Black Grouper (misnomer), Gray Grouper
Managed by: SAFMC
Gag grouper have long, compressed bodies and 11 to 14 rays in the anal fins. Coloration is highly variable in gag and changes with the size of the fish. Large gag are dark brownish-gray above and paler below, with traces of dark wavy markings on the sides. Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides. The Scamp, M. phenax, and black grouper, M. bonaci, closely resemble the gag and often occur in the same habitat. Gag have deeply notched preopercles, distinguishing them from black grouper.
The gag grouper is the most widely distributed grouper in the region, with adults present from North Carolina to Brazil over low- and high-profile hard bottom in waters 60-250 feet deep. The species is found in the Gulf of Mexico, but not in the West Indies. Young gag inhabit estuaries from Massechusetts to Cape Canaveral. Spawning takes place in February off the coast of the Carolinas and in January through March in the Gulf of Mexico. Gag are protogynous hermaphrodites, with sexual transition occurring between 10 and 11 years of age. Sexual maturity is attained at age 5 or 6, when fish are 27 to 30 inches long. Gag may live for 15 years and grow to be 51 inches in length and weigh up to 55 pounds. Gag often congregate around rocky ledges and swim in small groups. They are predators of round scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid.
(For areas three-200 miles off the coasts of NC, SC, GA, and East Florida)