Game Fishing > Grouper Family, Serranidae > Gag


GagThe gag is one of the series of fishes known as groupers in Florida, of which there are quite. It was first described by Goode and Bean, in 1879, from West Florida; they named it microlepis, or "small scale," as its scales are of less size than the other species of the same genus. It is known only from the South Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico, from North Carolina south to Pensacola.

It has a rather long, shapely body, with pointed head and an evenly curved profile. Its mouth is large, with projecting lower jaw. Both jaws are armed with narrow bands of sharp teeth and two canines, the upper ones directed forward. The predominating hue of the gag is brownish or brownish gray, with lighter sides, in deep­water specimens ; those of shallow water, espe­cially in grassy situations, are greenish or oliva­ceous, mottled with a darker shade, and more or less clouded.

Very small and indistinct dusky spots sometimes cover the entire body, and a faint mustache is usually present. The dorsal fin is olive; the top of the soft dorsal fin rays is darker, with white edge ; the caudal fin is bluish black, with white edge. It is a voracious fish, feeding on small fishes and crustaceans, and grows to a large size; twenty or thirty, or even fifty, pounds in weight is not uncommon, though usually taken of from six to ten pounds. It resorts, when large, to the banks and rocky reefs in deep water.

Those of less size frequent the inshore waters. It is a fine food-fish, and a very game one on the rod.

A light striped-bass rod, or the natural bam­boo chum rod, with good multiplying reel and fifty yards of braided linen line, size E, and Sproat or O'Shaughnessy hooks, on gimp snells, with a brass box-swivel for con­necting snell and line, and a sinker adapted to the strength of the tide, make up the tackle for the gag. A large landing-net or a gaff-hook should not be forgotten.

Rod fishing is done in comparatively deep water on the rocky reefs or shelly banks along the keys, from an anchored boat. Any natural bait, as a small fish, crab, crawfish, or conch, will answer, though a small fish, as the mullet, sar­dine, or anchovy, is the best. When of large size the gag is a very gamy fish, and must be handled very carefully to preserve one's tackle intact.

It is taken more frequently by trolling with a strong hand-line from a sailing yacht, in the same way as trolling for bluefish. A small
silvery fish is the best lure, though a strong spinner or a shell or block-tin squid answers well. Even a piece of bacon-rind cut in the semblance of a fish proves very attractive, in the manner commonly used by the fishermen of Key West in trolling for the kingfish.

The largest groupers can be taken on rocky bottom in the deep holes about the inlets. On the southeast coast, Indian River Inlet, under the mangroves, and Jupiter Inlet, both afford good grouper fishing. Farther south, at Hills­boro and New River inlets, and in the deep holes about the passes between the Florida Keys, from Cape Florida to Key West, groupers are more or less abundant.

In fishing for groupers the angler must keep them well in hand so as to prevent their getting into the holes and crevices of the rocks, as they are sure to do if given the chance, and f roln where it is almost impossible to dislodge them. They should be brought to the surface, or near it, as soon as possible after hooking them, and kept there until ready for the landing-net or gaff-hook. Most people in Florida fish for groupers with hand-lines, but with the tackle recommended the fish will be more easily sub­dued and landed, and the pleasure much enhanced, to say nothing of the question of sportsmanship as between the two methods.