Red grouper can be found as far north as Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil, (including) the eastern Gulf of Mexico,” said Barry Nash, seafood technology and marketing specialist with North Carolina Sea Grant. 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. “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.
Red grouper is found from Brazil north to North Carolina waters, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. “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. 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. So, NFS took steps in 2018 to immediately end overfishing of red grouper by reducing the total commercial and recreational annual catch limits, based on the acceptable biological catch recommendation from the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee.
“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.
Grouper is the common name for a large carnivorous member of the family Serranidae (sea bass family), abundant in tropical and subtropical seas and highly valued as food fish. There are several genera, notably Epimetheus and Mycteroperca, including some 100 species, most of which are characterized by bright markings that change in color and pattern to match the background.
Now grouped together and called the Goliath grouper weights have been recorded to 800 lbs. The red grouper and the black grouper, common N to the Carolina's, form the bulk of the commercial catch; both species weigh up to 50 lb (22.5 kg). Groupers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Performed, family Serranidae.
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Gag grouper (Mycteroperca microbes) are widely distributed in the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. Adults occur from North Carolina to Brazil on hard bottom habitats at depths from 60 to 500 feet.
Juvenile gag are estuaries dependent and inhabit estuaries from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, often residing in seagrass beds and oyster reefs. As the water temperature declines in the fall, juveniles migrate from estuaries to offshore hard bottom habitats.
Gag are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning they begin life as females and a portion transition to males at older ages. This species is often found in groups around rocky ledges and other hard bottom habitats such as artificial reefs and shipwrecks on the outer continental shelf.
Gag are highly predatory, preying on several finish species, as well as crabs, shrimp, and squid. Commercially, gag are harvested using conventional hook and line gear, electric and hydraulic reels, as well as spears (mostly south of Cape Hatteras).
The recreational fishery has not met its annual catch limit since 2010 and has rarely exceeded 50 percent of the quota. Amendment 4 (1992) established a 20-inch total length minimum size; Amendment 9 (1999) increased the minimum size to 24 inches total length, created a two fish recreational bag limit and a March through April no sale provision.
However, the National Marine Fisheries Service removed gag from the overfishing list in December 2014. Also, the projected fishing mortality rate in 2013 (based on landings for that year which were below the quota) was below the overfishing threshold.
In addition, there had been a steady and consistent decline in the fishing mortality rate for the past five to six years of the assessment. Research priorities at the state level include developing adult and juvenile indices of abundance, especially fishery-independent indices of abundance; continuing to collect life history data, including data on age, growth, reproduction, and mortality; continuing discard sampling and developing methods to reduce discard mortality, expand collection of information on depth, location, age and size distribution of discarded fish; researching alternative stock-recruitment relationships to determine the most appropriate sustainability benchmarks; and researching methods for estimating historic landings in both recreational and commercial fisheries.
Current federal research needs to include developing a juvenile abundance index; assessing release mortality values; conducting a population assessment; expanding age and growth studies; and determining migration patterns. Additional research recommendations are updated by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council as needed.
Gag grouper have long, compressed bodies and 11 to 14 rays in the anal fins. Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides.
The scamp, M. final, and black grouper, M. Monaco, closely resemble the gag and often occur in the same habitat. Gag have deeply notched properties, distinguishing them from black grouper.
Spawning takes place in February off the coast of the Carolina's and in January through March in the Gulf of Mexico. Gag may live for 26 years and grow to be 58 inches in length and weigh up to 81 pounds.
They are predators of round scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid. The caudal (tail) and anal fins of the gag have white margins, while the black grouper does not.
The following regulations apply to Gag Grouper in federal waters (3-200 nautical miles) off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida. Open Season: May 1 – December 31 Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the recreational Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met.
At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.
Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing. The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper- grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.
The following regulations apply to Gag Grouper in federal waters (3-200 nautical miles) off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida. Open Season: May 1 – December 31 Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the commercial Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met.
Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species. At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage.
Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet. Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing.
The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper- grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude. This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed, and sold prior to the annual catch limit being reached and held in cold storage by a dealer.