If you are fishing in Florida state waters of the Atlantic Ocean or Monroe County, which include the Florida Keys, be advised that several species of grouperclosed to both recreational and commercial fishing on Jan. 1.
This seasonal closure covers gag, black, red, yellowmouth, yellowfin and tiger grouper; scamp; red hind; rock hind; coney; and graysby. State waters in the Atlantic run from the beach to three miles offshore. The season will reopen on May 1.
Black grouper, Mycteroperca bonaci, usually are found in deep water. Common to 40 pounds, black grouper may grow to 100 pounds or more. Their cousin, the gag grouper Mycteroperca microlepis, is significantly smaller, usually 20 pounds or less. The fish have similar markings and many anglers, even experienced charter boat captains, mistakenly call the gag a black.
Black grouper are often confused with its smaller cousin, the gag grouper, which is found closer to shore. This species is a protogyynous hermaphrodite, which means these fish begin their lives as females and some later change into male.
Red grouper, Epinephelus morio, is one of the most popular fish caught off Florida. Its color is brownish red, with scarlet orange around the mouth and blotches on its sides in unorganized patterns.