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The Scamp Grouper fish identification, habitats, characteristics, Fishing methods

Scamp is relatively small member of the grouper family, a protogynous grouper that may form spawning aggregations and is a popular commercial and recreational species in the southeastern Atlantic states. The most highly prized grouper in fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico, southeastern USA, and Venezuela. Overall coloration is a deep tan or chocolate brown, with numerous darker markings that form dots, or lines, or groups of lines. Elongated rays of the caudal fin give the broomtail appearance. Excellent food value, commercially considered as the prize of all the Groupers. The sweetest of the Grouper family, is a fantastic treat, great sauteed, steamed, poached, or grilled.

The Scamp Grouper Fishing Scamp, Mycteroperca phenax, also known as Brown Grouper, Broomtail Grouper, Abadejo, is a marine fish, most plentiful along the Gulf Coast and roughly the upper half of the Florida Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Key West. They are common from New England to the southern shore of Caribbean, including the Gulf of Mexico, less common north of Georgia in the Atlantic, in South Florida and the Bahamas, where it is largely replaced by the similar Yellowmouth Grouper.

The scamp, related to the gag and other slender-bodied groupers, are identified by their elongate body, pronounced anal and soft dorsal ray extensions, a more concave profile of the head, and by color. Body depth contained 3.0 to 3.4 times, head length 2.6 to 3.0 times in standard length. Scamp have a tan to brownish, even to dark gray body covered with sharply defined, well-separated dark spots, which are approximately an eighth of an inch in diameter give lined appearance. Tail has ragged appearance in adults.
    Posterior nostrils of adults are 2 to 4 times larger than anterior nostrils. Preopercle of adults are with projecting bony lobe at angle. Prominent spiny knob on bottom rear corner of gill cover. Longest gill raker is longer than the longest gill filament. Adults have unevenly exerted rays in dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. Maximum total length (not including exserted caudal rays) is 90 cm, maximum weight about 15 kg.

  • Dorsal fin has 11 spines and 16 to 18 soft rays.
  • Anal fin has 3 spines and 10 to 12 soft rays.
  • Pectoral fins have 15 to 17 rays.
  • Lateral-line scales 76 to 82.
  • Lateral scale series 124.
  • Lateral body scales ctenoid.
  • Maximum total length is 90 cm
  • Maximum weight up to 15 kg., usually under 10 lbs.
  • Caudal fin concave.
  • Gill rakers on first arch are 26 to 31.
    8 to 10 on upper limb, 17 to 21 on lower limb
    including 3 or 4 rudiments on each limb.
  • The Fish Diagram
    There are 4 color patterns: the usual pattern is the brown phase, with head and body pale brownish grey, covered (except ventrally) with closely-set, small dark spots (1 on each scale) which extend onto the median fins; angle of mouth yellowish. The ‘cat’s paw’ phase is pale brown, the dorsolateral parts of body with several clusters of dark brown spots resembling the paw print of a cat. Large adults (50 to 70 cm) displayed a grey-head phase, with rear 2/3 of body dark, the head and body anterior to sixth dorsal-fin spine silvery grey with dark reticulations, belly and ventral part of body above anal fin with several white spots; fins white except for black margin of pectoral fins. A bicolor phase was pale brown anteriorly and abruptly dark brown posterior to origin of soft dorsal fin. Changes color to suit environment and can vary from gray to deep red, but retains dashed lines

    Found over ledges and high-relief rocky bottoms in the eastern Gulf of Mexico; at low-profile bottoms at depths of 30 to 100 m from North Carolina to Georgia; this species was the most abundant grouper in areas of living Octolina coral formations at depths of 70 to 100 m off the east coast of Florida. This species apparently moved inshore when bottom temperature fell below 8.6°C. Juveniles found in shallow water at jetties and in mangrove areas. Sometimes fairly close to shore, but generally sticks to deep reefs and ledges offshore. Juveniles inshore are in estuaries and bays, adults in deeper water inshore and offshore in reefs, wrecks, jetties, pilings to depths over 300 feet.
        Feed mainly on fishes, but crustaceans and octopus are also occasionally eaten. If it moves and fits in its mouth, it is dinner. An occasional cruiser, but primarily an ambush predator, that lurks in or near structure. When a food item (mostly crabs, shrimp, squid, octopus, and minnows) approaches, the grouper darts out and engulfs it, then retreats to its den. Will also eat freshly dead fishes if they are presented near its lair, which may be a reef, dock piling, wreck, or jetty.
        Because of their relatively small size, they may be restricted to areas of topographic complexity where they can find shelter from predators such as sharks. Juvenile scamp have been found at jetties and in mangrove areas. Off the Carolinas, scamp grows slowly and attains an age of 21 years (89 cm fork length).

    Scamp, like many snappers and groupers, are protogynous hermaphrodites, changing sex from female to male with increased size and age. Females begin to reach sexual maturity around age 1 at length over 12 inches. The sexual transition occurs after females reach sexual maturity and is spread across a wide range of size and age, sometimes dependent upon the ratio of sexes in the population (an absence of large males can stimulate earlier transition in females.) Most fish less than 24 inches in length are femaleThey are usually migrating within oceans typically between spawning and different feeding areas, as tunas do. Migrations should be cyclical and predictable and cover more than 100 km. Spawns over reefs and wrecks from 30 feet to 200 feet in depth, especially around the sea mounts off of western Florida in early spring. Maturity is attained at 3 years (40 cm). The eggs hatch and young hang near the surface and around vegetation, eventually taking residence inshore.

    Fishing Methods. The Scamp Grouper is just one type of Grouper that can be caught offshore. Outstanding fishing on light tackle, but most are overpowered by heavy gear using drifting, still Fishing and trolling. Sheer depth-typical of many Panhandle bottom-fishing drops-may necessitates rods and lines stout enough to handle very heavy sinkers. In depths where practical, however, spinning and baitcasting tackle will handle Scamps admirably-and provide great sport as well as a great dinner. Leadhead jigs weighing 3/4 of an ounce to 11/2 ounces get lots of strikes with light gear-and if the bare jig isn't producing, it can be tipped with a strip of cut bait, or a whole small baitfish, and used as a bottom fishing rig. Any kind of small fish makes fine live bait. Shrimp, squid and cut baits also do the job. Large diving plugs draw strikes in fairly shallow water-to about 50 feet.

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