The deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico are home to over 10,000 different species of fish. This can make selecting your desired product difficult. However, some of the most sought-after species are typically either Grouper or Snapper, and with good reason. Though these fish are similar, they have an array of differences which will be discussed below.
Snapper VS Grouper: Taste
Both of these species are known for having firm yet moist meat while having the added health benefit of being low in fat. Snapper is slightly sweeter and the meat more delicate, especially when grilled, than Grouper. Most compare its flavor and texture to be similar to that of halibut or sea bass. Grouper on the other hand is milder or more subtle in flavor making it perfect for absorbing either dressings or marinades. Both these species are said to be some of the most delicious fish to eat however if you ask me, I’d prefer a Red Snapper above any other fish. When buying either, true ‘Freshness’ will make the biggest impact on taste so be sure to buy direct from a supplier like Wild Seafood Market.
Snapper VS. Grouper: Location
Grouper and Snapper find homes along the coastal waters of our sunshine state as well as throughout the Gulf of Mexico. Though they both prefer temperate and tropical waters, Grouper is known to be found slightly deeper than Snapper. For instance, some individuals have been caught at depths of 200 feet or more. In addition, species of Grouper have been recorded living in brackish water and several in fresh.
Snapper in contrast favors reefs within shallower waters and moves offshore for spawning during the fall months. Red Snapper specifically is a bottom dweller that is most popularly found near rocky ledges, ridges, and artificial reefs such as oil rigs.
Snapper VS. Grouper: Yield
What is “yield”?
Yield refers to how much of a whole fish is left over once filleted. If you had a four-pound whole Scamp Grouper and then filleted it, leaving a two-pound fillet, your fish would have yielded 50%. However, more realistically you are likely to get 35% yield on such a fish if you are an expert with the fillet knife.
The amount of yield a fish produces generally depends on its size. Typically a four-pound whole Snapper will yield 2 fillets, with each fillet being ¼ a pound. In other words, Red Snapper specifically will produce a yield of 25% to 35% to skin-off fillets. In contrast, Grouper is known to be slightly larger but yield less meat. However, at the end of the day most species of Grouper and Snapper tend to yield very comparable results. The amount of yield is likely to depend on the size and age of the fish, along with the skill level for the person holding the fillet knife.
Thus, if you’re trying to make your purchase decision based on yield, think again. There’s really not enough of a difference between these two fish.
Snapper VS. Grouper: Price
As mentioned previously, due to their preferred habitat domestic Grouper is more difficult to get to. As a consequence, especially when combined with high demand, they are generally more expensive. At wholesale, a whole Grouper will be priced at $6 or $9 per lb but have a retail value of around $12 on average. However, Snapper is slightly less expensive with a local whole fish costing closer to $10 per pound.
The term “Grouper” seems to be in high demand for restaurants, especially in Florida which also helps drive higher prices for those vacationers venturing out for a night on the town.
Types of Snapper & Grouper
Groupers are known as teleosts, a group of fish famous for their stout bodies and gaping mouths. In the Gulf of Mexico, there are at least 15 known species with the Goliath Grouper being the largest. This beast is known to top 1,000lbs with small adults hitting the triple digits for weight. In general, Groupers tend to be larger than Snappers and change from female to male when they reach a certain size. The Black Grouper, a popular choice in Florida, will often weigh more than even the largest Snapper such as the Cubera.
As for Snappers, the most common in our beautiful Gulf waters tend to be Red Snapper, Lane Snapper, and Vermillion Snapper. These species don’t get nearly as large and are easier to catch. They’re less prone to hiding under rocky ledges or residing in deeper depths. The largest Snapper, the Cubera, is recorded to reach a maximum of around 4 to 5 feet long and weighs over 100lbs. The next largest Snapper, and one of the most sought after, is the Red Snapper which is known to weigh up to 40 to 50lbs.
How To Target Snapper & Grouper When Fishing/Angling
Catching these species can be a hit or miss depending on both timing and location. Therefore, it’s extremely helpful to know exactly what conditions will work best to make your fishing trip a success. For instance, Snapper is best harvested during first and last light or the lead-up to the full moon. Grouper is best caught utilizing large live bait such as grunts or larger pinfish. This is because smaller soft baits are generally consumed by Snapper who reside in the slightly shallower waters above Grouper before they can reach deeper depths.
If you plan to target Snapper or Grouper, be sure to check on the most recent regulations. These regulations are in place for good reason with fishing population control and sustainability as a priority. View regulations with a simple Google search of “Florida fishing regulations” and the MyFWC website.