Reef Gear Requirements. Furthermore, these rules are subject to both commercial and recreational anglers to follow. For rules on reef fish managed in federal waters, refer to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for the full list. If you intend to target reef fish besides tilefish, there are several species.

These include:

  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Amberjack
  • Gray triggerfish
  • Red porgy
  • Sea bass
  • Hogfish


Moreover, there are some rules about gear and what items can be used where. Here’s a breakdown based on location.


Required Gear for Gulf State Waters

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To fish in this region, the following gear is mandatory. The use of natural bait on a non-stainless-steel non-offset circle hook. There must be a de-hooking device readily available.


Federal Water-Gulf Waters


To fish in this region, the following gear is mandatory. The use of natural bait on a non-stainless-steel non-offset circle hook. There must be a de-hooking device readily available. A newly implemented regulation is the requirement of a descending device or rigged venting tool immediately ready for use.


Required Gear for the Atlantic State Waters

Albeit, there are many regulations for the Atlantic side of Florida regarding reef fish.  Natural bait must be used with line and hook bait. If fishing above the 28° north latitude, then anglers must use a non-stainless steel non-offset circle hook. Alternatively, if fishing below the 28° north latitude, then a non-stainless steel hook should be used. But, regardless of location, a de-hooking device must be available.


Federal Water-Atlantic Waters

When fishing in federal Atlantic waters, everything that applies to the Atlantic state waters above applies to federal water. There is, however, the addition of a descending device that must be readily available on board.


How to Catch Golden Tilefish?

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Now that all the legal aspects of catching golden tilefish are out of the way, here’s how to nab one for yourself. What may be unknown about tilefish is the fact that they are bottom dwellers and thrive in waters around 250 to 1,500 feet. But, in Florida, they are typically found between 600 and 800 feet and can be reached while deep-sea fishing. Since golden tilefish are bottom feeders, they feed during the day on numerous species. These include crustaceans, clams, snails, worms, anemones, and sea cucumbers. Although, anglers have had success with squid on a braided line while using an electric reel.


More Gold Than A Florida Sunset

Golden tilefish is among one of the most colorful species found in Florida. It is typically targeted more commercially than by charter or fishing party boats because the meat isn’t as desirable as grouper or snapper. This is a shame considering it’s largely known for its mild and even sweet-tasting meat, similar to lobster or crab. If you haven’t considered targeting one of these colorful fish, you should put it on your list of target species. Especially now that you know everything about landing Florida’s golden tilefish.