Gag grouper

The Gag grouper is one of many species that are at first female, and as they grow larger, they transform into males. Part of the wrasse family, this fish is found at high rates in the South Atlantic & Gulf of Mexico areas.

Mycteroperca microlepis is the Gag grouper’s scientific name but is also known as velvet rockfish and charcoal belly. It is well known because of its lack of distinguishing features, and it’s hard to find because of its body color, which is dull and mottled gray.


The Gag has long bodies that seem to be compressed. The microlepis in its name refers to the micro scales it has along its body. It has a very visible preopercle that is notched and lobed.

The coloration of this fish is different depending on what size it is. Larger ones are dark brown and gray with a paler belly, while smaller ones are lighter in color, having charcoal shaded or dark brown marks on the side of their bodies.

Habitat and Lifestyle

The Gag grouper is widely found in areas within the western Atlantic Ocean, especially from regions of North Carolina to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula along with the Gulf of Mexico. They are pretty rare in the Bahamas and Bermuda.

Where the shores have a grassy or rocky bottom, this fish can be occasionally found traveling in groups. There have been ciguatera poisoning reports, and eating is rendered harmful.

Finding and Catching

This fish can be caught from an inflatable boat or kayak.

With fishes like the Gag grouper, bottom fishing is most effective when trying to catch it. Other productive methods you can use include drift fishing, chumming, still fishing, etc.

Depth sounders can be used to find irregular bottoms of water bodies, and this is where Gags groupers congregate. The Gulf’s shallow waters where wrecks & oil rigs can be found usually have a high Gag population.

Peak Season

The peak season for this Gag grouper fish happens from June – December.

Best Bait

The best baits that can be used to catch the Gag grouper are:

  • Jigs
  • Shrimp
  • Squid
  • Cut Bait
  • Saltwater Live Bait
  • Plugs