Snapper vs. Grouper: A Beginner's Guide

Oct 11, 2023 | 4 minute read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Snappers and Groupers are the nation’s favorite food fish. Every summer, thousands of anglers hit the coast to fill their coolers with tasty fillets. You can find them on fish counters and restaurant menus all around the country. But which one’s better? This article breaks down Snapper vs. Grouper by looks, size, taste, and more to try and answer that question.

How to Recognize Snapper vs. Grouper

Three anglers holding Snapper and Grouper caught on a fishing charter in Florida
A Grouper and two Snappers, but how do we know?

Grouper and Snapper are both big families, with a variety of weird and wonderful fish in them. Even so, there are some signature things that distinguish Snapper vs. Grouper. Here’s a rough guide to each family.

Snappers tend to have a more pointed face than Groupers. Their mouths look like they’re made to snatch fish that get too close. Groupers have big, wide mouths, built for inhaling fish whole. Groupers are generally rounder and more thickly built than Snappers. You can think of them as the bruisers of the reef, cruising around in search of a fight. Most Snapper species are slimmer and more agile-looking.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. A fully-grown Red Snapper is much beefier than a young Gag Grouper. Cubera Snapper have big, wide mouths, just like Groupers. If you’re not sure what you’ve caught, it’s best to check it against common species in your area.

Which is Bigger?

A woman and a man posing with a huge Warsaw Grouper on a boat
Warsaw Grouper grow huge, and they’re not even the biggest!

There are some real giants in each of these fishy families. The largest of them all is the aptly named Goliath Grouper. These titans can top 1,000 pounds, and even “small” adults are in the triple digits. They’re not even in the same league as other Snappers and Groupers. So let’s discount them and take a look at the other fish in each group.

The biggest species of Snapper in North America is Cubera. These mean-tempered monsters can top 4 feet long and weigh well over 100 pounds. They’re big, and they’re not afraid to throw their weight around. After Cubera, the next biggest species is world famous Red Snapper, which maxes out at around 40–50 pounds.

Snappers are big, sure, but nowhere near as big as Groupers. Goliath Grouper aside, there are several species which blow the biggest Snappers right out of the water. The world record for Warsaw Grouper is a staggering 436 pounds 12 ounces. Speckled Hind, Gag, and Snowy Grouper all outgrow Red Snapper. Black Grouper can be heavier than the biggest Cubera. It seems like there’s more than one “goliath” in the family!

Which is Tastier?

An angler holding a large Red Snapper on a charter boat
Red Snapper is the most popular, but is it the tastiest?

Everything we’ve covered so far is interesting. But which one should you eat? For many people, this is the key question. Both families are famous for being some of the best food fish on the market. The question is, which one comes out on top?

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Red Snapper, aka America’s favorite fish. Every summer, anglers flock to the Gulf of Mexico in their thousands to bag one. They’re so popular that the Gulf Red Snapper season is one of the most tightly-regulated on the planet.

Do they live up to the hype? You bet! Red Snapper have a delicate, juicy meat that very few fish can compete with. Here’s the thing, though: There are a few fish that do rival these seafood superstars – if you know where to look. Enter Scamp Grouper.

A woman in a purple jacket holding a Scamp Grouper on a boat

They may not look as impressive, but as the saying goes, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Scamp produce large fillets of sweet, white flesh that many people swear is even tastier than Red Snapper. The only issue is getting to them. Scamp live much deeper than their rivals, and are usually caught 200 feet down or more.

Snapper vs. Grouper: Which is Better?

Grouper. Grouper are better.

A Black Grouper and several Mutton Snapper on a fish cleaning board at a dock, ready to be filleted

Just kidding! Both families have a lot to offer. Grouper get bigger, Snapper look cooler. Grouper may taste a little better, but they’re a lot tougher to get to. It’s impossible to choose one over the other. Whether you’re reeling in Yellowtail Snapper on a shallow reef or hauling up Yellowmouth Grouper offshore, you’re in for a lot of fun and a tasty treat to show for it.

What’s the biggest bottom fish you ever caught? Which species do you think tastes best? Do you have an easy way to distinguish Snapper vs. Grouper? Drop us a comment with your thoughts and tips!

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