Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper

Mycteroperca microlepis

Managed by:

SAFMC, GMFMC


Physical description:

Gag grouper have long, compressed bodies and 11 to 14 rays in the anal fins. Coloration is highly variable in gag and changes with the size of the fish. Large gag are dark brownish-gray above and paler below, with traces of dark wavy markings on the sides. Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides. The scamp, M. phenax, and black grouper, M. bonaci, closely resemble the gag and often occur in the same habitat. Gag have deeply notched preopercles, distinguishing them from black grouper.


Biological description:

The gag grouper is the most widely distributed grouper in the region, with adults present from North Carolina to Brazil over low- and high-profile hard bottom in waters 60-500 feet deep. The species is found in the Gulf of Mexico but not in the West Indies. Young gag inhabit estuaries from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral. Spawning takes place in February off the coast of the Carolinas and in January through March in the Gulf of Mexico. Gag are protogynous hermaphrodites, which means they begin life as females; however, after a few years of spawning, some gag groupers change sex to become males. 50% of females mature at 24" Total Length (TL) and 3 years of age. All fish less than 35" TL are female, while most gag over 45"TL are males.

Gag may live for 26 years and grow to be 58 inches in length and weigh up to 81 pounds. Gag often congregate around rocky ledges and swim in small groups. They are predators of round scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid.

Note: Gag are often confused with black grouper. One distinguishing characteristic is based on the color of the fin margins. The caudal (tail) and anal fins of the gag have white margins, while the black grouper does not.


South Atlantic Federal Regulations

Commercial:

  • OPEN, effective May 1, 2017. 
  • Size Limit:  24-inches total length
  • Trip Limit: 1,000-lbs (gw). When 75% of the Annual Catch Limit has been met, the trip limit is reduced to 500-lbs(gw).
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • Note: This species is part of the shallow water grouper spawning season closure.  There is an annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure January 1 through April 30. Prohibition on recreational and commercial harvest or possession of: gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, and yellowmouth grouper.
    • All species must be landed with head and fins intact.
    • Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use dehooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.
    • The use of non-stainless steel circle hooks (offset or non-offset) is required for all species in the snapper grouper complex when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits in waters North of 28 degrees N. latitude.
    • After the commercial quota is met, all purchase and sale is prohibited and harvest and/or possession is limited to the recreational bag limit. This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed, and sold prior to the quota being reached and held in cold storage by a dealer. Quotas are given in gutted weights.
    • Limited access permit required.
    • Commercial snapper grouper vessels must have onboard NMFS approved sea turtle release gear and follow smalltooth sawfish release protocol. See the Handling and Release Protocol from NOAA Fisheries or call 727-824-5312.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) – This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Commercial ACLs (quotas) from NOAA Fisheries.
  • Additional Updates:

Recreational:

  • OPEN, effective May 1, 2017. 
  • Size Limit: 24-inches total length
  • Bag Limit:  Included in the Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit of 3 groupers per person/day BUT no more than 1 gag or black grouper (included in 3 grouper per person)
  • Regulatory Remarks:
    • The fishery will remain open until the Annual Catch Limit has been met or is projected to be met by NOAA Fisheries.
    • Annual Shallow-water Grouper Spawning Season Closure January 1 through April 30. Prohibition on recreational and commercial harvest or possession of: gag, black grouper, red grouper, scamp, red hind, rock hind, coney, graysby, yellowfin grouper, and yellowmouth grouper.
    • All species must be landed with head and fins intact.
    • Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use dehooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.
    • The use of non-stainless steel circle hooks (offset or non-offset) is required for all species in the snapper grouper complex when using hook-and-line gear with natural baits in waters North of 28 degrees N. latitude.
    • Max of 1 gag or black grouper (not combined) per person/day.
    • Annual Catch Limit (ACL) - This species is managed under an ACL. See current information on Recreational ACLs from NOAA Fisheries.
  • Additional Updates: