This week was Red Grouper photos. Congratulations to Jon Godfrey for winning! What a beautiful photo and catch! The season is now closed in the Gulf Feb 1st – March 31st for Recreational Fisherman. Go here for Florida – Federal Regs: http://myfwc.com/fishing/saltwater/recreational/groupers/
Red grouper, like a number of other grouper species, are long-lived, slow to mature, protogynous hermaphrodites, beginning life as females, with some later transforming into males. Females transform into males between the ages of 7 and 12.
Red grouper actively excavate pits in the seafloor. This activity increases the architectural complexity of the habitat, which attracts other organisms and increases local biodiversity. They start digging in the sediment from the time they settle out of the plankton and continue throughout their lifetime. They use their caudal fin and their mouths to remove debris and sediment from rocks, creating exposed surfaces on which sessile organisms actively settle (e.g., sponges, soft corals, algae). The exposure of structure also attracts a myriad of other species, including mobile invertebrates and a remarkable diversity of other fishes, from gobies and butterflyfish to grunts and snapper. The Lionfish ‘’Pterois volitans’’ started invading Red Grouper habitat by 2008, from Florida Bay to the Florida Keys and offshore to Pulley Ridge, a mesophotic coral reef on the West Florida Shelf west of the Dry Tortugas. Known for being extremely capable predators on small reef fish, scientists are very interested in determining the extent to which their invasion changes the functional dynamics of associated communities.