Gulf Grouper

Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani

The Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani, whose common Spanish name is baya and whose local name is cabrilla and/or prieto (which translates into “darker” it being very similar to the Broomtail Grouper but darker in color), is a species in the Grouper or Epinephelidae Family, known collectively as cabrillas and garropas in Mexico. Globally, there are fifteen species in the genus Mycteroperca, eleven of which are found in Mexican waters, seven in the Atlantic and four in the Pacific.

The Gulf Groupers are gray-brown in color and characterized by their “grouper-like” appearance, with the fourth and fifth dorsal spines being the longest. A series of solid, irregular blotches radiate from the face area when they are alive. Their tails are straight or slightly concave, their gill covers are rounded and notched, and their fins are tipped in white.

The Gulf Groupers are found within rocky reefs and in kelp beds with large adults being common in shallow water at depths between 25 and 150 feet. They reach a maximum length of 198 cm (6.5 feet) and up to 91 kg (200 pounds) in weight. A Grouper Family Weight From Length Conversion Table has been included in this website to allow the accurate determination of a fish weight and a return to the ocean unharmed. They are voracious ambush predators feeding on small fish. They have a slow growth rate reaching maturity at the age of six or seven years. They are aggregating spawners with females significantly outnumbering males indicative that they are protogynous hermaphrodites who change from female to male at mid-life.

In Mexican waters the Gulf Grouper are found along the entire Pacific Coast of Baja and throughout the Sea of Cortez; they are absent from along the coast of the mainland from Mazatlán south to Guatemala.

The Gulf Grouper can be confused with the Broomtail Grouper, Mycteroperca xenarcha (second thru seventh dorsal spines of equal length).

Due to its size, strength, and food value, the Gulf Groupers are an intense object of game fishing. They are considered an excellent food fish and are sold commercially in numerous local fish markets commanding high prices. They are one of the important food fish of the Sea of Cortez.

From a conservation perspective the Gulf Groupers are currently considered an ENDANGERED SPECIES due to their population decline of at least 50% over the past 30 years, directly attributed to intensive recreational fishing pressure. There has also been a significant decline in the size of the fish boated. This fishing pressure is likely to increase along with associated reef habitat destruction as greater investment in recreational fisheries occurs. They are a large species with high longevity and are caught at heavily fished spawning aggregations, both factors making this species particularly vulnerable to overfishing. Historically they dominated the rocky-reef fish community in terms of biomass comprising 45% of the total finfish production in the late 50′s to the current levels of less than 1%. A generic table for Groupers allowing the determination of the weight of a fish from its length has been included with the hope that perhaps some fish will be handled as “catch and release.”

Gulf Grouper (8)

Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off Rocky Point, Sonora, November 2014. Length: 23 cm (9.1 inches). Photo courtesy if Carl Rutherford, Mesa, AZ. Note: dorsal spines two thru seven are of equal length.

Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani, juvenile. Fish caught from coastal waters off La Bocana, Baja California Sur, October 2015. Length: 51 cm (24 inches). Weight: 2.0 kg (4.4 pounds). Catch, photo, and identification courtesy of George Brinkman, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Identification reconfirmed by Dr. Matt Craig, San Diego, CA.

Gulf Grouper (6)

Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani. Fish caught out from coastal waters off Abreojos, Baja California Sur, May 2016. Length: 76 cm (30 inches). Weight: 6.6 kg (14.6 pounds). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.

Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani: Fish caught from coastal waters off Point Palmilla, Baja California Sur, April 2012. Length: 80 cm (31 inches). Weight: 7.7 kg (17 pounds). Catch courtesy of Captain Barco.

Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani. Fish caught with Captain Jimmy Camacho and brother Jesus of Jimmy’s Sportfishing, Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, (Jimmy Camacho, 613-114-0761; 612-204-1960) in coastal waters off  Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos, Baja California Sur, July 2016.  Length: 90 cm (35 inches). Weight: 11.0 kg (24 pounds).

Gulf Grouper (10)Gulf Grouper, Mycteroperca jordani. Fish caught out from coastal waters of Bahia de Los Angeles, Baja California, June 2016. Length: 1.37 meters (4 feet 6 inches). Weight: 39 kg (86 pounds). Catch, photo and identification courtesy of Chris Wheaton, Fullerton, CA.