DESCRIPTION: Gray or light brown with wavy markings on the side that generally do not form boxes or circles. Color deepens to dark brown shortly after removal from water.
GAME QUALITIES: An aggressive striker and hard fighter at all depths. Offshore bottom fishermen tend toward stout rods with 50- and 80-pound-test lines, but such grouper digging” rigs are strictly necessary only in very deep water.
Many anglers catch lots of Gags on spinning and plug tackle. Hard-lure casters use Deadhead jigs, mostly, while rollers rely on large deep-diving plugs.
Live bait fish of various sorts are the best natural offerings-try Pilchards, Pinkish, Grunts or Sand Perch (Squirrel fish). Dead small fish and large cut baits also work well.
BLACK GROUPER (Mycteroperca Monaco) OTHER NAMES: Monaco Ararat Again RANGE: Sometimes encountered in the deep Gulf and upper Atlantic, but common only in South Florida, the Keys and the Bahamas. HABITAT: Blacks of many sizes are commonly found around the edges of coral reefs, from about 30 feet of water out to the deepest drop offs.
Even big fish, however, may roam to much shallower patch reefs, especially in cooler seasons. SIZE: The largest of our Mycteroperca groupers, the Black frequently exceeds 50 pounds in weight and can top 100.
TACKLE AND BAITS: For all-around work, ocean gear with lines of 30-pound test or higher gets the call. One key besides a huge helping of luck is to hook the fish while drifting, instead of at anchor.
The drift of the boat adds to the power of the tackle and just might help drag the big fish far enough away from his rocky “hole” that he cannot get back. Pinkish and Pilchards are good too, as are Mullet heads and other large cut baits.
Best casting lures are Deadhead jigs, weighing from 1-4 ounces, depending on depth. Trolling over the reefs with rigged, swimming Mullet, feather-and-strip combos, and large plugs also takes many.
DESCRIPTION: Shows various colors, including two major phases, one of which would make it difficult to tell from the Black Grouper were it not for the bright yellow trim of the pectoral fins. SCAMP (Mycteroperca final) OTHER NAMES: Brown Grouper, Broom tail Grouper, Amadeo RANGE: Most plentiful along the Gulf Coast and roughly the upper half of the Florida Atlantic Coast.
Not common in South Florida and the Bahamas, where it is largely replaced by the similar Yellow mouth Grouper (next). HABITAT: Sometimes fairly close to shore, but generally sticks to deep reefs and ledges offshore.
Elongated rays of the caudal fin give the broom tail appearance. GAME QUALITIES: Outstanding on light tackle, but most are overpowered by heavy gear.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Sheer depth-typical of many Panhandle bottom-fishing drops-may necessitate rods and lines stout enough to handle very heavy sinkers. Deadhead jigs weighing 3/4 of an ounce to 11/2 ounces get lots of strikes with light gear-and if the bare jig isn't producing, it can be tipped with a strip of cut bait, or a whole small bait fish, and used as a bottom fishing rig.
Large diving plugs draw strikes in fairly shallow water-to about 50 feet. YELLOWMOUTH GROUPER (Mycteroperca interstitial is) OTHER NAMES: Salmon Rock fish RANGE: Most common in the Bahamas but found in South Florida, especially the Keys, and on Gulf reefs.
HABITAT: Occasionally on shallow patches, but more on deeper reefs to 120 feet or so near the edge of blue water. DESCRIPTION: Almost a ringer for the Scamp, except that the inside and corners of the mouth are yellow.
GAME QUALITIES: A tough fighter on tackle of reasonable size. TIGER GROUPER (Mycteroperca Tigris) OTHER NAMES: Monaco NATO RANGE: More common in the Bahamas, but seen fairly often in the Keys.
DESCRIPTION: Dark markings against a dusty gray background form vivid oblique stripes on the upper sides. TACKLE AND BAITS: Heavy spinning and bait casting outfits, along with light boat rods and lines up to 20- or 30-pound test.
Tigers will take a variety of artificial, including jigs and trolling plugs. HABITAT: Juveniles to around 100 pounds frequent mangrove creeks and bays of Southwest Florida, especially the Ten A Thousand Islands and Everglades National Park.
Adults can be found at a variety of depths, from holes and channels of coastal waters out to offshore ledges and reefs; also around pilings of bridges and under deepwater docks and piers. Juveniles are brilliantly marked with a series of irregular dark brown bars against a light brown or gray background, extending from head to tail.
Numerous black spots are usually present as well on head, sides and fins. Adults have the same pattern but in more subdued shades of brown that are not so brilliantly contrasted.
