Rigs & Knots
Massachusetts and Maine
New York and Rhode Island
Delaware Maryland and Virginia
North and South Carolina
Florida Panhandle and East Gulf
Louisiana and Central Gulf
Texas and West Gulf
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Learn to distinguish between grouper species with this handy guide.
Distinguishing the various groupers is not easy. 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.
Coloring in black grouper varies but the side of the body typically has rectangular shaped dark grey blotches. The edges of the second dorsal and anal fins are black. Found on offshore wrecks and reefs.
The red grouper can be found over muddy or rocky bottom from Massachusetts to Brazil. Prefers depths of 70 to 300-plus meters. 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. Their range runs from North Carolina to the Yucatan Peninsula. The gag grouper's coloration varies, but most are a brownish gray with a pattern of dark worm-like or kiss-shaped markings or vermiculations on the sides. Large males sometimes display a black belly phase
Also called jewfish, 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 body and head have dark brown blotches and black spots. Adults are darker with more spots.
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. There is a tuning-fork shaped stripe on the top of its head. Occurs from the shoreline out to 200 feet in south Florida and the Caribbean.
The yellowfin grouper's coloring varies, but the head and body always have oval-shaped dark spots. Deep-water specimens are reddish while shallower ones are more green. Found on rocky bottom and coral reefs in Bermuda, Florida, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
The body of the broomtail grouper varies from brown to grey or greyish green with oblong dark blotches that form a maze-like pattern. The name comes from the extended rays in the tail that give it a broom-like appearance.
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. Also called a strawberry grouper because of the white spots on the reddish skin.
As its name implies, the yellowedge grouper has a yellow outline on its dorsal, tail and pectoral fins. Other defining characteristics include a light greyish brown to red body with bluish white spots. Found from North Carolina to Brazil in rocky areas and soft bottom.
The body and fins of the marbled grouper are black with many white blotches. It exhibits a compressed shape with a long pectoral fin and smooth scales. Usually found on deep ledges in water up to 600 feet.
The snowy grouper is distinguished by its spiny dorsal fin and dark saddle-shaped blotch by the tail that extends below the lateral line. The pearly white spots are often in a very uniform pattern along the sides of the fish. Adults occur well offshore and usually shed the white spots
The scamp's color changes as it grows. It ranges from a brown phase with a pale brown head and body covered with small reddish brown spots, to a cat's-paw phase with pale brownish red body with clusters of dark brown spots resembling the paw print of a cat. Some are more greyish. Prefers rocky bottom and coral.
The warsaw grouper is dark reddish brown to almost black on its back with a dull reddish grey below. Found from Massachusetts to Brazil, the warsaw is mostly a solitary fish found on rocky bottom.
One of the smaller groupers, the coney is found on coral reefs in subtropical waters throughout the western Atlantic. Because of its small stature, the coney makes its way into the aquarium trade. The fish is regarded for its bright colors.
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