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What is a Grouper?

Grouper is the name used to describe a diverse family of fish. Typically, grouper have stout bodies similar in shape to snapper and a large mouth for catching prey. They range in size from several hundred pounds down to only a few pounds. The markings grouper have can range from spots, bars, and blotches to monotone and two tone color schemes. When it comes to table fare grouper are exceptional. Their meat is white, mild, and flaky which is perfect for a variety of preparations.

Gag Grouper Fishing in Florida

Grouper Fishing

Grouper are stout predators that prefer to lie and wait rather than chase their prey. These fish are also opportunistic scavengers that wont pass up an easy meal. The large mouth and powerful gills of a grouper create a vacuum that sucks prey into their mouth in the blink of an eye. Bottom fishing and in some cases deep dropping are the most effective methods to catch grouper. While artificial lures and baits can work, bottom fishing with natural baits is particularly effective for these fish. The most common food sources for grouper are crustaceans, fish, and occasionally squid.

Where Do Grouper Live

Most of the grouper species in the Western Atlantic will inhabit temperate to tropical waters which have moderate temperatures throughout the year. This range typically spans from North Carolina south into the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Ocean. Some grouper species can be found as far south as Brazil.

When it comes to the preferred habitat, reefs in 50 to 300 feet of water are an ideal environment for a variety of grouper species. Bottom structure including rock piles, reefs, wrecks, and ledges hold prey and provide cover for these ambush predators. The ideal depth will vary depending on the species of grouper being targeted. Offshore drop-offs and canyons have depths over 600 feet which hold the deep dwelling yellowedge grouper and tilefish. On the other end of the scale, gag grouper can frequently be found inshore near grass beds, mangroves, and holes.

Florida Goliath Grouper Season

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has reopened goliath grouper fishing for the first time in 32 years. The new rules require anglers to enter a lottery for a tag or permit. Each permit allows for the harvest of one goliath grouper and there are approximately 200 permits. The slot limit for goliath grouper is between 24 and 36 inches. The new season is open from March 1, to May 31, 2023. Florida is the only state that allows the harvest of goliath grouper.

Nassau Grouper

Nassau grouper are residents in both Gulf and Atlantic waters. While anglers will occasionally catch one of these giant fish, harvest is prohibited. Anglers are urged to handle the fish with care and release it as quickly as possible.

Gag Grouper Season (State & Federal Waters)

Gag grouper are no longer managed regionally in Gulf of Mexico waters. The gag grouper season is open from September 1 through November 10, 2023.

Gulf of Mexico Grouper Season

Fishing is closed beyond the 20-fathom break from February 1 through March 31 for the following species:

- Black Grouper

- Red Grouper

- Scamp Grouper

- Yellowfin Grouper

- Yellowmouth Grouper

Fishing is still open year-round in state waters inside of the 20 fathom break.

Red Grouper Fishing in Key West Florida

Gulf of Mexico Grouper Bag Limits

Aggregate bag limits are in place for grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers may keep up to 4 grouper within the individual bag limits of each species. It is important to note that the aggregate bag limit also includes tilefish. The grouper species and respective bag limits that count toward the aggregate limit are:

Black Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Fish must be at least 24 inches long in total length to harvest.

Red Grouper - Bag Limit: 2

Fish must be at least 20 inches long in total length to harvest.

Scamp Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Fish must be at least 16 inches long in total length to harvest.

Gag Grouper - Bag Limit: 2

Fish must be at least 24 inches long in total length to harvest.

Snowy Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Speckled Hind Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

Speckled hind have a vessel limit of one fish.

Warsaw Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

Warsaw grouper have a vessel limit of one fish.

Yellowedge Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Yellowfin Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Fish must be at least 20 inches long in total length to harvest.

Yellowmouth Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Coney Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Graysby Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Misty Grouper - Bag Limit: 4

Rock Hind - Bag Limit: 4

Red Hind - Bag Limit: 4

State water Grouper Regulations

State water grouper fishing in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are open year round except February 1, through March 31, seaward of the 20-fathom boundary.

Florida grouper Season & Regulations

Florida has grouper seasons and regulations for both Gulf and Atlantic waters. You can find in-depth information on grouper fishing in Florida here.

Atlantic Grouper Season

Grouper fishing regulations for North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida are managed by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.

Fishing is open from May 1 through December 31, 2023 for the following species:

- Red Grouper

- Black Grouper

- Yellowfin Grouper

- Yellowmouth Grouper

- Scamp Grouper

- Coney Grouper

- Graysby Grouper

- Gag Grouper

- Rock Hind

- Red Hind

Snowy Grouper Season

Fishing for snowy grouper in Atlantic Federal Waters is open from May 1 to August 31, 2023.

Atlantic Bag Limits

Aggregate bag limits are in place for grouper in the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers may keep up to 4 grouper within the individual bag limits of each species. It is important to note that the aggregate bag limit also includes tilefish. The grouper species and respective bag limits that count toward the aggregate limit are:

Gag Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

Bag limit is restricted to one gag grouper or one black grouper at least 24 inches in total length.

Black Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

Bag limit is restricted to one black grouper or one gag grouper at least 24 inches in total length.

Red Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Fish must be at least 20 inches long in total length to harvest.

Scamp Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Fish must be at least 20 inches long in total length to harvest.

Snowy Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

In State Waters the bag limit is one fish per person but in Federal Waters it’s one fish per vessel.

Speckled Hind Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

Speckled hind have a vessel limit of one fish in State Waters. Federal harvest is prohibited.

Warsaw Grouper - Bag Limit: 1

Warsaw grouper have a vessel limit of one fish in State waters. Federal harvest is prohibited.

Yellowedge Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Yellowfin Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Fish must be at least 20 inches long in total length to harvest.

Yellowmouth Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Fish must be at least 20 inches long in total length to harvest.

Coney Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Graysby Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Misty Grouper - Bag Limit: 3

Rock Hind - Bag Limit: 3

Red Hind - Bag Limit: 3

Grouper Species

Grouper come in all sizes in colors and inhabit a wide range of different habitats. Check out our Grouper Species blog to learn about 16 of the most popular grouper.