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For Red Grouper Gag

author
Bob Roberts
• Monday, 07 December, 2020
• 21 min read

Gag and red grouper are the most widely distributed of the Florida groupers. Goliath and Nassau grouper are protected from harvest in Florida waters.

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Contents

1 At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, silver trout, sleepyhead, bonnet head sharks and a few mangrove snapper were caught over the weekend. Sleepyhead are also biting around the pilings, reports Big Pier 60 Bait & Tackle (727-462-6466).

2 At Madeira Beach, the nearshore dogfish bite is very good in water 30- to 80-feet deep. Black fin tuna numbers are increasing past 110 feet for the pelagic anglers, reports Capt.

4 At Fort De Soto Park, sleepyhead are thick at the marina and the bridge. Whiting, silver trout and some pompano are biting in Ounces Pass, reports Capt.

Live bait has been more productive than trolling, but both are producing keeper gags. Free lined pinkish over shallow structure and the reefs have been producing fish in the 25- to 30-inch range, reports Capt.

The gag grouper bite remains strong around the rock piles and ledges in the 14 to 25-foot range and also deeper along the shipping channel. Some docks are holding redfish along with the occasional flounder, reports Crawford.

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The pompano bite has been very good around Terra Can and Anna Maria Sound, reports Hunter. 7 At St. Petersburg, gag grouper are biting along the shipping channel from Port Manatee to the Skyway and on the artificial reefs in the bay.

Pinellas Point is good for trout on the deeper grass flats and cuts. Weldon Island is still holding some shook and good numbers of redfish, trout and sleepyhead, reports Mastery’s Tackle (727-896-8889).

8 In the north end of Tampa Bay, sleepyhead have moved in thick on most structure, the reefs and around the bridges. A few redfish are biting around the Andy and Weldon Island area, but there’s better numbers in the upper bay.

Some cobias is biting around the markers and areas with warm water runoff, reports Andy Bait & Tackle (813-839-5551). Fresh dead or live shrimp are the best bait and if the grass porgies starting biting, it's time to move to a new spot, reports Capt.

• At Fort Pierce, the offshore bottom bite at 80 feet is steady for lane snapper with a few buttons and mangroves mixed in. Spanish mackerel are biting in 30 feet of water to the north around the Very Cove.

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(Source: chasintail.com)

Sleepyhead, black drum and sand perch are active inside the inlet and around the bridges, reports Clint Walker at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637). “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. “Adult gag grouper, live over on top of low- and high-profile hard bottom such as reefs or shipwrecks in waters between 60-250 feet deep,” said McLean Seward, fisheries biologist with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.

“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.

grouper gags hull
(Source: www.thehulltruth.com)

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. Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for the snapper grouper species.

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“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. Charter and head boat and commercial snapper grouper vessels must have National Marine Fisheries Service-approved sea turtle release gear and adhere to small tooth saw fish release protocol, Poland added.

While populations of gag grouper have remained healthy, a 10-year effort to rebuild the red grouper stock has failed, leading to new, stricter rules and regulations taking effect this year. 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. 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.

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The Regrouped Story Groupers belong to one of the largest and most widely distributed families of fish, the sea basses. Red grouper (Epimetheus Mario) is the most frequently seen grouper in the marketplace and is valued for its availability, flavor and size.

Because of limited commercial supplies of the true black grouper (Mycteroperca SPP. ), it has largely been replaced by the gag (M. Microlepis), which offers similar edibility and value.

Some processors call gag “the grouper of choice,” since it offers better yield and firmer meat. Product Profile Groupers have a mild but distinct flavor, somewhere between bass and halibut.

The taste of most groupers is similar, with slight differences in flavor and texture, depending on size, species and location of harvest. The raw meat of both is white and lean with a notable lack of bones.

Cooked, the white meat has a very firm texture and heavy flake and remains moist. Cooking Tips & Methods In the South, blackened grouper is a favorite preparation, but this versatile fish can be fried, grilled, skewered or used in chowders and soups.

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Highland Fish Market is the place to go for Fresh List in Louisville. Highland Fish Market is located on Shelbyville Road in Middletown.

