Note: Gag grouper need to be 22” to keep and the recreational harvest season for them in most Gulf state waters (within nine miles from shore) is July 1 through Dec. 3. They are similar in appearance to the Gag, and have a gently rounded head with a slightly concave or flat caudal (tail) fin.
Note: Black grouper need to be 22” to keep and are open year-round in the Gulf of Mexico. Goliath grouper are marked on their sides, from head to tail, with a series of irregular dark brown vertical bars against a light brown or gray background.
Another quick way to identify them from the other grouper is by their rounded pectoral and caudal (tail) fins. Goliath grouper are prohibited to harvest, and keeping one can land you heavy fines and penalties.
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.
One of the largest species of Grouper in the Atlantic, Backgrounder are loved by commercial crews and recreational anglers alike. The average catch in Florida is around half that length, weighing between 5 and 20 pounds.
Backgrounder 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.
Juveniles stick to these inshore spots until they’re big enough to fend for themselves. 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 Backgrounder, 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, GoliathGrouper are strictly protected these days, and you can only fish for them on a catch-and-release basis.
Nassau Grouper aren’t the biggest fish on this list. 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 GoliathGrouper 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.
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. 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.
The change in water pressure is enough to kill them, especially when they fight and struggle on their way up. 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. Its range includes the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Keys in the United States, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and most of the Brazilian coast.
Scientists from our Southeast Fisheries Science Center are working to understand the changes that have occurred in coral reef ecosystems following the loss of top predators, such as groupers. The once common Nassau grouper (Epimetheus stratus) and goliathgrouper (E. Tamara) have been so depleted that they are under complete protection from the South Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean.
From 1997-2005, our researchers collaborated with Florida State University's Institute for Fishery Resource Ecology (Dr. Chris Koenig and Dr. Felicia Coleman) to monitor the status and recovery of goliathgrouper. This goliathgrouper research program investigated juvenile and adult Jewish abundance, distribution and migration patterns; their age and growth; and their habitat utilization.
With the help of Don Maria we have tagged over 1,000 adult Jewish and have observed aggregations of goliathgrouper in both the Gulf of Mexico and more recently, the South Atlantic. Posters created by the Center of Marine Conservation help disseminate information about our project and its requirements, highlighting our tagging study and the morphology of goliathgrouper.
Given that these groupers were afforded protected status, researchers worked to utilize and develop novel non-lethal techniques to procure and analyze biological samples for life history information. These casualties, resulting from red tide, gave our biologists a unique opportunity to collect a multitude of biological samples, without having to sacrifice healthy animals.
From these decomposing carcasses, biologists were able to record length for use in an age/length relationship, and were able to extract monoliths and remove dorsal spines and rays for comparison of hard parts in age and growth analysis. Tissue samples were also removed and sent to the Florida Marine Research Institute, so they could evaluate the level of red tide toxin.
The sampling trip gave these biologists an opportunity to educate the curious beach goers about red tide and goliathgrouper (a few of which had been misidentified as baby manatees). Attempts to evaluate the data needed to assess the status of these depleted stocks and develop rebuilding plans present unique challenges.
In 2010, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries convened a benchmark goliathgrouper assessment for the continental U.S. population. This project would not have been possible without ongoing collaboration with researchers from Florida State University, Everglades National Park, and the recreational fishing and SCUBA diving communities.
You’ve got our popular Gulf Grouper Sandwich (a Cortez classic! ), the delicious Bronzed Gulf Grouper entrée with braised greens, potato hash and Tabasco hollandaise, some fresh catches and more.
We want to educate you, our valued guests, on why we choose to put black grouper, as opposed to other grouper, on our menu. We feel it’s important for you to know more about it and understand why it’s definitely worth the fair market price.
Available year-round with peak catches in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico occurring during the summer and fall, black grouper meat cooks up very firm with big flakes and holds its moisture better than many other fish. Well, the black grouper we catch is a cold water grouper that is caught at least 100 miles offshore.
Many restaurants use a red grouper, which is a shallow warm water fish. To ensure the freshness and quality of the black grouper we serve, we bring them in whole, so we can inspect the gills, eyes and other areas of the fish.
Scorpion fish are bottom-dwelling fish that have also been called rock fish or stone fish because of their tendency to live among rocks near the seafloor. Members of this fish family are commonly found in the Indian and South Pacific Oceans where water temperatures are temperate and coral reefs are plentiful.
Coral reefs provide the perfect space for a scorpion fish to hide and hunt for prey and also avoid any potential predators brave enough to take a bite. Scorpion fish are covered in feathery fins or skin flaps that help with camouflage against surrounding coral.
Some scorpion fish are dull–mottled brown or yellow– while other species are bright red or orange, making them virtually invisible when hidden among either rocks or reefs. Their diet consists of small fish, crustaceans and snails that also live in coral reefs.
A scorpion fish’s mouth is wide, which allows the fish to quickly suck and swallow prey whole in one bite. Predators of scorpion fish remain few, but sharks, rays and large snappers have been known to hunt the fish.