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.
Juveniles found in estuaries and seagrass beds Goliath and Nassau grouper are protected from harvest in Florida waters.
Reading Time: 7minutesGroupers are some of Florida’s most iconic fish species. From monster Goliath's to delicious Scamps, these big bottom-dwellers are a favorite on most Floridian fishing trips.
The average catch in Florida is around half that length, weighing between 5 and 20 pounds. Black Grouper 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 Black Grouper, 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, GoliathGrouper 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 GoliathGrouper in hot water.
Nassau Grouper are critically endangered, and their numbers are still falling. 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. 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. They’re one of the easiest deep-water fish to identify, even though catching one is pretty rare.
Speckled Hind usually live 200–400 feet down around rocky bottom. 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. 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. They do not have many teeth on the edges of their jaws, but they have heavy crushing tooth plates inside the pharynx.
They also use their mouth to dig into sand to form their shelters under big rocks, jetting it out through their gills. There is some research indicating that roving coral groupers (Plectropomus pessuliferus) sometimes cooperate with giant morays in hunting.
The gag grouper (Mycteroperca microbes) is a drab, mottled gray fish lacking the distinguishing features of other groupers. Commercial and sport fishing have created tremendous selective pressures against the largest animals, typically male, restricting the reproductive capacity of the entire breeding population.
Recently, a small closure in the Gulf of Mexico was established to provide this and other species a refuge from commercial fishing pressure, however, this data is highly in dispute and is currently being challenged for inaccuracies. The goliathgrouper is found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths of up to 165 feet (50 m).
Their range includes the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean, and practically all the Brazilian coast, where they are known as hero. They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths of 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and can weigh as much as 800 pounds (363 kg).
In Florida, the largest hook and line captured specimen weighed 680 pounds (309 kg). Considered of fine food quality, the goliathgrouper were a highly sought after quarry for fishermen of all types.
The goliathgrouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature make it a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations returning like clockwork to the same locations making them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting.
The goliathgrouper is entirely protected from harvest and is recognized as a critically endangered species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). 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 GoliathGrouper) 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.
Goliath and Nassau grouper are protected from harvest in Florida waters. 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. Goliath and Nassau grouper are protected from harvest in Florida waters.
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 GoliathGrouper killed unfortunately by RED TIDE in 2005. Jewish now known as the GoliathGrouper (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. Nassau grouper form large spawning aggregations, making this species highly vulnerable to over harvest.
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. Grouper are very tasty meals. Florida State Record 113lb 6oz caught near the Dry Tortugas.
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.
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.