TILEFISH (Lophlatilus chamaeleonticeps) OTHER NAMES: Blue Tilefish, Common Tilefish
RANGE: All Florida coasts, but this fish varies greatly in abundance, evidently because of cycles that may be tied to vagaries of ocean currents. Tilefish also occur off the Bahamas, but are seldom caught there, due to lack of fishing effort.
HABITAT: Likes soft bottom with scattered rocks or growth. Most Florida fish are taken from depths of 400 feet or more.
DESCRIPTION: Color is gray or bluish, with numerous yellow dots. Head is blunt. A fleshy protuberance forward of the dorsal fin, and entirely separate from it, is a sure identifier. A similar species, the Goldface Tilefish, Caulolatilus Chrysops, has no fleshy protuberance but has a gold band on its head from eye to mouth.
SIZE: Common at 5-10 pounds; sometimes exceeds 20
FOOD VALUE: Good. During periods of abundance, the Tilefish is popular commercially, but rated as less desirable for the table than deepwater Snappers and Groupers.
GAME QUALITIES: Largely irrelevant because Tilefish are nearly always caught on very heavy tackle or commercial electric rigs.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Charterboat anglers sometimes fish for Tilefish with wire lines and powered reels. It’s exhausting work to crank them up with heavy manual tackle. Chunks of cut fish make good bait.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting.