The Gulf covers most of Florida ’s west coast, from Pensacola in the Panhandle to the start of the Everglades at the tip of the peninsula. This is important to keep in mind as there are different regulations for what’s in season and what you can harvest depending on if you’re in state or federal waters.
For Gag Grouper fishing in the Gulf, it’s important to note what county you’re embarking from. For counties of Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson (in the Panhandle area from Apalachicola to Steinhatchee) there is open season in state waters from April 1 to June 30, and again from September 1 to December 31.
Black, Red, Scamp, Yellow fin and Yellow mouth Grouper all have similar regulations in the Gulf. It’s open season in both state and federal waters for Rock Hind, Coney, Yellow edge and Snowy Groupers.
You can ask your charter captain if the size you have is a keeper or not; or refer to the FCC regulations to make sure you’re staying compliant. Now moving east to the beautiful Atlantic Ocean where there are excellent opportunities for grouper fishing.
Keep in mind, the FCC considers the Everglades and Florida Keys as part of the Atlantic Ocean waters, and all fishing done in these areas must stay within Atlantic-specific regulations. From the Florida Keys to Jacksonville, anglers have hundreds of cities to choose from to launch your grouper expedition.
The real question is, what subspecies of grouper you’ll find at the end of your line. The season runs until December 31, and each angler can collect one or the other each trip within the 3 grouper aggregate.
Reading Time: 7minutesGroupers are some of Florida ’s most iconic fish species. From monster Goliath's to delicious Scamps, these big bottom-dwellers are a favorite on most Floridian fishing trips.
In this article, you can learn all about the different types of Grouper in Florida. The average catch in Florida is around half that length, weighing between 5 and 20 pounds.
Black Grouper live around rocky bottoms and reefs on both sides of the Sunshine State. They spend their summers spawning in much shallower seas, though, as little as 30 feet deep.
Commonly known as “Grey Grouper,” these guys are a staple of reef fishing trips around the Gulf and up the Atlantic. They don’t grow as big as Black Grouper, usually maxing out somewhere around 50 pounds.
However, younger Gags can be found in estuaries and even seagrass beds, so don’t be surprised if you hook one while you’re on the hunt for Redfish and other inshore species. Bigger fish hunt around muddy and rocky coastal waters.
Young Goliath's will head right into estuaries and look for food around oyster bars. Their huge size and fearless curiosity made them an easy target, and they were overfished almost to extinction in the late 20th century.
Luckily, Goliath Grouper are strictly protected these days, and you can only fish for them on a catch-and-release basis. From teaming up with other predators to catch their dinner to reportedly fanning bait out of traps for an easy snack, they’re far brighter than most people give them credit for.
Sadly, this intelligence comes with the same natural curiosity that put Goliath Grouper in hot water. If you come across one, count yourself lucky for the chance to meet it and make sure it swims off unharmed.
Nothing says “reef fishing in Florida like a boastful of big, tasty Red Grouper. These deep-water hunters are the reason people bother to go offshore when there are so many fish in the shallows.
The average Red Grouper weighs somewhere in the 5–10 lb range, and anything over 2 feet long is a rare catch. They live around rocky bottom up to 1,000 feet down, so you may have to travel 20 miles or more to get to them.
According to most people who have caught them, Scamp are the tastiest fish in the family. Your average fish will be well under 2 feet and anything over 5 pounds is a good catch.
You won’t come across them in much less than 100 feet of water, and you can easily find them in three or four times that depth. They also grow much bigger than Scamp, meaning you’re in for a real feast if you catch one.
NOAA has declared Speckled Hind a Species of Concern, mainly because they have so little data on them. If Goliath Grouper are the kings of the shallows, these guys dominate the deep.
Add in the fact that they live several hundred feet down, where all fish taste great, and they become the dream catch of many deep dropping enthusiasts. Their dappled, red body and bright yellow fins provide camouflage around the deep, rocky structure that they hunt around.
Yellow fin’s scientific name, Mycteroperca Vanessa, roughly translates to “Poisonous Grouper.” This is because they tend to have very high levels of ciguatoxin. They’re slightly smaller than Scamp on average, but many anglers say that they taste just as good.
Yellow mouth Grouper are uncommon in the Gulf of Mexico, but you can bag yourself a colorful feast all along Florida ’s Atlantic Coast. FloridaGrouper fishing usually takes place in deeper water, over structure and reefs, but is also highly popular as an inshore species.
Grouper are very fun to catch, can offer a battle on a rod, and are one of the best-tasting fish in the ocean. For example, while they put up an epic battle, Goliath and Nassau Grouper are illegal to harvest at any time.
With epic battles and general year-round availability, FloridaGrouper fishing is without a doubt one of the most popular activities for fishermen in the state. One of the greatest aspects is that you can target these offshore quality fish within the state coastal (shallower inshore waters) with ease.
Our season dates for targeting inshore grouper generally run from June 1st to December 31st. This shallow water targeting is a unique aspect of the Crystal River area.
For shallow water bottom fishing, you would look to focus on holes, springs, and reef formations. What this means is that once they hit your choice of bait, they turn right around for a powerful deep dive back to cover.
Here in Crystal River for instance we utilize 6000-8000 size spinning reels loaded with 60-80lb braided line. These are mounted to heavy action rods with a final leader composed of 80 to 1300lb fluorocarbon.
