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Grouper "Sting" Effects?

Is the crackdown on phony grouper being done by Florida officials affecting the places you like to buy grouper?

My mom and sis just came from their favorite (and presumably trustworthy) restaurant for fried grouper subs. But....no grouper available. They were told it is out of season. (They are in Fort Myers).

Is no grouper fished this time of year?

Is your favorite restaurant's menu affected?

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  1. Just got home from dinner from a favorite local restaurant (Walt's Seasonal Cuisine in Dunedin) and they had two grouper items on the menu (my husband had one of them). One of our favorite lunch spots in Clearwater (Rumba Grill) was serving their standard grouper entree earlier this week. And last weekend we had a wonderful grouper appetizer at the Sandpearl Resort beach restaurant on Clearwater Beach. Grouper is not "out of season"--that's just plain B.S. When we want grouper, we stick to certain local spots where we know it's off-the-boat fresh.

    3 Replies
    1. re: laurie

      I've been told by fishing friends that grouper is becoming harder and harder to find in Florida waters. They also say that the Bahamian Govt is also tightning the laws regarding grouper.

      1. re: eatnbmerry

        It's true that grouper is not as plentiful as it once was, and commercial fishermen now face quotas that they didn't face a couple years ago. I think I read that the decrease in the grouper population in local waters (Clearwater/St. Pete area) had to do with the serious Red Tide of a couple years back? Still, while grouper is certainly more expensive and you have to watch where you purchase it, it is not "out of season" like alkapal's family was told.

      2. re: laurie

        Many find the cost just too high to carry it.

      3. February 15 to March 15 recreational closure for red grouper, gag, and black grouper.

        I usually buy mine from the local seafood market at the marina in Dunedin. It's not cheap at around $17/lb. But I know this is straight off the boats. Many restaurants that don't want to spend the bucks on local grouper and don't trust their suppliers to provide real grouper that is shipped from other countries may just not serve it. I don't order grouper out as much as I use to. To often it's frozen foreign grouper.

        1. The grouper move into shallow water to spawn this time of year. It is the easiest time of year to catch them. At least it is in the Keys.
          Sounds like they don't trust their suppliers.

          3 Replies
          1. re: keysrat

            We caught plenty of grouper last month in Marathon...and released them. There are pretty strict laws; which I'm not up on but our charter capt was; about what kind and size you can keep. Stiff penalties for poaching..and they do check. We did a good job with various snapper; that were legal.


            $17/lb was retail cost there too.

            From FL Fish and Game...


            1. re: 9lives

              Grouper have a size limit but no closed season.
              Actually, I prefer dolphin anyway.

              1. re: keysrat

                You're fortunate to live where the fishing is so good. If you don't like 1 fish; throw it back and catch another..:)

                I'm in Boston and we had a good season; but much shorter..:)

          2. for those interested, here is the Jan 3, '08 AP story that i read:

            this AP story's quote of particular relevance to my OP:
            "Now Florida is going after bigger fish: distributors. The attorney general has subpoenaed records of several, including the biggest distributor, Sysco Food Services of West Coast Florida Inc."

            1 Reply
            1. this fake grouper stuff came up about a year ago and I heard on the grapevine that suppliers were importing some African catfish or Kingclip and calling it grouper. I went to my local restaurant supplier and asked them about it. Next time I was there they changed their sign to 'grouper-like' instead of grouper, and the word like was not as dark as the word grouper. So I do believe a lot of restaurants were selling this as grouper.

              3 Replies
              1. re: smartie

                No doubt. Especially if you consider the price differences per lb and that most people don't have often enough to really distinguish, not to mention if its breaded and/or smothered in some sauce or another. I generally prefer mine lightly breaded or "straight-up" with a bit of S&P and a squirt of lemon. Yum Yum, definitely along with hog snapper and stone crabbys the best of Florida's bounty!

                1. re: smartie

                  *Next time I was there they changed their sign to 'grouper-like' instead of grouper, and the word like was not as dark as the word grouper.*

                  That would seem like a pretty good sign that it's time to find another fishmonger.

                  1. re: smartie

                    Yeah, even the original Hooter's in Clearwater got in trouble for selling fake grouper. Then it changed the description to "grouper's cousin", and I think the state told them that, too, was a no-no.

                  2. A friendly reminder, Folks-

                    The Florida board is about sharing tips on where to find great food being served or sold in Florida. Discussion of local regulations, the local fishery, etc., while important, is counter to the mission of this board and dilutes the value of the board.

                    We are going to ask that you split off and continue any discussion about the grouper shortage or the fake grouper issue to a new thread on the General Topics board.

                    Please keep the focus of the discussion on this board on where to find great food.


                    1. A. W. Bell Fish in Cortez has fresh whole grouper daily. Walter Bell told me yesterday that one boat came in last week with 2000 pounds of black grouper. He is principally a wholesaler and supplier, but does a quiet retail trade and you can buy the whole fish, fresh on ice but not frozen, for $5/ lb. Sharpen your fillet knife and have at it. He is also my singular source for stone crabs and pompano. Best price and freshest. The boats come in about 3:30 -4:00 and it gets busy and you are dodging forklifts, but well worth the while.
                      The commercial grouper catch in Florida is monitored fairly closely, and the length of the season is tweaked depending on the harvest, to assure a sufficient reproductive supply. How that can be determined with accuracy is deeper than me.
                      Black grouper fillets currently retail at about $17-19/ lb; red grouper $11-13. This puts the price of a grouper sandwich in a restaurant at $10 bucks or more, which is a resistance point for a lunch item in many restaurants. For some, if they can't cheat you with an inferior fish, they will simply drop the item. And it most surely has been a widespread fraud.

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