The tail is round, as are the posterior, dorsal, anal and pectoral fins. FOOD VALUE: Small ones excellent and big ones darn good which was the main reason for their precipitous decline and total closure in Florida in the 1980s.
Some very big ones have been caught on very light lines in shallow water after being coaxed away from obstructions, but the giant Jewish around deep wrecks defy the heaviest sporting tackle. TACKLE AND BAITS: Bait casting, spinning and even fly tackle make acceptable matchups for the inshore fish, which will and often do hit the full range of lures and flies that are used by Shook casters.
WARSAW GROUPER (Epimetheus nitrites) OTHER NAMES: Giant Grouper, Black Jewish, Garuda Neurite RANGE: All Florida coasts, Atlantic and Gulf, but not reported from the Bahamas. Party boats working offshore waters of the state's upper half both Gulf and Atlantic seem to bring in Warsaw's more often than elsewhere.
Large specimens (which most are) can be somewhat coarse unless the fillets are cut into thin steaks for frying or baking. GAME QUALITIES: Great strength is the hallmark of the Warsaw's fighting arsenal, and the angler who gets one on a manual rod and reel will know he's been in a tug-of-war.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Only the heaviest rods, large reels and lines testing 80 pounds or more are really adequate. Catches on lighter tackle are opportunistic and rare, and usually of the smaller specimens.
Fairly large whole fish, or halved bonito and other hefty cut baits are all productive whenever they can be dropped to within gulping range of a Warsaw. RED GROUPER (Epimetheus Mario) OTHER NAMES: Hero, China De Vivero RANGE: Common throughout Florida; also present in the Bahamas and common in some areas.
HABITAT: Widely distributed from close inshore in many areas of Florida to ledges and wrecks in up to 300 or so feet of water. DESCRIPTION: Overall light or rusty red with whitish spots and large blotches.
No black mark on caudal peduncle fleshy area between tail and posterior dorsal fin. Although Reds will “hole up” like other Groupers, many are hooked on light and fairly light tackle in areas where cover is well scattered, and this gives them the chance to demonstrate their toughness to best advantage.
They are ready strikers on Deadhead jigs, fished with light tackle. HABITAT: Prefers coral reefs, and probably does not roam into water much deeper than 120 feet or so.
In the Islands, small specimens are common over inshore patches, and also in creeks and channels. DESCRIPTION: Looks much like the Red Grouper in shape and pattern, although the basic coloration tends more to brown or gray than reddish.
FOOD VALUE: Small ones are excellent; fish over 10 pounds are almost as good, but harvest is currently prohibited in Florida. TACKLE AND BAITS: Most are caught by potluck reef or creek fishermen on light ocean gear or stout bait casting and spinning outfits-all using lines of 12-20 pounds.
Cut fish, conch or squid all make good baits, and Nassau's will also strike jigs, spoons and underwater or surface plugs. Bigger fish on rough coral reefs require heavy tackle for bottom-fishing, and can also be caught by trolling with feather-and-strip baits or with large swimming plugs.
RED HIND (Epimetheus Gustavus) OTHER NAMES: Strawberry, Sandwich Grouper, Cabrillo, Sofia RANGE: Very plentiful on Bahamas reefs in 40-80 feet. Caudal, anal and posterior dorsal fins edged in black.
TACKLE AND BAITS: In some reef areas of the Bahamas, Red Hinds can be caught to the point of boredom by drifting and bouncing the bottom with jigs. ROCK HIND (Epimetheus ascensions) OTHER NAMES: Rock Cod, Cabre Morey, Hero Cabrillo RANGE: Widespread in Florida and the Bahamas, often in company with the Red Hind, but usually less plentiful in southern portions of the range.
DESCRIPTION: The Rock Hind is mostly brown or tan in background color. Has spots similar to those of the Red Hind, but also is marked by large, dark blotches on the upper sides usually two, but often more.
SIZE: About the same as the Red Hind, but maximum may be slightly larger to 8 or 9 pounds. CONEY (Epimetheus Julius) OTHER NAMES: Golden Coney, Golden Grouper, Cultivar, Crunch RANGE: South Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
DESCRIPTION: A very small Grouper, the Coney is seen in various color phases, including vivid yellow, gold-and-brown, red-and-brown. Grassy (Epimetheus orientates) OTHER NAMES: Enable, Cuba Cabrillo RANGE: South Florida, Bahamas and Caribbean.
GAME QUALITIES: Aggressive striker, sometimes on surprisingly large lures, but too small to put up a fight. TACKLE AND BAITS: Like the Coney, a common reef catch when small hooks are used.
