Warsaw Grouper (Epinephelus nigritus)

Warsaw Grouper (Epinephelus nigritus)

The warsaw grouper is one of the largest members of the Serranidae family of grouper and sea bass, second only to the goliath grouper in size. It has white, flaky meat that is marketed fresh. It is more widespread than the goliath grouper and caught more frequently.

Identification

The warsaw grouper has a gray-brown or dark red-brown body, occasionally irregularly spotted with several small, white blotches on the sides and the dorsal fins, although these are indiscernible in death. The young warsaw has a yellow tail and a dark saddle on the caudal peduncle. The warsaw is distinctive as the only grouper with 10 dorsal spines, the second of which is much longer than the third. It also has a squared-off tail. In contrast to the goliath grouper, the rays of the first dorsal fin on the warsaw grouper are much higher and the head is much larger.

Size/Age

The average weight of the warsaw grouper is roughly 20 pounds or less, although 100-pound fish are not uncommon. It can reach a length of 6.5 feet and can weigh up to 580 pounds. The all-tackle world record is a 436-pound, 12-ounce Florida fish. The warsaw grouper grows slowly and can live as long as 25 to 30 years.


Spawning behavior

The eggs and the larvae of the warsaw grouper are thought to be pelagic, although little else is known about spawning and other behavior.

Food and feeding habits

Warsaw grouper feed on crabs, shrimp, lobsters, and fish, swallowing prey whole after ambushing it or after a short chase.

Other Names

Spanish: mero de lo alto, mero negro.

Distribution

In the western Atlantic, warsaw grouper range from Massachusetts to the Gulf of Mexico and south to Río de Janeiro in Brazil, although they are rare in Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad. They are otherwise fairly common along both coasts of Florida.

Habitat

Usually found over rough, rocky bottoms, deep rocky ledges, and dropoffs, warsaw grouper prefer depths of 300 to 1,000 feet. Young warsaw grouper are occasionally seen or caught near jetties and shallow-water reefs.
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