The gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis) is a drab, mottled gray fish lacking the distinguishing features of other groupers. It has a pattern of markings which resemble the box-shaped spots of the black grouper. It lacks the streamer-points on the tail fin that scamp (Mycteroperca phenax) and yellowmouth grouper (M. interstitialis) have and lacks yellow coloration around the mouth.
Ten- to twenty-pound (5 to 10 kg) fish are common. The world record is 80 lb 6 oz (36.45 kg). The gag grouper is a bottomfeeder and is often caught by fishermen seeking bottom-dwelling species such as snappers. It has flaky white meat that is considered quite delicious.
They are found in areas of hard or consolidated substrate, and use structural features such as ledges, rocks, and coral reefs ( as well as artificial reefs like wrecks and sunken barges) as their habitat.
The distribution of gag grouper extends in the western Atlantic from North Carolina, USA (with juveniles occurring as far north as Massachusetts) to the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico; it is rare in Bermuda and absent from the Caribbean and Bahamas. Gags are the most common grouper on rocky ledges in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Juvenile gags reside in estuaries and seagrass beds while adults are usually found offshore on hard substrate in water 60 – 250 feet deep (rarely to 152 m) and occasionally inshore on rocky or grassy bottom. Adults are either solitary or found in groups of 5 to 50 individuals.
Spawning aggregations of gags in the Middle Grounds of the Gulf of Mexico from January through March. Young gags are predominantly female, transforming into males, as they grow larger
Bottom fishing is the most effective method of catching gag. Anglers commonly use depth recorders to locate rocky outcrops and irregular bottom where gags congregate, anchoring when a likely area is located. Wrecks and oil rigs in shallow shelf waters of the Gulf also attract many gags. They are an excellent light-tackle target for those fishing relatively shallow waters.
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