Reef Fish Complex
There are 31 species of reef fish federally managed under the Fishery Management Plan for Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Found on both artificial and natural structures in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, these fishes hold high importance in recreational and commercial fisheries.
These species include queen snapper, mutton snapper, blackfin snapper, red snapper, cubera snapper, gray snapper, lane snapper, silk snapper, yellowtail snapper, vermilion snapper, and wenchman snapper.
- Snappers are some of the most commercially and recreationally important fishes in the South Atlantic.
- Species in this diverse group can be found from shallow estuaries to deep offshore reefs.
- Most species in this group are targeted for consumption, with sweet, mild-tasting meat that can be prepared many different ways.
These species include greater amberjack, lesser amberjack, almaco jack, and banded rudderfish.
- Often targeted for sport, the fishes in the Seriola jack complex are well-known for their fight.
- These schooling fishes often can be found around offshore wrecks and oil rigs.
- Although not as popular as snapper or grouper, jacks have firm, steak-like meat that is delicious on the grill or the smoker.
These species include tilefish (golden tilefish), blueline tilefish, and goldface tilefish.
- Tilefishes are some of the lesser-known fishes in the reef fish complex, though they are prized catches for some anglers.
- These fishes prefer deep water and are found along the continental shelf and continental slope.
- Tilefishes have fine, flaky meat that some describe as comparable to lobster or crab.
These species include gag, red grouper, scamp, black grouper, yellowedge grouper, snowy grouper, speckled hind, yellowmouth grouper, yellowfin grouper, warsaw grouper, and Atlantic goliath grouper.
- Alongside snappers, groupers are some of the most sought-after reef fishes in the South Atlantic.
- The fishes in this group are commonly found around structures, rocky bottoms, and drop-offs.
- As one of the most popular items on a seafood menu, grouper fillets are moist, mild-flavored, and flaky.
The hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus) is the only federally-managed hogfish species in the Southeast. It is commonly called “hog snapper”, though it is actually a species of wrasse.
- Hogfish are often targeted for consumption by spear and reef fishermen, and are known for their food value and distinctive appearance.
- These fish are often found on sandy bottoms and around reefs and wrecks.
- Hogfish are described as tasting similar to grouper, with white, flaky, mild-tasting meat.
The gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) is the only federally-managed triggerfish species in the Southeast.
- Triggerfish are sought after for sport and consumption, often putting up a hard fight in spite of their small size.
- These fish prefer hard bottoms on reefs, ledges, and rocky areas.
- Although preparation can be difficult due to their tough skin, triggerfish are popular because of their sweet, white meat.