Types of Grouper in Florida: A Short Guide
Jul 4, 2019 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Groupers are some of Florida’s most iconic fish species. From monster Goliaths to delicious Scamps, these big bottom-dwellers are a favorite on most Floridian fishing trips. In this article, you can learn all about the different types of Grouper in Florida. Find out what they are, where they live, how big they get, and more.

Black Grouper

A fisherman in a cap holding a Black Grouper, with water behind him

World record: 124 lb, 0 oz – Gulf of Mexico (TX)

One of the largest species of Grouper in the Atlantic, Black Grouper are loved by commercial crews and recreational anglers alike. They can grow to well over 4 feet and easily top 100 pounds. The average catch in Florida is around half that length, weighing between 5 and 20 pounds. A 40 lb fish is considered a real trophy.

Black Grouper live around rocky bottoms and reefs on both sides of the Sunshine State. Adults hang out in anything from 60 to over 250 feet of water. They spend their summers spawning in much shallower seas, though, as little as 30 feet deep. Juveniles stick to these inshore spots until they’re big enough to fend for themselves.

Gag Grouper

A fisherman on a boat holding a Gag Grouper

World record: 80 lb, 6 oz – Destin, FL

Commonly known as “Grey Grouper,” these guys are a staple of reef fishing trips around the Gulf and up the Atlantic. They don’t grow as big as Black Grouper, usually maxing out somewhere around 50 pounds. Even so, the average catch is in the same 5–20 lb bracket as Black Grouper.

Adult Gag Grouper live in similar places to most Grouper species: reefs, drop-offs, and other rocky structure in 60+ feet of water. However, younger Gags can be found in estuaries and even seagrass beds, so don’t be surprised if you hook one while you’re on the hunt for Redfish and other inshore species.

Goliath Grouper

An angler leaning over the side of a boat holding a Goliath Grouper in the water

World record: 680 lb, 0 oz – Fernandina Beach, FL

These heavyweights more than live up to their name. They can reach 8 feet and over 800 pounds. Despite their size, they don’t live anywhere near as deep as you might expect. Bigger fish hunt around muddy and rocky coastal waters. Young Goliaths will head right into estuaries and look for food around oyster bars.

Goliath Grouper are big, and they know it. They often swim up to divers and spearfishers, to see what they’re up to and maybe steal their lunch. Their huge size and fearless curiosity made them an easy target, and they were overfished almost to extinction in the late 20th century. Luckily, Goliath Grouper are strictly protected these days, and you can only fish for them on a catch-and-release basis.

Nassau Grouper

A Nassau Grouper on a sandy bottom surface underwater

World record: 38 lb, 8 oz – Bimini, Bahamas

Nassau Grouper aren’t the biggest fish on this list. They’re not the tastiest or the most colorful, either. However, they may well be the most intelligent fish in the sea. From teaming up with other predators to catch their dinner to reportedly fanning bait out of traps for an easy snack, they’re far brighter than most people give them credit for.

Sadly, this intelligence comes with the same natural curiosity that put Goliath Grouper in hot water. Nassau Grouper are critically endangered, and their numbers are still falling. Naturally, they’re protected in Florida. If you come across one, count yourself lucky for the chance to meet it and make sure it swims off unharmed.

Red Grouper

An angler in a shirt shirt holding a Red Grouper on a boat

World record: 42 lb, 4 oz – St. Augustine, FL

Nothing says “reef fishing in Florida” like a boatful of big, tasty Red Grouper. These deep-water hunters are the reason people bother to go offshore when there are so many fish in the shallows. They look great and taste even better!

The average Red Grouper weighs somewhere in the 5–10 lb range, and anything over 2 feet long is a rare catch. They live around rocky bottom up to 1,000 feet down, so you may have to travel 20 miles or more to get to them. Don’t worry, they won’t be the only fish you find there.

Scamp Grouper

A lady angler holding a Scamp Grouper

World record: 32 lb, 0 oz – Atlantic Beach, NC

According to most people who have caught them, Scamp are the tastiest fish in the family. They may even be the tastiest fish, period. Scamp are pretty small by Grouper standards. Your average fish will be well under 2 feet and anything over 5 pounds is a good catch.

