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The Gag Grouper, Mycteroperca microlepis

Gray or light brown with wavy markings on the side that generally do not form boxes or circles. Edges of fins are bluish. Color deepens to dark brown shortly after removal from water.

SIZE: Can reach 50 pounds on deep offshore wrecks and ledges, and has been recorded to 80 pounds, but 20-30 is the usual maximum range, and most catches now fall between 2 and 12 pounds. Many juveniles are caught from inshore grass flats. World record 80 pounds, 6 ounces; Florida record 80 pounds, 6 ounces.

FOOD VALUE: Excellent; firm white flesh; little red.

GAME QUALITIES: An aggressive striker and hard fighter at all depths.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Just about anything goes. Offshore bottom fishermen tend toward stout rods with 50- and 80-pound-test lines, but such “grouper digging” rigs are strictly necessary only in very deep water. Up to about 50 feet, lines in the 20-30-pound range are adequate and allow much more sport. Many anglers catch lots of Gags on spinning and plug tackle.This is also the best of the Groupers for fly fishermen, since they are frequently found in fairly shallow water and will eagerly take a large streamer fly. Hard- lure casters use leadhead jigs, mostly, while trollers rely on large deep-diving plugs. Live baitfish of various sorts are the best natural offerings—try Pilchards, Pinfish, Grunts or Sand Perch (Squirrelfish). Dead small fish and large cut baits also work well.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Still Fishing; Drifting;Trolling.

OTHER NAMES:

Gray Grouper

Grass Grouper

Copper Belly

Black Grouper

RANGE: Found throughout Florida and Bahamas.

HABITAT: Both juveniles and adults frequent inshore holes and ledges, often on deeper grass flats. From there they can be found around structure at virtually any fishable offshore depth.