SPECKLED HIND (Epimetheus drummondhayi) OTHER NAMES: Kitty Mitchell, Calico Grouper RANGE: Both coasts of Florida, but most often caught in the Keys and this is probably because of heavy fishing around well-known seamounts or “humps,” particularly off the Keys towns of Marathon and Islamabad. DESCRIPTION: Generally dark gray or reddish brown, with a profusion of small, creamy or white spots on sides, gill covers and fins.
It is theorized that the great pressures under which they live helps make the flesh more succulent. GAME QUALITIES: Seldom caught on sporting gear, but when they are especially if that gear is a reasonably light outfit, the fight begins strong but diminishes fast as the fish is brought higher in the water column.
MARBLED GROUPER (Epimetheus INERIS) RANGE: Bahamas and South Florida. DESCRIPTION: Dark brown or charcoal with numerous white spots.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Power reels and cut bait fish or squid. SNOWY GROUPER (Epimetheus hiatus) OTHER NAMES: Golden Grouper RANGE: Occurs in deep water throughout Florida and the Western Bahamas; probably Eastern Bahamas as well.
Likes rocky areas, wrecks, channels with hard bottom, jetties, deep holes in grass flats. DESCRIPTION: Color is generally black or charcoal, with blue highlights and tiny white spots or stripes on dorsal fin.
The flesh is mild and white but, sadly, most Sea Bass caught these days are too small to be worthwhile. The occasional outsize specimen should be filleted and skinned, but take care when doing so, because gill covers are sharp and so are the spines.
GAME QUALITIES: A hard and willing striker on both natural baits and a variety of artificial lures. Sea Bass greedily hit live or dead shrimp and all sorts of cut baits, along with live small bait fish and artificial jigs and underwater plugs.
SAND PERCH (Di plectrum Formosa) OTHER NAMES: Coral Snapper, Squirrel fish, Solo RANGE: Both coasts of Florida, north to south. HABITAT: Sand Perch are found from bays and shorelines to well offshore over a variety of bottoms.
They seem to prefer rather open bottom with patches of grass or scattered rock, and they also like deep channels. DESCRIPTION: Slender, cylindrical shape, with large mouth and wide tail.
Color is tan with brown vertical bars or blotches, and full-length horizontal lines of blue and orange. GAME QUALITIES: Very aggressive, Sand Perch often hit baits and lures meant for much larger fish.
Scientists from our Southeast Fisheries Science Center are working to understand the changes that have occurred in coral reef ecosystems following the loss of top predators, such as groupers. From 1997-2005, our researchers collaborated with Florida State University's Institute for Fishery Resource Ecology (Dr. Chris Koenig and Dr. Felicia Coleman) to monitor the status and recovery of Goliath grouper.
This Goliath grouper research program investigated juvenile and adult Jewish abundance, distribution and migration patterns; their age and growth; and their habitat utilization. With the help of Don Maria we have tagged over 1,000 adult Jewish and have observed aggregations of Goliath grouper in both the Gulf of Mexico and more recently, the South Atlantic.
Posters created by the Center of Marine Conservation help disseminate information about our project and its requirements, highlighting our tagging study and the morphology of Goliath grouper. Given that these groupers were afforded protected status, researchers worked to utilize and develop novel non-lethal techniques to procure and analyze biological samples for life history information.
Researchers have also determined that soft dorsal rays hold promise for aging older fish (Marie et al., 2008). These casualties, resulting from red tide, gave our biologists a unique opportunity to collect a multitude of biological samples, without having to sacrifice healthy animals.
From these decomposing carcasses, biologists were able to record length for use in an age/length relationship, and were able to extract monoliths and remove dorsal spines and rays for comparison of hard parts in age and growth analysis. Tissue samples were also removed and sent to the Florida Marine Research Institute, so they could evaluate the level of red tide toxin.
The sampling trip gave these biologists an opportunity to educate the curious beach goers about red tide and Goliath grouper (a few of which had been misidentified as baby manatees). Attempts to evaluate the data needed to assess the status of these depleted stocks and develop rebuilding plans present unique challenges.
In 2010, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries convened a benchmark Goliath grouper assessment for the continental U.S. population. This project would not have been possible without ongoing collaboration with researchers from Florida State University, Everglades National Park, and the recreational fishing and SCUBA diving communities.
They all have a very similar shape defined by a large head and wide mouth perfect for inhaling prey on the reef. This guide outlines a number of key features to look out for when identifying grouper species.
The head and body are dark red to brown with some shading to a lighter pinkish color. Gags are the most common grouper found on rocky bottom, wrecks and rigs in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, in depths from 60 to 250 feet.