Scamp are a deep-water species. You won’t come across them in much less than 100 feet of water, and you can easily find them in three or four times that depth. Not that we’re complaining – they’re well worth traveling for, and whatever they’re eating down there sure must be tasty!

Snowy Grouper

An angler on a fishing charter in Florida holding a large Snowy Grouper

World record: 70 lb, 7oz – Norfolk Canyon, VA

Now we’re getting into real deep dropping territory. Snowy Grouper start to show up around 350 feet down, and have been caught as deep as 800 feet in the past. Like Scamp, Snowy Grouper are among the tastiest fish out there. They also grow much bigger than Scamp, meaning you’re in for a real feast if you catch one.

Snowy Grouper get their name from the white markings across their body. They’re one of the easiest deep-water fish to identify, even though catching one is pretty rare. If you’re set on landing a “Snowie,” get ready for a long ride. You should maybe even consider a multi-day trip to make sure you get your money’s worth.

Speckled Hind

A fisherman on a charter boat holding a Speckled Hind Grouper

World record: 52 lb, 8 oz – Destin, FL

Speckled Hind have racked up a pretty mixed batch of nicknames: Strawberry Grouper, Calico Grouper, Kitty Mitchel – the list goes on. Whatever you call them, these guys are sure to turn heads if you catch one. Half the boat will be admiring its looks, the other half will be trying to figure out what the heck you just reeled in.

Speckled Hind usually live 200–400 feet down around rocky bottom. The deeper you go, the bigger the fish get. And that’s about all we know about them. NOAA has declared Speckled Hind a Species of Concern, mainly because they have so little data on them. They’re currently protected in Florida’s Federal Atlantic waters.

Warsaw Grouper

A man and a woman holding a large Warsaw Grouper on a boat

World record: 436 lb, 12 oz – Destin, FL

If Goliath Grouper are the kings of the shallows, these guys dominate the deep. They’re capable of hitting almost 600 pounds and well over 7 feet. Add in the fact that they live several hundred feet down, where all fish taste great, and they become the dream catch of many deep dropping enthusiasts.

The problem with Warsaw Grouper (and most other deep-water Groupers) is that they’re difficult to release alive. The change in water pressure is enough to kill them, especially when they fight and struggle on their way up. If you want to give your fish the best chance possible, you’ll need specialized equipment and a captain with a lot of experience in handling deep-dwelling fish.

Yellowfin Grouper

A Yellowfin Grouper underwater around rocky structure
Source: NOAA

World record: 42 lb, 0 oz – Cypremort Point, LA

Yellowfin Grouper get full marks for outlandish looks. Their dappled, red body and bright yellow fins provide camouflage around the deep, rocky structure that they hunt around. Bring them to the surface, though, and they stand out like a sore thumb. Perhaps the crazy looks are a warning to us.

Yellowfin’s scientific name, “Mycteroperca venenosa,” roughly translates to “Poisonous Grouper.” This is because they tend to have very high levels of ciguatoxin. They’re delicious, sure. But with so many other tasty fish out there, it may be best to avoid the one with “poison” in the name.

Yellowmouth Grouper

A Yellowmouth Grouper swimming around a reef in Florida
Source: NOAA

World record: 22 lb, 8 oz – Murrell’s Inlet, SC

Last but not least, Yellowmouth Grouper are a deep-water fish that look very similar to Scamp. The difference, of course, is in the mouth. It’s unclear why Yellowmouth Grouper have such luminous lips. Perhaps it tricks other fish into approaching. Maybe it’s just a sign that they’re great to eat!

That’s right, Yellowmouth are delicious. They’re slightly smaller than Scamp on average, but many anglers say that they taste just as good. Yellowmouth Grouper are uncommon in the Gulf of Mexico, but you can bag yourself a colorful feast all along Florida’s Atlantic Coast.

And More!

These are some of the most common (and interesting) types of Grouper in Florida. We’ve tried to cover all the fish you’re likely to catch while fishing in the Sunshine State, but there are plenty more fish in the sea. Who knows what you’ll come across on your next deep-sea adventure?

Which types of Grouper have you caught in Florida? Are there any that we missed? Which one do you think tastes best? Let us know in the comments below!

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