Gag Grouper


Mycteroperca microlepis

Illustration and Copyright by Diane Rome Peebles
Illustrations are for viewing purposes only.

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.

Possession and Size Limits: 2 per person in aggregate of all groupers, 22” TL. Captain and crew prohibited from retaining bag limits of any grouper while under charter.

Federal Recreational Season: Open July 1 - October 31. “The Edges” is closed to all fishing January 1 - April 30.

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.

Stock Status: According to a 2009 SEDAR 10 Stock Assessment Update, Gag are overfished, but not experiencing overfishing .  A rebuilding plan is in place for gag, with rebuilding expected to be completed by 2015.  A benchmark assessment - SEDAR 33 - is currently underway.