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“Adult gag grouper live in nearshore waters from coastal North Carolina south to Brazil and as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller gag are a lot of lighter in coloring, and have numerous dark brown, or charcoal, kiss-like marks along their sides.
“Young gag grouper will live in oyster reefs, estuaries and seagrass beds from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The coloration of red grouper helps to distinguish this species from gag with its head and body being dark reddish brown, shading pink or reddish or even pale pink along the lower part of its body,” Nash said.
“In North Carolina, gag will typically spawn in February and have clear larvae, which then make their way into estuaries. As water temperatures start to go down in the fall, juvenile gag will migrate from estuaries to offshore hard bottom habitat and larger members of their species,” said Seward.
Seward noted that all grouper are considered protogynous intersex, “that is they start their lives as females, and a part of the population will morph, or make the change, to males as they get older. Females start to reach sexual maturity when they are about 24 inches in total length and about 3 years old.
They are voracious predators, and will feed on whatever they can capture including scad, snapper, grunt, sardines, crabs, porgies, shrimp and squid, said Seward. Red grouper sitting on sand habitat 45 degrees to camera full body view mouth open.
In addition to their color, red grouper can be distinguished from gag by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. “The red grouper is also a protogynous intersex and females are sexually mature by the time they reach 4 years old,” Seward said.
Females typically will let go an average of 1.5 million pelagic eggs that stay at the surface for between 30-40 days before finally settling down to the bottom. “Red grouper may live to be as old as 25 years of age, with older specimens reaching a size of 32.5 inches and up to 25 pounds.
They will feed on lobster, shrimp, octopus, crabs and fish that are found close to their preferred reef habitat,” Seward said. Bottom fishing is the best way to catch gag grouper, using live bait, including squid and cigar minnows.
Use a depth finder to find deep-water rock ledges, artificial reefs and shipwrecks, a gag grouper ’s favorite hiding place. An annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure runs Jan. 1-April 30 in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, except red grouper, for which the season remains closed until June 1.
Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for the snapper grouper species. “This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed and sold before the annual catch limit is reached and held in cold storage by a dealer,” said North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Executive Assistant to Councils Steve Poland, who is also a representative with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
A stock assessment update, Sedan 53, for red grouper was completed in February 2017 using data through 2015. Therefore, on Sept. 27, 2017, NFS sent a letter to the council stating that the South Atlantic red grouper stock was not making adequate progress toward rebuilding.
“For red grouper, this final rule extends the closure season formerly from January to April, to January through May of each year for the next ten years for the commercial and recreational portions off North and South Carolina, and establishes a commercial trip limit,” said Poland. This final rule establishes a commercial trip limit for red grouper harvested in the South Atlantic EEA of 200 pounds, gutted weight.
The trip limit is expected to help rebuild the red grouper stock by discouraging directed commercial fishing for the species, although it is not likely to substantially reduce the current level of commercial harvest of red grouper, according to the National Register. “The council selected a commercial trip limit that in combination with extending the spawning season cloture for red grouper off North Carolina and South Carolina would help keep down harvest numbers to help rebuild the stock,” Poland said.
You can help pay some cost by sponsoring a day on CRO for as little as $100 or by donating any amount you're comfortable with. Along all the coasts of Florida and the Bahamas, from inshore estuaries out to the deepest waters offshore Groupers are found.
They are the most widely available of the game fish and also offer a great number of differing varieties. The species have now started to make a comeback and have been renamed Goliath Grouper) are the most widely distributed.
Most of the other species, Nassau, Red Hind, Black, Yellow fin and Scamp live in and around the coral reefs of the extreme south of Florida. Groupers live close to the bottom and are always associated with some type of submerged structure i.e. reef or wreck.
Adults inhabit rocky bottoms, reefs and drop-off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young occur inshore in waters around seagrass beds, mangrove forests and hard-bottom communities. Adults inhabit rocky bottoms, reefs and drop-off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young occur inshore in waters around seagrass beds, mangrove forests and hard-bottom communities. Grouper are born as females but can later become male.
Grouper spawn between January and May with some of the more tropical species spawning year-round. Grouper fishing from a boat typically involves baits fished near the bottom, with heavy tackle and heavier to bring grouper to the surface. They feed on squid, crustaceans, and fish. The Florida record is 42lbs 4ozs caught near St. Augustine Inlet.
Kevin Kelly displays a Goliath Grouper killed unfortunately by RED TIDE in 2005. Jewish now known as the Goliath Grouper (Epimetheus Tamara) can attain weight up to 800lbs and is more common in the south of Florida than the north.
Goliath Troopers are found nearshore often around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges. Goliath Grouper spawn over summer months and have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.
Nassau grouper form large spawning aggregations, making this species highly vulnerable to over harvest. Red Hind Grouper (Epimetheus Gustavus) common weight 1-2lbs.
The species is found in tropical and subtropical waters as deep as 400 feet, from North Carolina to Brazil, including the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Spawning occurs from March to July, and females release an average of 90 thousand to 3 million pelagic eggs.
The species may live up to 17 years or longer, and reach a length of 23 inches and a weight of 10 pounds. Red hind feed on small fishes, crabs, shrimps and squid.
Red hind will hide in holes and crevices and capture their prey by ambushWorld record 6lbs 1oz. Adults are associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop off walls in water over 60 feet deep.
Young black grouper may occur inshore in shallow water. Black grouper spawn between May and August, and they are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that young predominantly female who transform into males as they grow larger.
Larger individuals of this species are generally found in greater depths, and they feed on fish and squid. Undergoes sex reversal from female to male in latter part of life; specific name translates to “venomous,” alluding to the fact that this fish, perhaps more frequently than other groupers, is associated with ciguatera poisoning; feeds on fish and squid. Florida record 34lbs 6oz caught near Key Largo.
Yellow mouth Grouper (Mycteroperca interstitial is) has a color tan or brown with darker spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines; distinct yellow wash behind the jaws; yellow around the eyes; outer edges of fins yellowish. Found OFFSHORE over reefs and rocks; not as common as scamp in the Gulf; range limited to southern Florida.
Undergoes sex reversal, young individuals female, older individuals becoming male; young fish are bi-colored, dark above white below; feeds on small fish and crustaceans. Warsaw Grouper (Epimetheus nitrites) is uniformly dark brown, with no distinct markings; dorsal fin with 10 spines; second spine very long (much longer than third); caudal fin squared-off; rear nostril larger than front nostril; young have yellow caudal fin with dark saddle on caudal peduncle; some whitish spots on body.
On May 24th 2014, Cullen Greer reeled in a six-and-a-half-foot-long, 297-pound Warsaw grouper while fishing in Venice, Louisiana. He was 35 miles from the end of the Mississippi Delta when he caught the giant fish.
The most shocking part of this story may be that it won't go down as the largest fish ever caught in the state. If the catch does get verified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, it would become the fifth-largest ever caught in the state.
It could also go down in the state record books as the third-largest Warsaw caught by a hand crank, according to Greer. Leaders need be substantial as these fish are usually on the large size and dive straight back into the whole in which they live.
As the State Regulations are in constant flux we advise anglers to refer to www.MyFWC.com/fishing for the latest information.