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Grouper, Sea Bass family species, their habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.

The Serranidae Family is very large in size and composed of several clearly-defined subfamilies. Those subfamilies include the noticeable groupers (Epinephelinae), small seabasses and hamlets (Serraninae), the deep-water Basslets (Liopropominae), Bacalasos, Cabrillas, Camolillos, Coneys, Grasbys, the Soapfishes (Grammistinae), Hinds, Leather Basses, Sand Perches, Splittail Bases and Threadfin Basses, and the small Reef Basses (Pseudogramma gregoryi). There are approximately 450 global members of this family from 68 genera. They range in size from the largest 9 feet (2.5 m) in length and 900 pounds (400 kg) Jewfish Grouper to the smallest less than 2 in (5cm) in length, Jeboehlkia Gladifer.

Seabasses and Groupers have bass-like appearances, they are robust to moderately compressed and oblong-oval to rather elongate and slender, with a single continuous dorsal fin, 3 anal fin spines and deep caudal peduncle. Snout is short to moderately long, and generally convex in profile. Nostril is paired and located anterior to eye. Mouth is moderate to large with more than one row of teeth and either terminal or with lower jaw projecting beyond upper jaw. Upper jaw is more or less protrusible, and maxilla is mostly exposed when mouth is closed and extends to below or slightly beyond eye (except in Bank Bass). A single, well-developed supra-maxilla is present on dorsal margin of maxilla. Teeth are small, slender, conical, and depressible and occur in jaws, vomer, and palatines bones (on roof of mouth) (teeth absent in School bass). Some species also have several canine teeth on jaws. Anterior teeth of some species are enlarged (caniniform).
    Eyes are large and laterally located. Lachrymal bone lacks serrations. Preoperculum has serrate posterior margin and serrate or undulate lower margin. Upper margin of operculum is free. Rear margin of operculum has 3 (rarely 2) flat spines, with upper and lower spines often inconspicuous and covered with skin. Gill membranes are separate but joined to isthmus anteriorly. Pseudo-branch, inner side of gill cover, is well developed. Branchiostegal membranes separate, joined to isthmus far forward, with 7 branchiostegal rays (6 rays in School bass and Pygmy sea bass).
    The gill rakers on first arch are short to long, typical being notched and have 3 flat spines or points and occasionally bear small teeth. Pectoral fin is rounded to slightly pointed, and usually longer than pelvic fin. Pelvic fin is thoracic, has 1 spine and 5 branched rays, the origin slightly before or behind pectoral-fin base, and either has a rudimentary scaly axillary process or absent. Lateral line is single (absent in Bladefin Bass) and does not extend onto caudal fin but is lacking in one genus. Their bodies are covered with small rough to moderately large scales, usually ctenoid, but sometimes cycloid, nearly smooth. Their head is partly scaled, snout and preorbital region usually naked, but cheeks scaly. There are usually 24 to 26 vertebrae with 10 or 11 abdominal (pre-caudal) and 14 to 16 caudal vertebrae.
    Dorsal fin is often notched, rarely divided to base, and has 2 to 11 spines and 10 to 27 soft rays. Spiny and soft-rayed parts are separate in Peppermint basslet and some basslets. The upper (dorsal) spine and lower (ventral) spine often not noticeable (just sharp projections of the opercle edge and covered by skin and scales). The middle spine is the largest and usually projecting as a separate (exposed) spine. Anal fin has 3 spines and 6 to 17 soft rays (spines absent in Mottled Soapfish). Caudal fin usually rounded, truncate, emarginate, or lunate, rarely forked, and has 13 to 16 branched rays. Grouper Sea Bass Family Species diagram
They are highly variable in color, with patterns of spots, light or dark stripes, vertical or oblique bars, or nearly plain. Many species are capable of rapid color changes; xanthic (all yellow) phases are common in some species, and several species have distinctively colored deep- and shallow-water forms. Color patterns are helpful for identification of species, but one needs to be aware of variations within the species.

