What Is Salmon Grouper? A Brief Guide

August 19, 2021

When it comes to fishing, one must know how to tell one type of fish apart from the other, as well as what the texture of a certain fish may be like. A name that often comes up in fishing circles, especially in the northeast Pacific regions, is the salmon grouper.

But what is salmon grouper? The following sections will provide a brief introduction to the species: 

What Is Salmon Grouper?

The salmon grouper is more commonly referred to as the bocaccio rockfish. These are large fish that are found from Baja, California all the way up to the Gulf of Alaska, although most commonly one may find the species between Baja California and Oregon.

Some other names the fish is commonly called by are Pacific Red Snapper, Oregon Red Snapper, Rock Cod, Rock Salmon and Longjaw. The light brown or pink color of their body is perhaps where the association with ‘salmon’ comes from. 

These fish are slow-growing and take a while to mature, though they have a fairly long lifespan. The populations of the salmon grouper that are not listed as endangered are harvested for commercial as well as recreational purposes. 

What They Look Like

Salmon groupers are large fish that can easily grow up to three feet long. An adult male salmon grouper can also weigh up to 21 pounds. If you are ever asked “what is salmon grouper?”, you can simply point to their most discerning feature—the long jaw (which also explains why the fish is sometimes referred to as ‘Longjaw’).

The salmon grouper’s jaw quite often extends up to the eye socket and even beyond! The eyes, the curled lip and jaw are what give them their distinctive look. 

A young salmon grouper will typically have a light bronze body and one can see small brown spots on the side of the body. As the fish grows into an adult, the color will darken and the fish will lose the brown spots.

The back of an adult salmon grouper will also turn either olive, rust or brown. The stomach will remain pink or a lighter shade of red.

Habitat

As mentioned above, the salmon grouper is found in the northeast Pacific regions, most notably between Oregon and Baja, California. They can be found in varying depths of the ocean, depending on how old the fish is.

The younger salmon groupers prefer to be in shallower waters as floating kelp mats and driftwood will help them camouflage from predators. For several months, one may find young salmon groupers nearer the surface of the water.

They find bottom habitats near the shore, where the offspring create a school for enhanced protection and greater chances of survival.

As the fish grows in size, it feels more confident venturing into deeper waters. One can find salmon groupers as far as 1,000 feet deep! There is also evidence to suggest that adult salmon groupers like to be near coral and sponge reefs, which are found closer to the ocean bed!

Threats to the Population 

Salmon grouper is popular for commercial fishing because of its size and its long shelf life. One of the biggest threats to their population is commercial groundfish fisheries. 

There is an interesting detail about this species’ anatomy that causes it to be threatened by groundfishing. Salmon groupers have swim bladders, which means that their bodies cannot adjust to sudden shifts in pressure and temperature.

When they get caught in groundfishing nets by mistake and are pulled up to the surface, that often causes the fish some trauma, in turn affecting its longevity and quality of life.

When they are pulled from depths more than 25 to 30 meters, they tend to die. Prolonged use of fishing gear on the ocean floor has also impacted their habitat, which causes a threat to their population. 

Other than that, as has already been indicated, overfishing is a very big factor that affects the population numbers.

Since the species mature late and the survival of the offspring also varies from year to year, depending on the environmental conditions and density of the adults, it can be difficult for the species to recover from overfishing or any dip in its numbers.

In other words, the population of the fish does not regenerate in pace with the rate of harvesting.

The Species At Risk Act is still considering the status of this species. However, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has listed the species as endangered. 

Amazing Facts

Salmon groupers are also an incredible species with several amazing facts. For instance, did you know that a female salmon grouper can lay up to 2,300,000 eggs! Even then, there is no guarantee that each of these eggs will survive.

Chances are that most may not, depending on the environmental conditions during the specific year. This is why, no matter how many eggs the female lays, it can often be difficult to revive a population that has depleted.

Another great detail about salmon groupers is that they have an incredibly long lifespan for marine animals. A healthy salmon grouper can live as long as 57 years and even more! The average generation time for these fish is 20 years.

FAQs

Q. Why Are Salmon Groupers So Expensive?

Salmon groupers are expensive in most places because different states may have restrictions on their fishing. California, for instance, has imposed a limit of two salmon groupers per day for recreational fishing, and the fish should be of a minimum length of 10 inches.

These restrictions can make groupers more expensive as they are not as easily available everywhere.

Q. Which Is Better, Grouper or Salmon?

Which fish is better for an individual will eventually depend on their personal tastes. However, some people find that the grouper has a stronger smell that does not go away even after cooking, whereas with salmon that is not the case. But if you can get past that smell, the grouper can be a delicious fish to consume.

Q. Is Grouper Bad for You?

There are at times concerns about the mercury content in salmon groupers, especially because they are found so close to the ocean bed, where the mercury contents may deposit.

However, this is a concern with several other marine species and one has to be careful about how much they consume of any species as environmental concerns and polluted ocean waters is an undeniable reality of the world.

Q. Is Salmon Grouper “Good Eating”?

When harvested in a safe and ethical manner, with healthy and strong populations thriving, salmon groupers can be extremely “good eating”. It has soft and scrumptious meat and is said to have a mild nutty accent. It can also have a hint of sweetness. 

Q. How Often Should You Eat Grouper?

Yes, there is something as eating too much fish, even if fish contains good fat and is a healthy meat to include in your diet. Fish like grouper, halibut, canned tuna, etc. are categorized under “good choices” by the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which means they should ideally not be consumed more than once a week.

Fish like anchovies, clam, cod, etc. are listed under “best choices” and can be consumed 2-3 times a week. Whereas, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, etc, are best avoided because they contain the most amount of mercury.

Q. Does Grouper Have a Fishy Taste?

Grouper does not have a particularly fishy taste, although someone who isn’t used to eating fish may find that it has a strong smell. Otherwise, this is a mild-tasting and oily fish. As mentioned above, it also has a hint of sweetness. The meat is also soft and the flaky texture breaks apart quite easily. 

Q. What Goes Well with Grouper?

Grouper is a versatile fish that goes well with several preparations. Lime, garlic black pepper, bell peppers, and white wine are some of the great items you can pair grouper with.

It is also not a very salty fish, so you can experiment with various kinds of seasoning without worrying about the fish tasting too salty or overdone with flavors.

Parting Thoughts

Salmon grouper is a large and beautiful fish. A single grouper can easily feed a family of four or more. It can also be paired with a variety of food groups and tastes splendidly with white wine.

However, while this is a great fish to enjoy with the family or at an upscale restaurant, it is also vulnerable to overfishing as the depleted population does not regenerate as easily.

Groupers have a long lifespan but new generations of groupers are not born as frequently as the species is being fished for commercial or recreational purposes. So, even when you are shopping for groupers in the market, be mindful of where the fish is coming from. 

We hope you enjoyed this explainer of what is salmon grouper and were able to gain some new information on the species.

Happy Hunting!

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