Groupers

Black Grouper

sketch

Family Serranidae, SEA BASSES AND GROUPER
Mycteroperca bonaci


Description: olive or gray body coloration with black blotches and brassy spots; gently rounded preopercle.

Similar Fish: gag M. microlepis; yellowfin grouper, M. venenosa.

Where found: OFFSHORE species; adults associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young may occur INSHORE in shallow water. East of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach.

Size: common to 40 pounds, may attain weights exceeding 100 pounds.

*Florida Record: no Florida record because of identity confusion with gag, which are mistakenly called “black grouper.”

Remarks: spawns between May and August; protogynous hermaphrodites, young predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; larger individuals generally in greater depths; feeds on fish and squid.

Gag

sketch

Family Serranidae, SEA BASSES AND GROUPER
Mycteroperca microlepis


Description: brownish gray in color with dark worm-like markings on sides; strong serrated spur at bottom margin of preopercle, less noticeable in large specimens; fins dark, with anal and caudal having white margin. Often confused with black grouper; tail of gag is slightly concave, black is square; gag has white margin on anal and caudal fins, black does not; under 10 pounds, gag’s spur on preopercle is distinctive, where black is gently rounded.

Similar Fish: black grouper M. bonaci.

Where found: adults OFFSHORE over rocks and reefs; juveniles occur in seagrass beds INSHORE. East of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach.

Size: common to 25 pounds.

*Florida Record: 71 lbs., 3 ozs.

Remarks: forms spawning aggregations in water no shallower than 120 feet in Middle Grounds area, January through March; current reseach to identify similar aggregations off Atlantic coast is ongoing. Young gags are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; feeds on fish and squid.

Red Grouper

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Family Serranidae, SEA BASSES AND GROUPER
Epinephelus morio


Description: color brownish red; lining of mouth scarlet-orange; blotches on sides in unorganized pattern; second spine of dorsal fin longer than others; pectoral fins longer than pelvic fins; squared off tail; margin of soft dorsal black with white at midfin; black dots around the eyes.

Similar Fish: Nassau grouper, E. striatus.

Where found: bottom dwelling fish associated with hard bottom; juveniles OFFSHORE along with adults greater than 6 years old; fish from 1 to 6 years occupy NEARSHORE reefs. East of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach.

Size: common to 15 pounds.

*Florida Record: 39 lbs., 8 ozs.

Remarks: spawns in April and May; prefer water temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees F; undergoes sex reversal, young individual females becoming males as they age; lifespan of at least 25 years; feeds on squid, crustaceans, and fish.

Scamp

sketch

Family Serranidae, SEA BASSES AND GROUPER
Mycteroperca phenax


Description: color light gray or brown; large adults with elongated caudal-fin rays; reddish brown spots on sides that tend to be grouped into lines; some yellow around corners of mouth.

Similar Fish: yellowmouth grouper, M. interstitialis.

Where found: NEARSHORE reefs off the northeastern coast, and on OFFSHORE reefs in the Gulf. East of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach.

Size: generally smaller than gags or blacks.

*Florida Record: 28 lbs.

Remarks: spawns in late spring; feeds on small fish, squid, and crustaceans; undergoes sex transformation from female to male as it becomes older.

Yellowfin Grouper

sketch

Family Serranidae, SEA BASSES AND GROUPER
Mycteroperca venenosa


Description: color highly variable greenish olive or bright red with longitudinal rows of darker black blotches over entire fish; outer one third of pectoral fins bright yellow; lower parts of larger fish with small bright red spots.

Similar Fish: black grouper, M. bonaci; other grouper.

Where found: OFFSHORE on reefs off southern portions of Florida. East of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne Beach.

Size: common to 20 pounds.

*Florida Record: 34 lbs., 6 ozs.

Remarks: 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.