Highland Fish is your Seafood Connection in Louisville, KY. We are located in Middletown, but are within driving distance from these areas: St. Matthews, Chenoweth Square (Shelbyville Road, Frankfort Avenue), The Highlands (Bardstown Road), and Hurstbourne. St. Matthews (Chenoweth Square, Frankfort Avenue, Shelbyville Road, Hurstbourne are also considered to be in the East End.

There are quite a few other species of grouper that are found in deeper waters and throughout the Bahamas and other locations. For the most part, their habits are very similar and will be treated all the same when it comes to tackle and techniques.

The one thing that all groupers have in common is that they are bottom dwelling, structure oriented fish. Seldom will one be found high up in the water column or on sandy bottom with no structure.

Reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, areas of rocky bottom, and ledges are the top spots where anglers catch grouper in open water. Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices.

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This can handle most the bottom fishing situations as well as some light tackle trolling. Anglers using conventional tackle for grouper fishing can choose a reel with a level wind or one without.

Level winds are nice in that the line is spooled up evenly as it is retrieved. Many old school grouper fishing reels such as the venerable Penn 4/0 do not have a level wind.

Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle. Anglers fishing in hundreds of feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean with heavy lead will need a stouter outfit than those fishing in 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anglers fishing in shallow, clear water sometimes find that lighter spinning tackle makes a more natural presentation. Some anglers simply prefer the comfort and feel of a spinning outfit.

This mostly occurs in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico north of Tampa. Therefore, anglers anchor or drift a decent distance from the spot and cast live baits or lures in towards the structure.

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A 7-8 foot heavy action rod with a 6000 series real is a good all-around combination. With this outfit, anglers can cast lures and live baits towards structure as well as have a decent chance of landing a big fish that might be hooked when bottom fishing.

In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice. While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament.

Braided line is also thinner in diameter, which allows it to sink faster when fishing in deep water. Many use a strong black swivel to connect the leader to the main line.

A sliding sinker is often placed on the main line and then the swivel stops it from going any further. Leader length and strength varies greatly, depending on the fishing situation.

Many anglers fishing in deep water use a very long leader, up to 20 feet and even longer. Anglers grouper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks.

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(Source: captivafishing.net)

The hook may look huge, but the important part is the distance between the tip and the shank. Standard short shank live bait hooks are also popular for grouper fishing as well.

In very deep water, just reeling and coming tight as is done with circle hooks works the best anyway. The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader.

However, there is another rig that works very well for grouper fishing, particularly in water shallower than 100 feet. With this rig, the sinker slides on the leader and rest right on the eye of the hook.

Also, when snagged up, the sinker jerking up on the line then banging the eye of the hook will often free it. With this rig, multiple hooks are tied off of dropper loops on the main line.

The bank sinker works well as it tends to walk and bounce off of rocks and other snags. While most grouper are caught on live or natural bait, there are a few situations when they can be taken on artificial lures as well.

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Trolling with deep diving plugs is an incredibly effective technique when grouper are in fairly shallow water. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water over a large piece of structure in search of fish.

Trolling is effective anywhere that there is submerged structure in the 50 feet deep or shallower range. The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, channel edges and large bays such as Tampa Bay, and coral reefs of the Caribbean are prime spots to troll for grouper.

They are categorized by size, giving anglers a good idea of how deep they will go. Papal and several other lure manufacturers also make quality deep diving plugs for grouper fishing.

With the boat idling along at 4 to 5 knots, the plug will dig down to the maximum depth, putting out a lot of flash and vibration. A down rigger is a device with a cable and a heavy ball which takes the lure down deep.

This technique is used extensively in the Great Lakes region for walleye and salmon. Grouper can also be caught by anglers casting artificial lures, though there are limited situations where this can occur.

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Basically, when grouper are holding over structure in fairly shallow water, usually 10 feet deep or shallower, casting lures over the structure and retrieving them back in can produce jarring strikes from grouper. Plugs will dive to a determined depth, while jigs can be worked through the entire water column but are extremely effective when bounced on the bottom right on top of the structure.

White buck tail jigs are often used and can be tipped with a strip of squid or cut fish. There are basically four types of grouper that are found in good numbers in the United States.

Gag grouper are very aggressive and are the species most often targeted by anglers fishing with artificial lures. Black grouper are normally found in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean and down around the Florida Keys.

