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    Kingfishes (whitings), Menticirrhus spp.

    Three species of whitings are present in Florida: southern kingfish, Menticirrhus
    americanus; northern kingfish, M. saxatilis; and gulf kingfish, M. littoralis. The southern
    kingfish, followed by gulf kingfish, are the two most common kingfish landed in Florida.
    and juveniles prefer the sand bottoms of ocean beaches and the mouths of large coastal bays
    (Bearden 1963). In a survey of U.S. south Atlantic nearshore waters, Smith and Wenner (1985)
    found that 90% of the southern kingfish that they collected were age 2 or younger. The largest
    fish collected was 16 inches total length (TL); the oldest fish was age 6. Most southern kingfish
    mature at age 1, when males and females reach an average of 5.4 inches–7.9 inches TL (Smith
    and Wenner 1985; Armstrong and Muller 1996). Spawning occurs from April through August.

    Southern kingfish are reported to be voracious bottom feeders that eat a variety of
    organisms. Juvenile kingfish feed on copepods, bivalve siphons, mysids, amphipods,
    polychaetes, and cumaceans (Music and Pafford 1984). Larger fish feed on various crab species,
    isopods, fishes, amphipods, and polychaetes (Bearden1963; McMichael 1981). McMichael and
    Ross (1987) found that northern kingfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico fed on isopods, crabs,
    fishes, polychaetes, amphipods, mysids, and cumaceans. Similarly, gulf kingfish fed on bivalve
    siphons, cumaceans, mysids, copepods, amphipods, and polychaetes (McMichael and Ross
    A total of 2,423,045 pounds of kingfish were landed in Florida during 2005. The
    recreational fishery made sixty-seven percent of the total landings in 2005. Nearly 82% of the
    statewide total landings were made on the Atlantic coast. The commercial landings were greatest
    in Duval County on the Atlantic coast and in Pinellas and Manatee Counties along the gulf coast
    (Fig. 1). Recreational landings were distributed evenly along the Atlantic coast and south of
    Levy County on the gulf coast (Fig. 2). The 2005 total landings of kingfish were 64% higher
    than the average landings in the previous five years (2000-2004) and were 25% higher than the
    1982–2005 historical average landings (Fig. 3). The recreational catch was primarily southern
    kingfish on the Atlantic coast and a mixture of southern and gulf kingfish on the gulf coast. Total
    landings on the Atlantic coast averaged 1.4 million pounds during 1982–1994, one million
    pounds during 1995–2000 (Fig. 3), 1.4 million pounds in 2001, only 0.7 million in 2003, and the
    2005 landings were the highest since 1992. Gulf landings occasionally showed strong peaks: one
    during 1986 and again during 1991. Total gulf landings have been slowly increasing since 1996.
    The standardized commercial catch rates are for a mixture of species but predominantly
    for southern kingfish, which probably comprises most of the commercial landings (Armstrong
    and Muller 1996). Commercial catch rates steadily increased between 1993 and 1997 on the
    Atlantic coast before declining after 2000, since 2003 catch rates have been increasing rapidly
    (Fig. 4). On the gulf coast, commercial catch rates slowly declined between 1992 and 1997,
    fluctuated around 10 pounds per trip from 1998-2004, then increased dramatically in 2005 (Fig
    5). Commercial catch rates for both coasts were the highest in 2005 since 1992 (Figs. 4,5).
    Angler total-catch rate estimates for southern kingfish declined between 1990 and 1999 on the
    Atlantic coast, spiked in 2000, declined through 2004 then spiked again in 2005 (Fig. 6). Gulf
    coast angler total-catch rates were fairly steady from 1994-2004, but almost doubled in 2005
    (Fig. 7). Atlantic coast recreational catch rate estimates for gulf kingfish increased during 1993–
    1999 but dropped in 2000 and have since increased slowly through 2005 (Fig. 8). On the gulf
    coast, angler catch rates for gulf kingfish declined from 1991-1995, increased rapidly through
    2000, dropped in 2001, and have since rebounded through 2005 (Fig. 9).
    Fishery-independent indices for young-of-the-year (YOY) southern kingfish have been
    high on the Atlantic coast from 2001-2005 following an extremely low year in 2000, while on
    the gulf coast indices have varied without trend (Figs. 10, 11). Post-YOY southern kingfish
    abundances on the Atlantic coast were higher from 2001-2005 following low abundances in
    1999 and 2000, while gulf coast abundances varied without trend and were highest in 2000
    (Figs. 12,13). No occurrences of gross external abnormalities were recorded in southern kingfish
    from the Atlantic coast. On the Atlantic coast, incidences of gross external abnormalities among
    southern kingfish were highest in 2001 and 2004, and consisted primarily of parasites (Figs. 14,
    No formal stock assessments for these three species are available at this time.
Download complete report
(including figures)
Status and Trends 2007 Report
Florida’s Inshore and Nearshore Species
by Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
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