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.
Interestingly, Dr. Bart Henry (also from Loyola) thought both photos were probably Gags, although he didn’t sound certain. I guess this confirms that the two species can be easily confused, but most references claim that it is the juveniles (which these are) that are most similar.
Black : Markings tend to form chain-like patterns (series of rectangles, often with a single horizontal line in the middle); edge of properly (cheek) is smooth; tend to be darker than Gags; either none or only a thin white margin on anal and tail fins; usually have a broad dark band on the outer 1/3 of the anal, soft dorsal and caudal fins. Gag : Markings tend to be vermiculite (wavy) often with “kissing marks”; edge of properly is serrated (which is pronounced in adults, not well-developed in juveniles); tend to be lighter colored; white or blue edge on anal and tail fins; dorsal, anal and caudal fins are more uniformly dark (without a dark band).
Grouper is a salt-water fish, found on the menu in restaurants and within stores throughout the United States. There are three varieties available that vary in flavor and price: red grouper, true black grouper, and gag.
If you don’t have a reliable source for fresh grouper, consider buying the frozen product. Its high levels of oil help it maintain a lovely moist texture even if it’s a little over-cooked.
It’s also tasty eaten on its own, on skewers, with a zesty lemon marinade, a creamy tartare sauce, or a combination of butter, garlic, and lime juice. The debate for whether grouper is best eaten with batter, crumbed, floured, or with nothing added will always rage on.
Blackening is a quick and straightforward method that produces moist fish encased in a flavor-packed coating. Although blackening is suited to outdoor grilling, you can also cook the fish in the oven or fry it in a pan.
Preheat a large skillet on the grill or stove top on high heat for at least 10 minutes. Rinse the fish fillets in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
Once all the ingredients are evenly distributed, transfer the mixture to a platter or large plate. Place the fillets on the seasoning mix and gently turn until they are well coated.
As groupers are a reef-dwelling fish, they have the potential to be contaminated by toxins, which can lead to Ciguatera poisoning. Your best option to avoid getting sick is to check with the seller if the fish comes from a hotspot for Ciguatera.
Some problem areas include the Caribbean Sea, Hawaii, and coastal Central America. A gulf grouper is a unique tasting, moist fish that is endemic to Mexico.
It is prized for its moist meat that easily flakes into big chunks once cooked. Grouper is considered to be a white fish, along with haddock, catfish, tilapia, and snapper.
It’s relatively high oil content makes it a simple fish to avoid overcooking. It is a blank canvas that allows the creative cook to pair exciting ingredients with the fish.
If you enjoy fish that isn’t too full of flavor then you might also like to check out our sea bass guide. 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. 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. Adult Grouper live in similar places to most Grouper species: reefs, drop-offs, and other rocky structure in 60+ feet of water.
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. According to most people who have caught them, Scamp are the tastiest fish in the family.
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.
If you’re set on landing a “Snowier,” get ready for a long ride. 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.
Greetings, I'm trying to avoid FCC heartache but still satisfy my appetite for grouper. I've been told the only distinction between black and gag groupers is that a black grouper has a concave tail.
I wish I knew...so i'll be watching the posts as well :whistling:I'd bet 75% or more officers in this area couldn't tell the difference.
Juveniles found in estuaries and seagrass beds Goliath and Nassau grouper are protected from harvest in Florida waters.
Description: Brownish gray in color with dark worm-like markings on sides; strong serrated spur at bottom margin of properly, less noticeable in large specimens; fins dark, with anal and caudal having white margin; often confused with black grouper ; most noticeable differences are brassy spots on black grouper ; tail of gag is slightly concave, black grouper ’s tail is square; gag has white margin on anal and caudal fins, black does not; under 10 pounds, gag ’s spur on properly is distinctive, where black is gently rounded. Remarks: Forms spawning aggregations in water no shallower than 120 feet in Middle Grounds area, January through March; current research to identify similar aggregations off the Atlantic coast is ongoing; young gags are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; feeds on fish and squid.
The black grouper has olive or gray body coloration along with small hexagonal bronze spots on its head and lower side. Juveniles feed mainly on crustaceans, while adult fish prefer smaller bait fish.
It has an ob longed body shape and rounded margins on both the dorsal and anal fins. The preopercule is rounded without the presence of a notch, which distinguishes it from the gag grouper (Mycteroperca microbes).
Black groupers can reach up to 52 inches (133 cm) in length and can weigh up to 179 pounds (81 kg). These teeth are not used to tear flesh as with the barracudas and sharks, but rather to prevent small fish from escaping.
Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides. Habitat: Adult gag grouper can be found from North Carolina to Brazil over low and high profile hard-bottom waters 60 to 250 feet deep.
Eating habits: Gag grouper feed on round scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid. Life cycle: Gag change sex from female to male with increased size.
Spawning takes place in February off the coast of the Carolina's and in January through March in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing tips: The best way to catch gag grouper is by bottom fishing with live bait, such as cigar minnows and squid, using depth finders to locate deepwater rock piles, ledges, wrecks and artificial reefs.