Surprisingly, they are often encountered in the inshore waters, as shallow as five or 6 feet deep. Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for shook or redfish.

9 chances out of 10 if you have eaten grouper it has been Regrouped (Epimetheus Mario) or Gag (Mycteroperca microbes) which is a member of the Serranidae family. Other grouper such as the Black (Mycteroperca Monaco), Yellow edge (Epimetheus flavolimbatus), Scamp (Mycteroperca final) and Snowy Grouper can be found in the marketplace but in limited quantities, due to the fact that smaller amounts of these species are harvested.

Both of these fish have a high oil and moisture content which makes them suitable to cook many ways. Many chef's and true Grouper connoisseurs prefer the Regrouped over the Gag or Black.

Grouper meat cooks up very firm, with big flakes and holds its moisture better than many other fish. Other ways you can cook Grouper is to poach, steam, bake, broil and sauté and don't forget that it is excellent soups or chowders.

If you are baking or broiling Grouper stick to the general rule of cooking fish, which is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Sliding sinker rig with 6-foot mono leader, ready to drop sardine, pinkish or other bait.

“Sometimes it’s hard to grouper fish with Mali swimming around your boat, but our stretch of offshore reefs can give up some really quality gags and scamps this time of year, particularly on spots deeper than 120 feet,” he said. A 6-foot piece of 100-pound mono leads to a circle hook, with the size depending on the bait.

“If I’m fishing for gags, my favorite bait is a live golden spot or a pinkish,” said Johnson. Johnson prefers the slip sinker rig, because fooling big grouper is all about presentation.

Keep the sinker pinned against the bottom swivel and at the first sign of panic in the bait, let him swim away from the weight unencumbered. Johnson says he’d always prefer to hook his live spots, grunts, and pinkish behind the anal fin, but cautions that you have to consider the current.

Contrary to popular belief, neither scamps nor gags need a big ledge to hang around. Whether red, gag, black, yellow fin, or Warsaw, a good grouper in the ice chest means a successful day for lots of folks.

Some species of grouper range from New England to southern Brazil and Texas. They prefer to be able to seek shelter and hide, and although their name implies that they stay together, they can also be very solitary fish.

Their coloration and ability to change hues and shades to identify with their surroundings give them that ambush capability. Anglers find that medium heavy bottom fishing tackle is the best way to approach the grouper.

Conventional reels in the thirty- to fifty-pound class teamed with a medium heavy boat rod will do the trick. Grouper feed on other small fish, crustaceans like crabs or crawfish, and squid.

When an easy opportunity swims buy they rush out, inhale their prey, and quickly return to their lair. A good rod and reel, with fifty-pound test monofilament line, can handle almost all the grouper you may encounter.

The terminal tackle consists of a sinker, leader, and hook arranged one of two ways. Even when the rig is dropped right into the bottom structure, it seldom hangs up, something charter captains love.

More serious grouper anglers will opt for the second approach, called a live bait rig. Advertised as virtually invisible to fish, it does seem to draw more strikes than regular monofilament.

Serious grouper anglers will crank the drag down on their reel as hard as they can, often using a pair of pliers to lock it down. The idea is to stop the grouper from taking the line and returning to his structure home.

When a grouper strikes, anglers will lay their rod on the rail and start winding as hard as they can. When a grouper makes it into a rock or reef, many anglers will simply break off the line and try again.

In the Gulf of Mexico, grouper anglers use magnum diving plugs that will go as deep as thirty feet or more. The water in the Gulf of Mexico is comparatively shallow, and this method works well there.

Strip baits are cut and attached to a double hooked trolling feather. The wire line method is popular in and around south Florida in the winter when big black grouper move into the shallower reefs.

Sometimes thirty yards in diameter, they are an ideal habitat for black grouper. When one occurs, the boat moves directly away from the reef to drag the fish away from its hole.

A head boat that provides the bait and tackle is an ideal way to bring some home to eat. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would like to gain a better understanding of what’s happening on the water.

All anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish from a private vessel are required to obtain the State Reef Fish Angler designation. Those with a Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation will meet the statewide requirement until the Gulf designation expires, even if you are fishing on the Atlantic coast.