The gag grouper's coloration varies, but most are a brownish gray with a pattern of dark worm-like or kiss-shaped markings or articulations on the sides. Also called Jewish, the Goliath is the largest of the groupers, with adults capable of reaching up to 1,000 pounds.
Often found within the 12 fathom bottom contour, it favors rocky shores, holes and various structure. The coloring of the Nassau grouper usually mimics that of the grounds it inhabits, and can range from tawny to pinkish or red with an orange cast.
The fish can change colors from almost white to dark brown depending on its mood. The yellow fin grouper's coloring varies, but the head and body always have oval-shaped dark spots.
Found on rocky bottom and coral reefs in Bermuda, Florida, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The body of the broom tail grouper varies from brown to gray or grayish green with oblong dark blotches that form a maze-like pattern.
Technically a Speckled Hind, this fish prefers rocky bottom in depths from 180 to 300-plus feet in the western Atlantic, from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and Gulf of Mexico. As its name implies, the yellow edge grouper has a yellow outline on its dorsal, tail and pectoral fins.
Other defining characteristics include a light grayish brown to red body with bluish white spots. Found from North Carolina to Brazil in rocky areas and soft bottom.
It exhibits a compressed shape with a long pectoral fin and smooth scales. The snowy grouper is distinguished by its spiny dorsal fin and dark saddle-shaped blotch by the tail that extends below the lateral line.
Groupers & Antics, Family SerranidaeGroupers are carnivorous fishes that are typically large and slow moving, found under ledges and caverns. They feed primarily upon fishes and large crustaceans.
Due to the high fish diet, many reef species contain enough ciguatoxin to cause illness and caution should be exercised. Large groupers are poorly represented in Hawaii'i, with one deepwater endemic, one waif, and one invasive alien species.
Small, colorful bassets and antics are better represented but uncommon, preferring deep water or dark caverns. They feed upon zooplankton and are sexually biomorphic, with harems of smaller, less-colorful females in the company of a male.
Spotted black groupers are large, territorial reef fishes that can reach 2 m in length and at least 80 kg, although most seen in New Zealand are considerably smaller than this. Although commonly called ‘groper’ in New Zealand, the haiku (Poly prion oxygenate) and bass (P. Americans) are actually ‘wreck fishes’ belonging to the family Polyprionidae.
Spotted black grouper are only found in southeast Australia (Spencer Gulf to southern Queensland, excluding Tasmania), Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, and northern New Zealand. In New Zealand the largest and possibly only breeding population is found in the Germanic Islands Marine Reserve.
Around mainland New Zealand spotted black grouper are relatively common on shallow reefs at Three Kings Islands and along Northland’s rocky east coast. Small juveniles have been recorded as far south as Dominika on the west coast, and Palmier Bay in the east.
Spotted black grouper inhabit rocky reefs in estuaries and on the open coast to at least 50 m depth. At the Germanic Islands small juvenile spotted black grouper are found in large intertidal rock pools as well as amongst boulders at 20 to 30 m depth.
Spotted black grouper appear to have had very little fishing pressure anywhere in New Zealand, however those in eastern Australia are considered to be heavily depleted by line, set net and spear fishers. Spotted black grouper are opportunistic predators of smaller reef fishes and crustaceans (shrimps, crabs and rock lobster).
Spotted black grouper are vulnerable to a variety of fishing methods due to their large size, territorial behavior and natural curiosity. Populations in eastern Australia are considered to be overfished and their estuaries nursery habitats are threatened by coastal development and pollution.
As a consequence of their vulnerability spotted black grouper have been protected throughout their Australian range, as well as in New Zealand. It is not illegal to accidentally catch a spotted black grouper but it must be released alive and unharmed.
Spotted black groupers may suffer internal damage from hooks and over-expansion of their swim bladder if caught by accident. Like whales, large filter-feeding sharks and rays can accidentally ingest these, and all species suffer from entanglement in marine debris.
When Juvenile Nassau Grouper meets Lionfish... This set of nine pictures are of a juvenile that was just offshore in about 5 feet of water.
I was making my way beck into shore when I spotted the grouper. He was a bit curious about me and was staring right at me as I was snapping the series of pictures................
A Queensland Groper, Epimetheus lanceolatus, at Main Beach South Stradbroke Island, Queensland, August 2017. Summary:Adults are a mottled greyish-brown with yellowish or darker fins.
Small juveniles are yellow with irregular broad dark bars on the body, and irregular dark spots on the fins. This huge robust grouper is the largest bony reef-dwelling fish in the world.
