State Groupers

Tasty predators patrol the depths



John Russo

Among groupers that frequent the northern Gulf of Mexico, red groupers most often land on restaurant plates. The massive goliath grouper is not currently subject to harvest, but Florida is considering a limited open season.   

They lie in wait along underwater highways, and whenever prey fish fail to maintain a minimum speed, they have their lunch. Like a gator lazing on a bank or a largemouth bass slowly finning to maintain its position beneath a stand of lily pads, groupers can appear lethargic, but they explode from their hiding places with maws wide open as soon as opportunity presents itself. 

Groupers inhabit waters off the whole of Florida, but in the northern gulf, three species — gag (or black), red and scamp predominate. Area waters grow giant goliath grouper, too, fat boys that frequently hang out near jetties or sunken bridge spans. 

Bottom fishermen often favor red snapper to groupers, but that’s a matter of color, not taste. (When is the last time you saw a blackened snapper sandwich on a menu?) The delicate, flaky flesh of groupers is almost too good to fry. It doesn’t require much. Salt, pepper, butter and a little Cavender’s will do. 

Bert Davis, a manager at Water Street Seafood in Apalachicola, said red groupers are more abundant than gags or scamp, making them less expensive. And he said, reds have “more of a bloodline,” which can make their flesh a bit darker. Davis most prefers a yellow-edge grouper, a deepwater species harvested by longliners, and, in his estimation, the sweetest of them all.        

The goliath grouper doesn’t figure in the dinner-table conversation; it is protected from harvest in both state and federal waters and ranges in size to more than 700 pounds. Bold is the fisherman who sends a large, frisky live bait to the bottom; he just might tie into more than he bargained for. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
 
Send me information about...
  •  Tallahassee Magazine
  •  Emerald Coast Magazine
  •  850 Business Magazine
  •  Northwest Florida Weddings

 

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Featured Articles

Celebrate Local Cuisine at Goodwood Museum and Gardens

Celebrate Local Cuisine at Goodwood Museum and Gardens

Tallahassee’s finest chefs prepare a lunch featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients
Club Seminole Masters Swimmers Pursue Goals One Lap at a Time

Club Seminole Masters Swimmers Pursue Goals One Lap at a Time

Come on in, the water is just fine
Anne and Colin Phipps Have Lived Exotic Lives

Anne and Colin Phipps Have Lived Exotic Lives

Explored the world separately, then blended their lives to become a Tallahassee dynasty
Celebrating 80 Years of Tallahassee Nurseries

Celebrating 80 Years of Tallahassee Nurseries

The history and many evolutions in the nursery trade
Edit ModuleShow Tags