New identification guide out for saltwater anglers

sargassumfishWhat the heck did I catch?

If an angler has fished saltwater for long, chances are he has asked this question when he’s hooked or pulled up something in his cast net he didn’t recognize. With the extreme diversity of oceanic life in Texas waters, even experienced saltwater anglers will probably run across a fish they can’t identify.

TPWD Coastal Fisheries Biologist Brenda Bowling saw the need for an identification system.

“Some of the creatures are difficult to distinguish if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but there are certain characteristics they will have,” Bowling said. “I started putting it together by taking organisms we catch in our sampling. It went from not only fish, but also invertebrates and plant species.”

Once Bowling had a large database of information and pictures, she decided to publish it online. She has currently compiled a list of 199 fish species, in addition to 227 invertebrates, plants and others.

“I saw a website that I really liked the way they put it together, where they had a bunch of photos and close-ups of fish with descriptions,” she said. “I decided to put it out on the web so that our guys, game wardens, and the public could access it.

“The whole purpose is the identification.”

Bowling said she plans to constantly update the resource, because though she has most of the baitfish covered, she is lacking some offshore species.

In addition to the pictures and descriptions of how to identify each fish, there is also habitat information, expected size, and distinguishing characteristics.

The guide can be found at, and can be pulled up on an angler’s smart phone.