Rottenest Island through north-western Australia, including Rowley Shoals and Scott Reef, to Sydney, New South Wales including reefs in the Coral Sea; also Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Lord Howe Island Province in the Tasman Sea. The species has also been reported from Young husband Peninsula, South Australia.
This solitary species inhabits shallow inshore waters, including rocky areas, caves and wrecks, harbors, estuaries, lagoons and seaward reefs. Large individuals often hover in mid-water, or lie motionless on the bottom.
Dorsal fin XI,14-16; Anal fin III, 8; Gill makers (first arch) 8-10 + 14-17; Lateral-line scales 54-62, anterior scales with branched tubules (except small juveniles). Body robust, body depth 2.3-3.4 in SL (specimens 12-179 cm SL); body width 1.5-1.75 in body depth; head length 2.2-2.7 in SL; eye diameter 5.8-14 in HL; interorbital width 3.3 (at 177 cm SL) to 6.2 (at 12 cm SL) in HL; properly finely serrate, the corner rounded; upper edge of pendulum convex.
Mid lateral part of lower jaw with 2-3 rows of teeth (at 20-25 cm SL) increasing to 15-16 rows in specimen of 177 cm SL; canine teeth at front of jaws small or absent. Dorsal fin third to eleventh spines subequal, shorter than the longest soft rays; short pelvic fins, 23.0-2.7 in head length; caudal fin rounded.
Small juveniles (less than 15 cm SL) are yellow, with 3 irregular black areas, the first from the spinors dorsal fin to the belly and chest, and extending onto the head; the second from the soft dorsal-fin base to the anal fin; the third at the caudal-fin base. Subadults (25-60 cm SL) with irregular white or yellow spots on the black areas, and black spots on the fins. Adults (90-165 cm SL) dark brown with faint mottling, and numerous small black spots on the fins. Large adults 180-250 cm SL) are greyish-brown to dark brown with darker fins. Feeds on lobsters, crabs, fishes including small sharks and rays, and juvenile sea turtles.
Although common in the live fish trade in Asia, the species is considered to be under threat from fishing pressure in most parts of its range. Fortunately, fish reared in aquaculture operations are increasingly being sold in the live fish trade.
Listed as a Protected Species under the Fisheries Management Act 1994 in New South Wales, where it is at the southern limit of its distribution in Australia. The species is also partly or fully protected in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.
It was listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN in 2018. There have been unconfirmed reports of fatal attacks on humans, and the flesh of large individuals may contain ciguatera.
Fishes of Christmas Island Indian Ocean. Christmas Island Natural History Association, Christmas Island, Indian Ocean, 6798, Australia.
Perth, WA : Western Australian Museum vi 201 pp., 70 pls. Coat, J.H., van Heerlen, L., Robbins, W.D., Hobbs, J.P. & Ailing, A.M. 2006.
A report on the ecological surveys undertaken at Middleton and Elizabeth Reefs, February 2006. Report by James Cook University to the Department of the Environment and Heritage.
New and rare tropical and subtropical fishes from northern New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 33: 571-586.
Serra nus magnifies Maclean 1882, a junior synonym of Epimetheus lanceolatus (Bloch 1790) (Teleostean: Serranidae). A Survey of Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs, South Pacific.
An annotated and illustrated catalog of grouper, rock cod, hind, coral grouper and lyre tail species known to date. The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific.
FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S.J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travels, M.J., Skipper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Coat, H.J.
Hobbs, J-P.A., Newman, S. J., Mitsopoulos, G.E.A., Travels, M.J., Skipper, C.L., Gilligan, J.J., Allen, G.R., Coat, H.J. Fishes of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands: new records, community composition and biogeographic significance.
Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Fishes of the Morton Bay Marine Park and adjacent continental shelf waters, Queensland, Australia.
Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Marine Biological Workshop, The Marine Fauna and Flora of Morton Bay. Reef and shore fishes of Sewers Island, Gulf of Carpenter.
Darwin Harbor fishes: a survey and annotated checklist. The Marine Flora and Fauna of Darwin Harbor, Northern Territory, Australia.
Proceedings of the Sixth International Marine Biology Workshop. Darwin : Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory 466 pp.
An annotated checklist of the fishes of the Northern Territory, Australia. Identification Guide to Fishes in the Live Seafood Trade of the Asia-Pacific Region.
WWF Hong Kong and Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. An inconvenient monopoly: an update on the taxonomy of the groupers (Epinephelidae).
Revision of Indo-Pacific groupers (Performed: Serranidae: Epinephrine), with descriptions of five new species. Wellington : Te Father Press Vol.
Annotated checklist of the coral reef fishes in the Capricorn-Bunker group, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.