The Gag Grouper fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods
Gag Grouper reach a maximum total length of 5 feet (1. 5 m) and a weight of 80 lbs (36 kg), but 20-30 is the usual maximum range, and most catches now fall between 2 and 12 pounds. Many juveniles are caught from inshore grass flats. This species is believed to have a lifespan of 16 years. They have gray or light brown body with wavy markings on the side that generally do not form boxes or circles. Edges of fins are bluish. Color deepens to dark brown shortly after removal from water.
Gag grouper, Mycteroperca microlepis, also known as Gray Grouper, Grass Grouper, Copper Belly, Black Grouper, Charcoal Belly, Gag, Gag-Velvet Rockfish and Velvet Rockfish, Abadejo, Aguají or Cuna Aguají in Spanish, Badejo, Badejo Brando, Badejo-Bicudo or Badejo-Branco in Portuguese, is a marine fish, is found in the western Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina south to the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico). They are occurring in Massachusetts, off the coasts of Bermuda, Cuba, and eastern Brazil.
The gag grouper is typical among the groupers with an oblong-shaped elongate body. Body depth is distinctly less than head length, 3.0 to 3.5 times in length. The head is long while the mouth is large with a protruding lower jaw. Dorsal and anal fins are rounded at all sizes and there are no exserted fin rays. The bases of the dorsal and anal fins are covered with scales and thick skin. Lateral body scales smooth, except those covered by pectoral fin. The caudal fin is large and has a slightly concave margin; truncate in juveniles and emarginate in large adults. Adults (larger than 60 cm) have rear nostrils much larger than front ones and preopercle corner of larger species have rounded lobe bearing enlarged serrae.
Dorsal fin has 11 spines and 16 to 18 soft rays.
3rd or 4th dorsal spines are the longest.
Interspinous membranes are distinctly incised.
Anal fin has 3 spines and 11 to 12 soft rays.
Pectoral fins have 16 to 18 rays.
Lateral-line scales 88 to 96.
Lateral scale series 128 to 146.
Maximum total length is 120 cm
Maximum weight up to 39 kg.
The rear margin of tail convex or truncate with rounded corners.
Gill rakers on first arch are 23 to 27.
(4 to 6 on upper limb, 11 to 15 on lower limb).
Body color of the Gag Grouper is variable; depend on sex and age of the fish. Juveniles and mature females are pale to brown-gray with dark blotches and worm-shaped markings resulting in a marbled appearance. The caudal, anal, and pelvic fins have dark black-blue outer margins. Inactive individuals, who are sitting on the bottom, sometimes display a camouflaged pattern with 5 dark brown saddles separated by short white bars just below the dorsal fin. Large mature males are mostly pale to medium gray in color with barely visible dark reticulations below the dorsal fin. The ventral surface above anal fin and belly is darker gray to black in color. The margin of the soft dorsal fin, central rear part of caudal fin and rear margins of pelvic and pectoral fins are also dark gray to black while the margins of the anal and caudal fins are white with a black margin posteriorly. Individuals may exhibit a darker phase in which the posterior of the body, penduncle, soft dorsal fin, and anal fins are black in color.
The gag grouper is often confused with the black grouper; however it may be distinguished based on the color of the fin margins. The caudal fin of the Gag Grouper has white margins on the anal and caudal fins while the Black does not. Also the shape of the caudal fin has a slightly notched margin along the posterior edge of the caudal fin in the Gag Grouper while the Black has square-shaped caudal fin. There are two well-developed canine teeth present in front of each jaw. These are quite effective for holding prey items.
Residing in brackish to marine waters, adults are usually offshore on rocky bottoms in 40 to 80 m, and inshore on rocky or grassy bottoms to depths of 500 feet (152 m). Juveniles usually occur in estuaries and seagrass beds.
Adult gag grouper school in groups of 5-50 individuals or may be found solitary, 5 to 15m above the bottom. Recordings have been made of adult gag grouper producing thumping sounds through the swim bladder by vibrations resulting from the contraction of associated musculature. These sounds are produced during times when the fish is under duress.
Adults feed mainly on fishes and also take some crabs, shrimps, and cephalopods while juveniles (less than 8 inches (20 cm)) feed mainly on crustaceans (primarily shrimps) that live in shallow grass beds. Both juveniles and adults frequent inshore holes and ledges, often on deeper grass flats. From there they can be found around structure at virtually any fishable offshore depth.
Gag Grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites, begin their life as female, and after a few years of spawning as a female, some Groupers change sex, becoming functional males. This transition generally occurs at 10-11 years of age and lengths of 37-39 inches (95-100 cm). Females mature at 5 or 6 years (67 to 75 cm total length). Spawning occurs from late December, January through April up to May in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Bight at offshore spawning grounds. There is a major spawning ground on the west Florida Shelf. Temporary spawning aggregations are formed in 50 to 120 m. Artificial spawning was accomplished with males produced by induced sex inversion of females.
A 95 cm female was laid 1.5 million eggs. The fertilized eggs are pelagic and transparent, containing a single oil globule. Eggs hatch after approximately 45 hours at water temperatures of 70ºF (21ºC). The kite-shaped larvae persist for 40-50 days, as postlarvae they migrate from the spawning grounds to inshore seagrasses, mangroves, oyster reefs and salt marshes. Juveniles remain in these locations for approximately 3-5 months before they migrate to offshore reefs.
The Gag Grouper provides important recreational and commercial fisheries. It is caught with hook and line, longlines, and occasionally in trawls. They considered as an excellent food value with firm white, a little red flesh and it is marketed fresh.
They are one of the most important groupers in the sport and commercial fisheries of the southeast coast of the USA and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are aggressive strikers and hard fighters at all depths. Fishing methods used are Drifting, Still Fishing, Trolling, Offshore bottom fishing in very deep water or in shallow water on spinning and plug tackle, and bait-casting rods with leadhead jigs, mostly, while trollers rely on large deep-diving plugs. Live baitfish of various sorts are the best natural offerings-try Pilchards, Pinfish, Grunts or Sand Perch (Squirrelfish). Dead small fish and large cut baits also work well. They are frequently found in fairly shallow water and will eagerly take a large streamer fly; this is the best of the Groupers for fly fishermen.
The white-flaked flesh contains no intramuscular bones. The extra lean white meat is firm and moist with large flake and a sweet, mild flavor.
Grilled Margarita Grouper
Combine 1/3 cup Bianco, Silver or Anejo tequila, 1/2 cup of triple sec, 3/4 cup of fresh lime juice, 1 tsp of salt, and 2 tsp of vegetable oil. Place 1 1/2 lbs grouper fillets in a single layer in a flat dish. Pour tequila mixture over, and marinate for 1/2 hour at room temperature, or 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Just before serving, combine 3 medium diced tomatoes, 1 medium finely chopped onion, 1 tbsp minced jalapeño or serrano chile, 2-4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, 1 pinch of sugar, and salt to taste to make fresh tomato salsa. Remove fish from marinade (reserve it for later), and pat dry. Brush fish on both sides with oil, and grind pepper over it. Cook on greased grill over high heat until flesh is opaque (approx. 4 minutes per side). Boil sauce in a saucepan for about 2 minutes, remove and discard the garlic cloves, and spoon over fish. Serve alongside fresh tomato salsa.
Check more great easy Grouper Recepies.