In this, a strong reaction is necessary to keep this species from making it back to its rocky cover- and possibly snap the line across a sharp edge. Oh my gosh!” Jorgensen exclaims, before cracking up with laughter as the monster fish disappears as suddenly as it had popped to the surface.
Goliath grouper, which can grow to 800 pounds, are considered “off limits” for fishing, according to the Miami Herald. In 2018, Florida wildlife commissioners “refused to lift a nearly two-decade ban on harvesting the fish, citing continued uncertainty about the remaining numbers and bowing to the demands of divers and scientists, who packed a meeting and led an online petition that drew nearly 60,000 signatures,” the Herald reported.
According to the FloridaFish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the massive chunk was reeled in by Jason Boyle on Dec. 29, 2019, in about 600 feet of water with a hook and line. The FCC says the fish is believed to be 50-years-old, which means it’s the oldest sample collected for the agency’s Age & Growth Lab.
The FCC also urged the public in their social post to not target Warsaw grouper, since their population in the Gulf is not known. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida. Photo courtesy Oaths large, solitary fish will defend its territory when threatened, with aggressive body language and a rumbling sound it makes with its swim bladder.
Its large, thick, elongated body can grow to over 8 feet long (and up to 800 pounds), from rounded snout and small eyes, to short, fan-like tail fin. Usually it is a mottled yellow-brown to gray with darker bard and spots, ideal for blending in to their rocky coral and muddy inshore habitat.
Other names are Baden (Portuguese), campus (Portuguese), hernia gig ante (Italian), China (Spanish), group (Portuguese), gran morgue (Iranian), guava (Spanish), data (Japanese), harbor (Norwegian), havsabborre (Swedish), Tamara Vienna (Polish), Judaism (Norwegian), hero guava (Spanish), hero (French), orphan (Turkish), raitameriahven (Finnish), Sophos (Greek), scarring (Italian), tip (Palikir), Atari (Icelandic), and zackenbarsch (German). A 450 pound Goliath grouper caught by Buddy Junks at the Big Indian Rocks Fishing Pier, Florida (1976).
Photo courtesy Kenneth Krzysztof historical importance to commercial fisheries, the Goliath grouper has also long been prized by recreational and sport fishers. Spear fishers find this fish easy to approach; hence in locations accessible to divers their numbers have declined.
The large size, slow growth, low reproductive rate, and spawning behavior have made the Goliath grouper especially susceptible to overfishing. The Goliath grouper is totally protected from harvest and is recognized as a “Critically Endangered” species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Furthermore, the IUCN concludes that the species has been “observed, estimated, inferred or suspected” of a reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or three generations. Historical exploitation of Goliath grouper annual spawning aggregation sites greatly reduced the number of reproductive adults.
It is also found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from Senegal to Congo although rare in the Canary Islands. Occurring in shallow, inshore waters to depths of 150 feet (46 m), the Goliath grouper prefers areas of rock, coral, and mud bottoms.
It is territorial near areas of refuge such as caves, wrecks, and ledges, displaying an open mouth and quivering body to intruders. Additional warning may be delivered in the form of the Goliath grouper ’s ability to produce a distinctly audible rumbling sound generated by the muscular contraction of the swim bladder.
Photo courtesy NOAA Distinctive Features Goliath grouper are the largest members of the sea bass family in the Atlantic Ocean. Coloration This fish is generally brownish yellow, gray, or olive with small dark spots on head, body, and fins.
The presence of a number of short weakly developed canine teeth is useful in distinguishing this species from other North Atlantic groupers. However, this specimen was sampled from a population of individuals depressed by fishing pressure and it is projected that Goliath grouper may live much longer, perhaps as much as 50 years.
Photo © Don Maria Food Habits Goliath grouper feed largely on crustaceans (in particular spiny lobsters, shrimps and crabs), fishes (including stingrays and parrot fishes), octopus, and young sea turtles. However, the significance of this finding is of diminished value when one considers that transitional individuals are known to be rare amongst confirmed species of protogynous hermaphrodites, such as the red grouper (Epimetheus Mario) and gag (Mycteroperca microbes).
Photo courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service In support of the notion that the species is a protogynous hermaphrodite is the fact that the largest Goliath groupers are invariably male. Spawning occurs during the summer months of July, August, and September throughout the Goliath grouper ’s range and is strongly influenced by the lunar cycle. Ship wrecks, rock ledges, and isolated patch reefs are preferred spawning habitat.
In the 1980s these aggregations reached a low of less than 10 individuals per site as fishing pressure greatly impacted this species. Since receiving legislative protection the spawning aggregations of Goliath grouper have risen to 20-40 individuals per location.
These pelagic larvae transform into benthic juveniles at lengths of one inch (2.5 cm), around 25 or 26 days after hatching. In an 1884 work, “The fishes of the Florida Keys,” David Starr Jordan proposed the inclusion of the Goliath grouper in Epimetheus (Bloch 1793) and this combination remains in use today.
Of incidental note is the fact that various authors have incorrectly spelled the specific epithet “Tamara” as “tiara.” The genus name comes from the Greek epinephelos translated as cloudy. A number of authors treat the name Promiscuous Tamara as valid taxonomy for the Goliath grouper.