First off, we came up with a list of 100 saltwater game fish, including all the most popular and sought species offshore, nearshore and inshore. We included many species regionally important, most found around North America but others found only in more distant waters. Will you see all possible fish that anglers might catch on the list? Nope. But we believe we nailed most of the main ones.
Second, we devised a system for quantifying each species’ qualities as a game fish. For each species on the list, the qualities rated were as follows:
• Speed (0-15 points)
• Stamina (0-15 points)
• Dynamics (0-20 points)
• Aerial Acrobatics (0-20 points)
• Sight-Casting (0-15 points)
• Size (0-10 points)
• Status (0-5 points)
• Bonus for Edibility (0-10 points)
The explanation for these is as follows:
• Speed, stamina and aerial acrobatics are self-explanatory.
• Dynamics is essentially how unpredictable a species’ typically fights.
• Sight-casting indicates to what extent a species can generally be sight-cast to.
Size is included because, let’s face it, for most anglers, a thousand-pound fish is inherently more impressive than a 10-pound fish.
Status gives a bit of credit to species that confer bragging rights just because an angler was able to catch one.
Points for edibility have nothing to do with how a game fish fights, hence it’s a bonus (beyond the 100 percent total maximum possible from all other qualities). It’s intended just to level the playing field a little bit for smaller bottomfishes and the like: Their fighting qualities might be minimal, yet fishing for them is quite popular. This can add a few points to low scores to help better reflect actual popularity and the interest sport fishermen have in fishing for those species.
Third, we came up with a list of 61 experts, who are serious and experienced players in the sport of fishing from around the United States and the world, to rate these species. Many on that list are very well known, some regionally, and some nationally/internationally. Their relationship to the sport varies greatly, and the list includes some top captains and crew, some of the biggest players in the sport-fishing industry, some leading world-record holders and on and on. They were instructed to vote on the first five qualities (as listed above) doing their best to compare on a pound-for-pound basis (i.e., imagine if a bonefish and a marlin were the same size). And they were asked to rate only those species they’d actually fished for and caught enough to ensure real familiarity.
We averaged scores for each species by the number of ratings (the number of experts who rated it), and then sorted the averages from high to low to derive the order of these 100 game fish.
For each of the top 50, we offer a page with a great photo, distribution map, description with noteworthy info (including all-tackle world record). We indicated the names of experts who considered that species their absolute favorite as well as the species’ greatest attribute from the list of qualities.
Could it be done differently? As noted, there are many ways to skin a cat. Will everyone agree with the ratings? Hardly. But we think everyone will have fun with this unique list, and that’s the main thing.
Also, whether you agree with the ratings or not, we’d love to get your vote. When you reach the page with the No. 1 game fish in the world, according to our 61 experts, you’ll have a chance to vote for the species you consider the top game fish — and qualify for a drawing for a free Lowrance Link-2 handheld VHF! We’ll keep a tally of results and see how public voting compares with that of the experts in Sport Fishing’s Top 100 Game Fish.
Click here to go back to our Top 100 Game Fish list.