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July 24, 2006

Grouper Mystery

I landed this fish along the rocks at the South Jetty in Port Aransas, Texas, a few years ago, and I haven't been able to determine conclusively what it is...

I landed this fish along the rocks at the South Jetty in Port Aransas, Texas, a few years ago, and I haven't been able to determine conclusively what it is. I've found a few pictures and descriptions of grouper that are similar, but none that are close enough for me to be sure. Do you have any idea what it is? Can you tell whether this specimen is immature or an adult?

Royce Jordan
Mesquite, Texas

 


 

A: This is definitely a grouper, but without having the fish in hand, I'm reluctant to make a definitive ID. My best guess is a juvenile black grouper, Epinephelus bonaci. They are rare in the northern and western Gulf, but do show up occasionally. Black grouper, like the gag, more common in the northern Gulf, spend their juvenile days nearshore and in estuaries until they mature and move offshore, so catching one at the jetties makes sense. But many of the groupers change color as they grow from a juvenile to an adult - some even change during different adult life phases - so relying solely on colors is a bit dicey. - Bob Shipp