Groupers are a species of fish that belong to the Epinephelina subfamily of the family Serranidae. As teleosts, all types of grouper have a stout body and a large mouth and are weak swimmers. However, once caught, a grouper will put up a vicious fight and use its vast bulk to full advantage.
Here are a few common types that you may encounter and what you need to know about each to increase your chances of getting a large catch. The fish in this species are hermaphrodites, i.e., they mature as females and can turn into a male later on. The male differs from female in appearance, as well. Plus, grouper fish size matters when it comes to fishing gear and tactics.
Scientific name – Epinephelus morio
Identification – The head and body of this grouper species are dark reddish-brown. It also has white spots on the sides and a red underbelly.
Distribution – This grouper can be found in coastal areas in the Western Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico, and is abundant in Florida.
Size and age – The red grouper can grow up to 50 inches in length and can weigh about 51 pounds. It can live for 20 or more years.
Habitat – Red groupers remain in inshore waters for five years before relocating to offshore hard-bottomed habitats, which are often edges of the continental shelf.
Spawning season – This grouper spawns between January and June, and the season peaks in May.
Food – This opportunistic feeder lies in waiting for spiny lobsters, snapping shrimp, crabs, and smaller fish.
Scientific name – Mycteroperca microlepis
Identification – This grouper is brownish-gray and has dark, worm-like markings on the side. It has dark fins and tan lines that radiate from the eyes. It is often mistaken for the black grouper.
Distribution – The gag grouper can live in the Western Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Size and age – This fish can weigh more than 25 pounds and can grow to about 36 inches in length.
Habitat – Present in coastal waters near submerged structures such as reefs, rocky bottoms, and walls 60 feet underwater.
Spawning season – The gag grouper spawns year-round, but spawning activity increases between January and May.
Food – Feeds on smaller fish and invertebrates such as crabs and shrimp deep under the water.
Scientific name – Mycteroperca bonaci
Identification – This giant fish is olive or gray, and it has large, black, and brass-colored spots.
Distribution – The black grouper live in the western Atlantic Ocean ranging from Massachusetts to north and south Brazil. It is abundant in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.
Size and age – This grouper can weigh a whopping 220 pounds. Goliath grouper size can reach 5 feet, and it can live for 40 years.
Habitat – found along rocky bottoms and in coral reefs 19 to 108 feet below the surface of the water.
Spawning season – This fish spawns between May and August.
Food – Mainly feeds on smaller fish, squid, crustaceans, and shrimp.
Scientific name – Epinephelus itajara
Identification – This giant grouper is large, thick, and elongated, has a round snout and small eyes, and a fan-like tailfin.
Distribution – Can be found in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, and most of the Caribbean.
Size and age – As the biggest grouper, the goliath can grow 8 feet long and can weigh as much as 790 pounds. It can live close to 40 years of age.
Habitat – Can be found in shallow tropical waters among artificial and coral reefs 15 to 164 feet underwater.
Spawning season – This fish spawns in August, September, and sometimes October.
Food – Eats crustaceans, other fish, sharks, barracudas, octopus, and even young sea turtles.
How to Catch Grouper
Irrespective of the types of grouper you wish to target, you can catch large ones with lures, live, and dead bait. If you are casting in the shallows, use jerk bait and retrieve it erratically to lure the fish out in the open. You will need heavy tackle, especially if there are a lot of rocks under the water where you are fishing, and a braided line that can withstand the powerful pull of a caught grouper.
If you are using spinning tackle, make sure that the reel is heavy enough to withstand an 80 to 100-pound test mainline and a low gear ratio to give you more control. This tackle will come in handy when the panicking grouper fish tries to swim under a ledge to break the line.
For live bait, use pinfish, grunts, blue runner, sardines, and mullet. Take a selection of these with you so that you can give the fish a full menu. Bridled bait will set in nicely in the mouth of a giant grouper.
Always check your local grouper regulations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the warsaw grouper endangered?
The warsaw grouper is critically endangered out of all of the groupers because of overfishing or bycatch release. It is also a protected species. The Nassau grouper is on the conservation list.
Why is the snowy grouper called a deep drop fish?
The snowy grouper is called that because it inhabits deeper waters than other grouper types (350 to 600 feet).
What does grouper taste like?
The grouper is a lean and moist fish that has a mild flavor, and the flesh is firm and flaky. Out of all the groupers, the gag grouper are caught commercially as a table fish.