Whether it’s their edges, their mouths, or their fins that define them, the yellow-groupers in the Gulf are some of the best eating fish around. Despite the similarities suggested by the “yellow grouper” names: yellowmouth, yellowedge and yellowfin, they are actually fairly easy to tell apart. Telling the difference between scamp and yellowmouth can be a bit trickier.
While larger scamp typically live in deeper, offshore waters, smaller scamp can be common in shallow-water habitats. Scamp are most easily identified by their ragged-looking tail fin with long rays on the top and bottom. Scamp are also known to have yellow corners on their mouth.
Yellowmouth and scamp grouper share a number of similar characteristics including similar coloration, similar shape, and adults of both species reach approximately the same maximum size. There are two obvious characteristics that set the yellowmouth apart from the scamp. First, is the yellowmouth. As its name implies, yellowmouth grouper have a deep yellow coloration on both the inside and outside of the mouth. Second, the tail of a yellowmouth lacks elongated tail fin-rays and is much less ragged than that of the scamp.
Of all the colors on a yellowfin grouper, yellow is only a piece of the puzzle. There are two predominate color morphs associated with yellowfin groupers. Deepwater fish are reddish and more shallow-water fish are often greenish in color. In all cases, the outer 1/3 of the pectoral fin is an obvious yellow color.
As their name implies, yellowedge grouper are most easily identified by the yellow margins on their dorsal and pectoral fins. They also have bright yellow eyes. Their back and sides are a reddish tan to grayish brown color on the back that fades to a paler shade on the belly. When they’re young, they can have a grid of while spots similar to that of a snowy grouper, but are easily distinguishable because of the yellow accents on their fins.
Knowing how to identify the different yellow groupers may help ensure that you’re not cheating yourself out of a fish or accidently throwing something on ice that doesn’t belong. While all four species are subject to a 4-fish per-person bag limit within the 4-grouper aggregate bag limit, scamp and yellowfin are subject to minimum size limit while the others aren’t. More detailed commercial and recreational regulations can be found on our fishing regulations webpage and on the recreational and commercial Fish Rules Mobile Apps.