Gag grouper are common in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, especially around reefs, wrecks, coral and ledges. More shallow-oriented than other members of the grouper family, gags are known to live up to 26 years and reach 80 pounds. A 22-inch legal fish is likely four or five years old. All gags are born as females and change sex after 11 years.Gags spawn in 100- to 120-foot depths from December until May, with the peak months being February and March. After hatching, post-larval juveniles then gravitate to coastal lagoons and shallow grass beds for sanctuary before eventually migrating back into deeper water.Phil Steele, the National Marine Fisheries Service Fishery Operations Team Leader for all offshore species in the Gulf of Mexico, says gag populations are considered healthy. There are no immediate plans to change bag or size limits in either federal or state waters, although a new stock assessment is scheduled for this year."Overall the gag stocks in the Gulf are in good shape," Steele says. - Dave Lear|
On consecutive passes, Jan Atwood and I each held on tight as our rods bent over with arm-jarring strikes. The initial burst of raw power eventually gave way to short, determined sprints as the fish tried to return to the sanctuary of their rocky lair. But the distance to freedom was too great, and after several minutes of determined tug-of-war, the ten- and 14-pounders were tossed into the ice cooler. Dan Atwood, meanwhile, was winning his own battle with a chunky 19-pound king mackerel that had skyrocketed into a tangle of treble hooks.