The yellowfin grouper (Mycteroperca venenosa), though popular in culinary dishes and Gulf sport angling, is scientifically named for its common association with causing ciguatera toxin poisoning, perhaps more than other groupers. The fish is variable in color, typically olive green or bright red with longitudinal rows of rounded darker black splotches on its back. Its belly is often salmon pink, and its mouth is yellow inside and along the corners. Certain yellowfin by their dark appearance can be mistaken for black grouper.
This fish is a solitary carnivore that lurks in wrecks, reef shadows, or ledges and eats by drawing prey into its gullet by powerful suction through its large mouth and holding it in small rasp like teeth that cover the jaws, tongue and palate. Grouper are hermaphroditic and begin life as females then change to males with maturity. Spawning takes place at Bermuda in July, potentially in the Florida Keys during March and on the Florida Middle Ground in the eastern Gulf of Mexico from March to August and south of St. Thomas February through April with peaks during the full month in March.
Juveniles occur in shallow turtle grass beds. Adults reside offshore on rocky bottoms and coral heads at depths up to 450 feet and in the northern Gulf of Mexico, can be found over deep mud bottoms.
Native to the western Atlantic in and around Bermuda and Florida, the Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Also found along the east coast of Central and South America down to Brazil.