Similar to snapper, there are seemingly countless sub-categories of grouper. A member of the sea bass family, grouper share similar characteristics despite varying sizes and colorations. No matter which ocean they reside in, grouper are always found in tropical temperate waters. They are also a reef dwelling fish and can be found between 30 feet of water to 300 feet.
Grouper have conical shapes like football and large broom-like tails. Their lower jaws extend past the upper jaw, exposing rows of sharp small teeth. The broomtail grouper is found on the Pacific Coast of Central America while the gag, black, and goliath grouper are found on the Atlantic Coast and Caribbean. As the name implies, the goliath grouper is by far the largest of the species and can reportedly reach up to 1,000 lbs! The world record was a 680 pound monster caught in Florida in the 80s, but today they rarely grow larger than 200-300 lbs.
Grouper are a vital part of sustaining a healthy balance on the reef as they are a top predator. Due to their delicious white meat and slow grow rate however they have become under pressure from over fishing the past two decades, especially the goliath grouper. Grouper aren’t known to have excellent fighting abilities like billfish or tarpon, but due to their sheer size they make for a fun encounter. The trick is when you first hook a grouper you have to be sure you don’t let it hide back in the rocks or a cave and dig in as it will become an immovable object.
WHAT THEY EAT: Grouper are ambush predators that seem to feed when opportunity knocks. Not particularly known as a high energy fish, they have been seen and filmed being extremely aggressive towards divers and spear fishermen. Their normal diet is other fish, crustaceans like crabs and lobster, and big grouper will even eat sea turtles.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Grouper are a reef dwelling fish that prefer deeper water. They can often be found on offshore reefs, ship wrecks, and oil rigs. Bottom fishing using dead bait like squid, octopus, or bonito and a stiffer medium action rod is the way to go.