In the western Atlantic Ocean, Snowy Grouper occur from Massachusetts to southeastern Brazil, including the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Populations are also numerous in the eastern Pacific, from central California to Peru. These fish are usually found offshore in depths of at least 400 feet, and they are not commonly encountered by anglers. One must be skilled, or at least well advised, in the practice of deep-dropping – an increasingly more popular technique used by professionals and skilled charter captains.
Snowy Grouper have a look that is attractive as it is distinct. The typical grouper body shape is modified by slightly longer pectoral fins, and sharper points along the spines of the dorsal fin. Wide, large eyes are located barely above a typically large mouth. The wide tail fin is rusty in tone, and almost transparent. Coloration is extremely pleasant, with basically darker purple or brown hues comprising a background highlighted by white dots that look like snowflakes fallen on an antique Oldsmobile. This pattern is consistent for juveniles, but the spots tend to fade with age. Adults retain black or dark brown bodies, but with lighter marks on the tail and caudal fins. Maximum length for this grouper is three feet, and the IGFA record is 23 pounds. These fish are found primarily in marine environments, but can also occur in brackish and freshwater areas. Mating rites are assumed to involve one male and a harem of females, followed by a seasonal run up the water column, where millions of eggs are fertilized. Little else is known of their reproductive tendencies, or even their habits and habitat – especially at such drastic depths. Snowy Grouper are known to spend the winter months in the Florida Keys on the east and off Mexico in the west, with larger specimens prowling near the bottom anywhere from 400-800 or more feet down. They have been observed prefer a variety of other fish and bottom-dwelling marine life, and are not too shy – or choosy – when it comes to lures or bait.
Snowies are eager to strike. All you need is the right gear and coordinates; as well as a strong, and willing, stomach. A favorite fish for meals – not only due to the challenge and rarity of landing one – this fish also tastes delicious. Finding one and hooking it is difficult enough, and it can take a long time to pull it to the surface. However, this is nothing compared to what the Snowy Grouper goes through. By the time these beasts are landed – pulled so quickly from such dizzying depths – they are usually half dead, with bulging eyes and bloated bladders forced up through gaping mouths. Don’t let this frighten you away; it’s just part of the game. Be proud of your luck in landing such a catch, take it home, and enjoy the dinner!