Florida Sportfishing Species
BANK SEA BASS
Description: Pale olive or brassy brown in color with indistinct black blotches that form vertical barrings (the blotch above pectoral fin darker); wavy blue lines on head; lips purplish-blue; caudal fin tri-lobed on adults; edge of nape unscaled.
Similar Fish: Rock sea bass C. philadelphica; other Centropristis.
Where found: Offshore in deep water with rocks and reefs.
Size: Usually 0.3 pound (8 inches).
Remarks: Undergoes sex change, starting life as female, changing to male after three or four spawning seasons; feeds on the bottom, taking squid, crustaceans, and small fish.
Description: olive or gray body coloration with black blotches and brassy spots; gently rounded preopercle.
Similar Fish: gag, M. microlepis; yellowfin grouper, M. venenosa.
Where found: OFFSHORE species; adults associated with rocky bottoms, reef, and drop-off walls in water over 60 feet deep; young may occur INSHORE in shallow water.
Size: common to 40 pounds, may attain weights exceeding 100 pounds.
Remarks: Spawns between May and August; protogynous hermaphrodites, young predominantly female, transforming in males as they grow larger; larger individuals generally in greater depths; feeds on fish and squid.
BLACK SEA BASS
Description: Basic color dark brown or black; dorsal fin has rows and stripes of white on black; large males have irridescent blue and ebony markings, and fatty hump in front of dorsal fin; females may have indistinct vertical barrings; topmost ray of caudal fin much elongated in adults; caudal may be tri-lobed; sharp spine near posterior margin of gill cover.
Similar Fish: Bank sea bass C. ocyurus; other Centropristis.
Where found: Structure-loving fish, associated with reefs and rubble offshore; smaller specimens often found inshore finger channels.
Size: Common to 1.5 pounds (13 inches).
Remarks: Spawns January through March; protogynous hermaphrodites, older females becoming breeding males; omnivorous bottom feeders, diet including small fish, crustaceans, and shellfish.
Description: brownish gray in color with dark worm-like markings on sides; strong serrated spur at bottom margin of preopercle, less noticeable in large specimens; fins dark, with anal and caudal having white margin. Often confused with black grouper; tail of gag is slightly concave, black is square; gag has white margin on anal and caudal fins, black does not; under 10 pounds, gag's spur on preopercle is distinctive, where black is gently rounded.
Similar Fish: black grouper M. bonaci.
Where found: adults OFFSHORE over rocks and reefs; juveniles occur in seagrass beds INSHORE.
Size: common to 25 pounds.
Remarks: forms spawning aggregations in water no shallower than 120 feet in Middle Grounds area, January through March; current reseach to identify similar aggregations off Atlantic coast is ongoing. Young gags are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger; feeds on fish and squid.
Description: Head and fins covered with small black spots; irregular dark and vertical bars present on the sides of body; pectoral and caudal fins rounded; first dorsal fin shorter than and not separated from second dorsal; adults huge, up to 800 pounds; eyes small.
Similar Fish: Other grouper.
Where found: Nearshore often around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.
Size: Largest of the groupers.
Remarks: Spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. NOTE: jewfish are totally protected from harvest in Florida waters.
Description: head and fins covered with small black spots; irregular dark verticle bars present on the sides of body; pectoral and caudal fins rounded; first dorsal fin shorter than and not separated from second dorsal; adults huge, up to 800 pounds; eyes small.
Similar Fish: other grouper.
Where found: NEARSHORE around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.
Size: largest of the groupers.
Remarks: spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish. NOTE: jewfish are totally protected from harvest in Florida waters.
Description: color light background with brown or red-brown bars on sides; stripe in shape of tuning fork on forehead; third spine of dorsal longer than second ; pelvic fins shorter than pectorals; black dots around the eyes; large black saddle on caudal peduncle.
Similar Fish: red grouper, E. morio.
Where found: range limited to south Florida; somewhat site specific; smaller individuals NEARSHORE, adults OFFSHORE on rocky reefs.
Size: most catches under 10 pounds.
Remarks: forms large spawning aggregations, making this species highly vulnerable to overharvest. NOTE: all harvest of this species is prohibited.
Description: color brownish red; lining of mouth scarlet-orange; blotches on sides in unorganized pattern; second spine of dorsal fin longer than others; pectoral fins longer than pelvic fins; squared off tail; margin of soft dorsal black with white at midfin; black dots around the eyes.
Similar Fish: Nassau grouper, E. striatus.
Where found: bottom dwelling fish associated with hard bottom; juveniles OFFSHORE along with adults greater than 6 years old; fish from 1 to 6 years occupy NEARSHORE reefs.
Size: common to 15 pounds.
Remarks: spawns in April and May; prefer water temperatures between 66 and 77 degrees F; undergoes sex reversal, young individual females becoming males as they age; lifespan of at least 25 years; feeds on squid, crustaceans, and fish.
ROCK SEA GROUPER
Description: Color olive-brown or bronze, with dark blotches forming vertical bars; dark black blotch on middle of dorsal fin base; tip of lower jaw purplish; bright blue and orange stripes and markings on head and fins; fully scaled nape; tail tri-lobed in adults.
Similar Fish: bank sea bass C. ocyurus; other Centropristis.
Where found: Offshore; differs from other sea basses in that it is often found on sandy or muddy bottoms.
Size: Small species rarely more than 10 inches.
Remarks: Spawns January through March; young adults are predominently female, transforming into males as they grow older; maximum size about 10 inches.
Description: Color light gray or brown; large adults with elongated caudal-fin rays; reddish brown spots on sides that tend to be grouped into lines; some yellow around corners of mouth.
Similar Fish: Yellowmouth grouper, M. interstitialis.
Where found: Nearshore reefs off the northeastern coast, and on offshore reefs in the Gulf.
Size: Generally smaller than gags or blacks.
Remarks: Spawns in late spring; feeds on small fish, squid, and crustaceans; undergoes sex transformation from female to male as it becomes older.
Description: Color highly variable greenish olive or bright red with longitudinal rows of darker black blotches over entire fish; outer one third of pectoral fins bright yellow; lower parts of larger fish with small bright red spots.
Similar Fish: Black grouper, M. bonaci; other grouper.
Where found: Offshore on reefs off southern portions of Florida.
Size: Common to 20 pounds.
Remarks: Undergoes sex reversal from female to male in latter part of life; specific name translates to "venomous," alluding to the fact that this fish, perhaps more frequently than other groupers, is associated with ciguatera poisoning; feeds on fish and squid.
Description: Color tan or brown with darker spots, or a network of spots, fused into lines; distinct yellow wash behind the jaws; yellow around the eyes; outer edges of fins yellowish.
Similar Fish: Scamp, M. phenax.
Where found: Offshore over reefs and rocks; not as common as scamp in the Gulf; range limited to southern Florida.
Size: Common to 15 pounds.
Remarks: Undergoes sex reversal, young individuals female, older individuals becoming male; young fish are bicolored, dark above white below; feeds on small fish and crustaceans.
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