State: Must have heads and fins intact through landing Gear rules require circle hooks and hooking tools in Gulf waters reef fish fisheries.

Note: In the Atlantic reef fish fishery, gear rules require hooking tools, and as of Jan. 1, 2021, non-stainless steel hooks in all state waters, and non-offset circle hooks N. of 28 ° N. latitude. Several species of Gulf grouper (red, black, scamp, yellow fin and yellow mouth) are closed Feb. 1-March 31 seaward of the 20-fathom break.

Recreational anglers are encouraged to use electronic charting equipment to plot the 20-fathom break by entering the established coordinates listed on the map below into a route. Monroe County: Several species of Atlantic grouper (red, black, yellow fin, yellow mouth, scamp, rock hind, red hind, Coney and grays by) are closed Jan. 1 – April 30 in all state and federal waters of the Atlantic including all state waters off Monroe County (Atlantic and Gulf sides).

During this closure, anglers can harvest grouper in open federal waters of the Gulf and return to port in Monroe County by traveling through closed state waters of the Atlantic as long as the vessel proceeds directly to port without stopping to fish. Western boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region.

Eastern boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region. Fresh grouper is highly sought-after both by restaurants and by individuals looking to make a good meal.

The meat is firm with a relatively high moisture and oil content. The flavor is generally sweet, with the red grouper being a bit sweeter than black grouper.

All grouper species are considered by chefs to have an ideal flavor for a number of dishes and preparation styles. The dominant characteristic that makes grouper ’s food quality so high is its oil and moisture content.

Compared to most other mild-tasting types of fish, grouper has a much higher oil and moisture content. Grouper meat has a unique texture when compared to most other commonly eaten fish.

High oil and moisture content keeps the large flakes firm, yet still tender. Buttery, smooth, firm, and tender would be the best way to sum up grouper ’s texture in a few words.

In our opinion, the variation between group species is small, but still notable enough to warrant some attention. Truthfully, all but the most experienced seafood pros can tell the difference between red grouper and black grouper once the skin has been removed.

Gag grouper is a separate species from black grouper, but it shares its traits to a degree that makes any differences negligible at best. You’ll commonly see gag lumped in with black in the seafood market due to its very similar flavor and texture.

The vast majority of what you’ll find in restaurants or stores will be a variety of red, black, and gag grouper. All grouper are fairly substantial fish with quite a bit of meat on their bones.

Black grouper have an especially high meat yield in relation to their weight. You’ll find a fleshy area that runs from right in front of the gill to right next to the grouper ’s eye, following along the line of the mouth.

Once you make it to the area next the grouper ’s eye, simply flip the cheek out and peel it off of the remaining attached skin. There is a wide variety of ways to cook and grouper pairs will with many flavors.

This is yet another benefit of the high oil and moisture content within grouper meat. Overcooking is definitely possible, but it’s much less common than it is when dealing with flakier, drier fish like snapper or sole.

Grouper sandwiches are one of the most well-liked seafood staples in coastal areas and are always a good choice. The immense popularity of grouper makes it extremely easy to find endless recipes in cookbooks and all across the web.

If you’re an adventurous chef, the forgiving nature of grouper meat makes it an ideal choice for trying out new recipes and seafood creations. If you’ve made it this far, you know just about everything you need to confidently order grouper at a restaurant or prepare it yourself at home.

It really is one of the tastiest fish on the menu and I’ve known of plenty of seafood skeptics who still enjoy a good grouper filet.

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Sources
1 www.saltwatersportsman.com - https://www.saltwatersportsman.com/techniques/juiced-jigging/
2 www.fishanywhere.com - https://www.fishanywhere.com/charters-guides/high-seas-charters-llc/
3 flfishingspots.com - https://flfishingspots.com/florida-keys-fishing-spots-grouper/
4 keylargofishingadventures.com - https://keylargofishingadventures.com/
5 kofitvinternational.com - https://kofitvinternational.com/make-sentence-url/article.php
6 www.saltwaterexperience.com - https://www.saltwaterexperience.com/blog/2018/11/19/how-to-fish-the-42-bridges-in-the-florida-keys
7 www.cyberangler.com - https://www.cyberangler.com/fishing-reports/florida/key-largo/key-largo-wahoo-snapper-grouper-38262.htm