Red Grouper

Red Grouper

Scientific Name

Epinephelus morio

Stock Status

Overfishing – No

Overfished – No

Stock Assessment


2023 Regulations

Recreational Commercial

Open year round. If landings reach the recreational ACL, harvest will be prohibited for the remainder of the fishing year.

Closed February 1 through March 31 beyond 20 fathoms (120 ft or 36.6 m)

Season Red grouper is managed under an individual fishing quota (IFQ) program. Anyone commercially fishing for red grouper must possess allocation and follow established protocols.
Minimum Size Limit  20 inches (50.8 cm) total length Minimum Size Limit 18 inches total length
Bag Limit 2 per person within the 4 grouper aggregate bag limit which includes gag, red grouper, black grouper, scamp, yellowfin grouper, yellowmouth grouper, yellowedge grouper, snowy grouper, speckled hind, and warsaw grouper. No grouper may be retained by the captain or crew of a vessel operating as a charter vessel or headboat. Trip Limit none
Permit State issued recreational license/angler registry, federal angler registry or Federal charter/headboat permit for reef fish Permit Commercial vessel permit for reef fish is required. Additionally, an eastern Gulf reef fish bottom longline endorsement required to use bottom longline for Gulf reef fish in the federal waters east of 85°30′ longitude.
Gear Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits. At least one dehooking device is required and must be used to remove hooks. Gear Non-stainless steel circle hooks are required when fishing with natural baits. At least one dehooking device is required and must be used to remove hooks.

Shallow-water Grouper Closure (Map of the 20-fathom break)

Subpart B – Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico – §622.34 Seasonal and area closures designed to protect Gulf reef fish

(d) Seasonal closure of the recreational sector for shallow-water grouper (SWG). The recreational sector for SWG, in or from the Gulf EEZ, is closed each year from February 1 through March 31, in the portion of the Gulf EEZ seaward of rhumb lines connecting, in order, the points in the following table. During the closure, the bag and possession limit for SWG in or from the Gulf EEZ seaward of the following rhumb lines is zero.

Harvest Limits

Sector Annual Catch Limit Annual Catch Target
Stock  4,960,000 pounds
Commercial  2,940,000 pounds  2,790,000 pounds
Recreational  2,020,000 pounds  1,840,000 pounds

These values are expressed in MRIP-FES data currency



Red grouper is present in the Western Atlantic from the Carolinas south to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Bermuda; however, it is most abundant in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.  There have been reports of red grouper occasionally seen as far north as Massachusetts.  In general, red grouper is a dark brown color with a reddish hue on its back and sides, fading to a pale pink underneath.  Its face, around the cheek, snout and eyes, may have dark spots and the sides of the body usually have irregularly shaped white spots or blotches.  The red grouper’s mouth lining is a scarlet-orange color.  The anal, dorsal and tail fins have dark margins.  The Nassau grouper is a similar species, but it has a large black spot at the base of the tail fin whereas the red grouper does not have a black spot.


Maximum observed age:  29 years1, 2

Age at maturity:  ~ 3 years1, 3

Maximum weight:  50.71 pounds (23 kilograms)4

Maximum length:  49.21 inches (125 centimeters)1

Life History and Distribution

Red grouper prefers offshore rocky flat bottom habitats or rocky ledges at depths anywhere from 16 to 1083 feet (5 to 330 meters).5 This fish is rarely seen around coral reefs.  It is a bottom-dwelling fish; during spawning season, males are territorial and somewhat sedentary, excavating holes as home territories.  The spawning season occurs anywhere from January to early June depending on the area.  Generally, peak spawning occurs from March to May.  As with other species in the grouper family, red grouper is a protogynous hermaphrodite, with all beginning life as females, and with most females transitioning to males between the ages of 7 to 14.6


  1. Kobara, S., B. Erisman, W. Heyman, C. Biggs, N. Farmer, S. Lowerre-Barbieri, M. Karnauskas, and J. Brenner. 2017. Cooperative monitoring program for spawning aggregations in the Gulf of Mexico: data portal. Version 1.0 GCOOS, USA.
  2. SEDAR 61 Gulf of Mexico Red Grouper Final Stock Assessment Report, 2019
  3. Farmer, N.A., Malinowski, R.P., McGovern, M.F. and Rubec, P.J. (2016), Stock Complexes for Fisheries Management in the Gulf of Mexico. Marine and Coastal Fisheries, 8: 177-201. doi:10.1080/19425120.2015.1024359
  4. Lieske, E. and R. Myers, 1994. Collins Pocket Guide. Coral reef fishes. Indo-Pacific & Caribbean including the Red Sea. Haper Collins Publishers, 400 p.
  5. Randall, J.E., 1996. Caribbean reef fishes. Third Edition – revised and enlarged. T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd., Hong Kong. 3nd ed. 368 p.
  6. Allsop, D.J. and S.A. West, 2003. Constant relative age and size at sex change for sequentially hermaphroditic fish. J. Evol. Biol. 16(2003):921-929.