A group of fishermen snared a record-sized gag grouper off Charleston, S.C., on opening day of grouper season May 1 and carved it up to share its succulent meat with friends.
At 54 pounds, 4 ounces, the fish set a South Carolina record for gag grouper, Carolina Sportsman magazine reported.
Jim Lasher, a chef at Home Team BBQ on Sullivan’s Island, was enjoying dolphin (mahi-mahi) fishing with co-workers and friend Capt. Ben Floyd of Charleston Fish Finder when the group caught the record fish 160 feet deep, according to Carolina Sportsman.
The fish beat the previous record of 48 pounds, 8 ounces, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
The fishermen caught the grouper 40 miles off the coast, The (Charleston) Post and Courier reported. They struggled with the fish for 20 to 25 minutes before it finally surfaced.
The grouper produced at least 30 pounds of meat, Lasher told the Post and Courier. He said he smoked the head and made tacos. He shared the meat with others and prepared the fish in a way that respected the fish.
"It's now tacos," read part of the Post and Courier's headline.
Adult gag grouper roam hard-bottom waters 60 to 250 feet deep from North Carolina to Brazil, according to the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City..
An interesting biological fact about gag groupers: They change sex from female to male with increased size, according to N.C. Marine Fisheries. Sexual transition occurs between 10 and 11 years of age, with sexual maturity reached at age 5 or 6.
Spawning occurs in February off the Carolinas coast and from January through March in the Gulf of Mexico, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries reports.
"Gag," as they are familiarly called, can live for 15 years, devouring scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid..
U.S. wild-caught gag grouper is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The brownish-gray fish with dark "worm-like" markings on (their) sides are very tasty meals," according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.