Key West Red Grouper

The Basics

Red Grouper is a prolific fish found in a variety of habitats. They can be found in coastal saline and freshwater lagoons, on coral reefs, along sandy shores, in estuarine waters, on inter-tidal flats, in open waters, and in shallow seas in Key West. Red grouper belong to the family Serranidae, which includes about 450 species. Many of these species are colorful and caught commercially.

How They Feed & What's Unique

Though part of a large and diverse family, the red grouper has unique characteristics that make it particularly exciting to catch. The red grouper is a moderate sized fish with a red/brown coloration, which gives the red grouper its colorful name. Red grouper may have white spots on its skin as well. Red grouper average fifty pounds (23 kg) and forty-nine inches (123 cm), making them an impressive but not unmanageable catch.

Perhaps the most unique trait of the red grouper is that it is known as a protogynous hermaphrodite. This means that the red grouper begins life as a female and may change into a male later in life, usually between seven and fourteen years old. While this does not affect their overall quality, it is important when considering spawning behaviors.

Red grouper are carnivores, like much of the Serranidae family. Because they are a sizable fish, red grouper are the top of the food chain in reef environments. They feed on a bevy of creatures, including snapping shrimp, small fish, krill, crabs, and spiny lobster. This diet is abundant in the red grouper's natural habitats.

How We Get Them

Because red grouper are found in a number of habitats, catching them can be both exciting and relatively easy. Red grouper prefer bait like live pinfish, squid, and jigs tipped with Bonita strips. They tend to gather in "patch reefs", skirting the perimeter. They prefer wrecks or reefs that are 120 feet or shallower. They may be found in abundance at only ten to fifteen miles off shore in waters as shallow as sixty feet deep.