Species of Serranidae Family occur worldwide in tropical and subtropical to temperate waters and occasionally in freshwater. They are typically demersal (bottom dwellers) fishes, ranging from shallow coastal waters to pretty depths, but most species of the family occur on continental or insular shelves. Most species are benthic and associated with hard bottoms around rocky reef structures to depths of 200 m, but some reach depths of 500 m and others occur on soft bottoms, mud or sandy bottoms and sea-grass beds on continental shelves. Juveniles of a few species are common in lower reaches of estuaries.
    Except for breeding aggregations, most species are solitary, but some (Subfamily Anthiinae) occur in groups apparently feeding on zooplankton a few meters above the bottom. Seabasses, like the groupers, are moderately sedentary and often seen sitting on the bottom. Most groupers are solitary fishes; usually reside on a particular reef for years.
    Most of the members of this family are voracious predators feeding on ray-finned fishes and invertebrates (mainly crustaceans, polychaetes and cephalopods). Some species have long, numerous gill rakers and are thus adapted for feeding on zooplankton.

    Most of the species of the family, Anthiines and most groupers are hermaphroditic, they first mature as females and, after 1 or more spawning as females, they change sex and spawning after as males. Synchronous hermaphroditism, with both sexes functional at the same time in a single individual, is characteristic of most species in the Subfamily Serraninae. Even though they can fertilize their own eggs, they generally spawn in pairs and exchange the release of eggs or sperm in order to have their eggs fertilized by the other fish.
    Eggs and larvae are pelagic. Eggs are 0.7 to 1.2 mm in diameter, and larvae are distinguished by their relatively wide body, particularly large terminal mouth, and large round eye. Greatly elongated second dorsal spine and 3 stout spines in a short anal fin are the most distinguish characteristics. Although the size of larvae varies widely within the family: hamlets and basslets settle very small (5mm), while some groupers settle mostly large, sometimes reaching up to 2 inches in length while still pelagic.
    The groupers of the Epinephelidae family reproduce at the new or full moon, telling that there may be some selective advantages associated with spawning at spring tide as the tide has greater amplitude, lunar spawning rhythms. Moreover, the lunar cycles apparently help to synchronize the spawn.

    The larger members of the family are considered to be excellent highly-priced food substance. Groupers are avidly sought by commercial, artisanal, and sport fishermen. Serranids are caught with hook-and-line, gill nets, trammel nets, bottom set longlines, spears, traps, and in trawls. Some groupers are important in aquaculture, and a few species have been spawned in captivity. Several species are used in cage-culture operations in the western Pacific region. The smaller serranids, particularly the colorful Anthiinae, Liopropomatini, and Serraninae are of value as aquarium fishes.

Black Grouper

    Although similar in appearance to the gag, the black grouper has a more vivid color pattern that may include brassy, bronze spots on the side of the head and body and, sometimes, dark, rectangular blotches running the length of the back. Its fins are bordered in black. Black grouper may reach 4 feet and 180 pounds.

Gag Grouper

    The brownish-gray body of the gag is covered with thin, dark, wormlike markings often grouped in blotches that give the fish a marbled look. Itís pelvic, anal, and tail fins are dark; the anal and tail fins have a white outer margin. Although it may reach 3 feet and 70 pounds, most are much smaller. The gag is often erroneously identified as a black grouper.

Goliath Grouper

    The giant of the grouper family, the goliath (formerly called jewfish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins and has a gargantuan mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes. Its tail is rounded. Its five irregular, dark body bands, or stripes, are most visible on young goliath. They can reach whopping lengths of 8 feet or more. They feed mostly on fish and crustaceans, such as crabs and spiny lobster.

Marbled Grouper

    Marbled grouper, also known as Brown Marbled grouper, Sickelfish Grouper, Rockhind, Mutton Hamlet, Grouper, is a deep water reef associated marine fish. Marbled grouper are dark brown or charcoal with numerous white spots. Juveniles are black or dark brown, covered with irregular white spots and blotches; adultís mottled greyish brown with white speckles and small black spots that tend to be arranged in rings.

Misty Grouper

    Misty grouper, Mystic Grouper, Mustache Grouper, is a solitary, deep-water species of family Serranidae. They considered as an excellent food value but seldom caught on sporting gear. Mostly they caught using drifting fishing method with cut bait. Maximum size is at least 115 cm; and over 54 kg, Common at 15-50 pounds.

Nassau Grouper

    This species has five irregular brown or red-brown side bands on a light background. A wide, brown stripe runs on each side of the head from the upper snout to the forward base of the dorsal fin. There is a broad, black patch that rests like a saddle on top of the narrow part of the tail. Nassau groupers may grow to a length of 3 feet and weigh 55 pounds. Their colorful, zebra-like appearance has made them a favorite photo subject for diversí magazines. Nassau grouper form large spawning aggregations, which makes this species highly vulnerable to overharvest. All harvest of this species is prohibited in Florida waters.

Red Grouper

    Red grouper is a brownish-red fish with scattered pale blotches, black dots around the eyes, and dark-tipped dorsal, anal, and tail fins. The membrane between the dorsal spines is not notched, and the tail fin is squared off. Red grouper is the most thoroughly studied of the Florida groupers, and much of what scientists know about groupers is based on research on red grouper. They may grow to 3 feet in length and average 10 pounds, though some reach a hefty 40 pounds.

Scamp Grouper

    The light gray or brown body of the scamp is covered with reddish-brown spots that tend to be grouped into lines. The corners of the mouth may be yellow. The top and bottom edges of the tail of large adults are elongated. Scamp may grow to 2 feet in length and weigh up to 28 pounds.

Snowy Grouper

    Dark gray all over, the snowy grouperís name derives from the obscure white spots arranged in a definite geometric pattern over the body. It may reach 3 feet in length and weigh 30 pounds. This deep-water species may be found as deep as 800 feet.

Tiger Grouper

    Tiger grouper is a species of fish in the Serranidae family. The grouper has a tapered body, often reddish, with vertical stripes on its sites. Young individuals have a yellow color. This fish lives in sheltered reef areas. The Tiger Grouper is a large beautiful lurk-and-lunge hunter who catches its prey by finding a hiding place in the reef and then waiting patiently for an unsuspecting small fish to swim nearby. Then, with a quick lunge, it opens its jaws to swallow its meal in an easy gulp.

Warsaw Grouper

    A uniform brown in color, the Warsaw grouper has no spots or stripes to make it stand out from the crowd. It is, however, distinguished by its impressive bulk and by a dorsal fin with a very long second spine. The Warsaw grouper may reach 6 feet in length and weigh 580 pounds

Yellowedge Grouper

    The yellowedge grouper is a large (to 18 kg) grouper that inhabits hard bottom and rocky outcroppings in depths of 190 to 220m. Yellowedge grouper live at least 15 years and grow to longer than 1m. Adults feed on bottom dwelling animals, including squid, octopus, crabs, eels, lizardfish, seahorses, scorpionfish, and searobins.

Yellowfin Grouper

    The yellowfin Grouper, also called the rockfish, is variably colored, commonly olive green with rows of rounded, irregular, dark splotches on its back. Its belly is often salmon pink, and its mouth is yellow inside and along the corners. The outer 1/3 of the pectoral fin is a brilliant yellow. Yellowfin are taken from waters deeper than 100 feet are often bright red with even darker red body blotches. Yellowfin may grow to 30 inches and about 20 pounds.

Yellowmouth Grouper

    Yellowmouth grouper is reef-associated and found mainly on rocky or coral bottoms from the shoreline to at least 55 m depth. Small and medium-sized individuals commonly occur in mangrove-lined lagoons. More common in island waters than along the coast. It is targeted by fisheries in some areas, but its rarity prevents it from becoming a major target species. In areas where fisheries are developed, rapid population declines have been noted.
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