‘Fish on Fridays’: Gulf of Mexico Grouper

Grilled Grouper

Grilled Grouper over Arugula & orange salad. Photo credit: Food Network/Emeril Lagasse

Grouper are delicious fish that are harvested in both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In the Gulf of Mexico, these fish are managed under a catch share program, where species like red and black grouper have healthy populations. John Schmidt, a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico who fishes for grouper, tells us about his experiences in the fishery and how it has changed for the better under a catch share. Finally, we are sharing a delicious and healthy recipe for grilled grouper over an arugula and orange salad.

Gulf of Mexico Grouper/Tilefish IFQ Program

The Grouper-Tilefish IFQ program was implemented in January of 2010. Prior to this program, commercial grouper and tilefish were managed with limited access fishing permits, trip limits, size limits, closed seasons and catch limits. These management measures resulted in overcapitalization of the fishery and subsequent early closures. Fishermen were going bankrupt and fish stocks were depleted. Since the fishermen have been operating under a catch share in this fishery, the stocks are rebuilding, discards of dead fish are down, the race to fish has been eliminated, and fishermen are able to grow their businesses in an industry that was previously struggling.

Meet a Fisherman: John Schmidt

John Schmidt starting spearfishing recreationally in the Gulf of Mexico over 25 years ago and later started his own commercial fishing business. He remembers seeing an abundance of large fish when he first started, and also recalls that grouper (primarily gag grouper) became overfished and very scarce by 2006. When he started his business in 2004, many fishermen were going out of business because the fishery was so depleted. He started the business anyway because he had a passion for fishing and he loved providing Americans with fresh seafood. He had faith that a better management system would be implemented, “Management was out of control. Fish weren’t nearly as fresh, seasons were getting shorter, there were gluts on the market, restaurants and wholesalers were using imported or falsely labeled grouper to fill the demand. Something had to change.”

Now, he is proud to be a part of a fishery that is rebuilding and has a future. “I’m proud to have a fishing business that is sustainable and has integrity. I love to provide fresh domestic seafood to Americans year round. The futures of our businesses are great for the first time in our lifetime.”

Species: Gulf of Mexico Red Grouper

Red Grouper is caught in recreational and commercial fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions of the United States. Most grouper populations are healthy or rebuilding under catch share management in the Gulf of Mexico region. You can purchase fresh Gulf grouper under the GulfWild program, which improves seafood traceability by attaching a unique tag to each fish so that it can be traced back to the captain and location of capture. Grouper is prized by seafood consumers and restaurants for its firm, lean flesh with a mild flavor. It is extremely versatile and can be prepared in a variety of recipes.

Try this recipe for grilled grouper over an arugula and orange salad adapted from an Emeril Lagasse recipe in Emeril’s New New Orlean’s Cooking book.


Grilled Grouper over Arugula & Orange Salad


For the fish:

1 (3.5-4 pound) grouper, fillets removed with scales intact

4 tablespoons melted butter

3 cloves minced garlic

1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan

1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

4 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme, basil or chives


For the salad:

2 cups arugula

2 cups baby spinach

½ red onion, thinly sliced

1 orange, supremed

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1.4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper



For the fish:

Preheat your grill to medium-high

Combine melted butter, garlic, parmesan, creole seasoning and olive oil. Whisk ingredients to combine.

Place fillets of grouper on the grill, scale side down. This method ensures that the fish stays moist while grilling and makes the scales easier to remove. Brush fillets with melted butter mixture. Be generous!

Grill the fish for 3 minutes with the cover closed, and then re-brush with butter mixture. Repeat this process for a total of 12-15 minutes until fish is firm and opaque in color. In the last minute of cooking, sprinkle fish with fresh chopped herbs.

Remove and serve immediately over the salad.

For the salad:

Combine spinach, arugula, orange segments and onion in a large bowl.

Make the dressing in a separate bowl by whisking together the Dijon mustard, orange juice and vinegar. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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