Length - Maximum of approx. 2 – 5 feet
Weight - Maximum of approx. 20 – 80 lbs.
The gag grouper population inhabits both the Atlantic Ocean from North Carolina to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Juvenile gag grouper are often found farther north in estuaries and bays along the East coast.
While juveniles prefer seagrass beds, oyster reefs, and other small structures, adult gag grouper utilize deeper waters that possess a variety of structures ranging from live-rock bottom and reefs to ledges and depressions.
These grouper prey on sardines, snappers, grunts, scad, porgies, crustaceans, and squid.
Gag grouper are slow growers with an extended lifespan. Young gag grouper exhibit female characteristics and are fully mature at the age of 4. As they continue to grow larger, many will develop male attributes beyond the age of 10. The gag grouper can live for more than 30 years. The spawning season of gag grouper begins in January and continues into late spring. During this time, the largest females are able to release nearly 2 million eggs per spawn.
Importance to Fisheries and Aquaculture:
As recently as 2010, the commercial harvest of gag grouper alone brought in nearly four million dollars. Additionally, gag grouper account for a great deal of recreational fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Over 61% of the annual catch limit was actually brought in by the recreational sector. It is clear that the health of gag grouper populations will be important for the coastal economy throughout the Southeast and Gulf Coast states.
The gag grouper is a large fish that has countless small scales, a characteristic that contributed to its Latin name, microlepis. Wherein, micro means small and lepis means scale.