Groper ( Polyprion oxygeneios )
- Percichthyidae (temperate basses)
- New Zealand: Hapuku, Groper
- Australia: Groper
- Japan: Ara
- France: Cernier de Nouvelle-Zelande, Merou
- Greece: Vlachos
- United States: Bass
- Italy: Cherna
- South Africa: Bafaro
- Average Length: 80cm (31in) - 120cm (47in) *Get much bigger
- Average Weight: 3kg (7lb) - 20kg (44lb) *Get a lot heavier
The Groper is found in New Zealand and southern Australia. Similar to groupers or sea basses (Family Serranidae) which are widely found world wide. The Groper is grey – blue to grey – brown on top and white to grey underneath. They have small scales with large eyes. They are different from the related but less common bass groper by its more slender body, pointed head, and protruding lower jaw. They are found most common over rocky areas, down to a depth to 250m (820ft). The larger species of Groper or Hapuku grow to a size of 1.5m and weight over 30kg.
They are considered to be the king of the depth fishing and ideal depth to find them are 80 – 200m amongst the pinnacle reefs. Though they are now-a-days considered to be a deep fishing fish they were once abundant at all deeps. They can be caught surfcasting or shore fishing, however over-fishing has meant they are rare at shallower depths. Once caught and lifted a short distance up from the bottom their air bladder bursts which causes them to float up to the surface. This is due to the difference in pressure and it’s not uncommon to see their air bladder protruding from their mouth. It is very hard to release a Groper in this state and therefore discarded catch tends to die on top of the water, since they can’t sink. The proper method to bring a groper or hapuku up from the deep, which maybe released, is to take your time and bring it up very slowly. This allows the adjustment in pressure and means it has a chance to be released. The main issue is around under size fish which must be put back. If the air bladder is inflated it is possible to make a small hole piercing in the bladder to allow the air to deflate. This is experimental however the theory is that the fish can swim down and the bladder heals in time.
Common ways to catch groper is by long lining or by rod and boat. Most rod and line anglers fish two or three-hook dropper or ledger rigs with short branching traces tipped with large hooks. Hooks may be of the conventional J-type, or more usually are circle-types with recurving points.
Groper rigs are tied or crimped in heavy monofilament line (around 200kg is usual ) and the hooks can be as large as 14/0, though smaller hooks are better if average fish size is smaller. Most groper fishing is in deep water from a drifting boat, large sinkers are mandatory. Streamlined ‘torpedo’ or ‘bomb styles are best with weights up to kilo required in some places. Attaching the sinker via a short length of light nylon designed to break if the sinker fouls on the bottom can save a lot of frustration and re-rigging.
Heavy rods and large reels spooled with at least 24kg line are needed when groper fishing. Due to the size and depth of the groper you may need to use a gimbal belt with harness. You will need a good drag on your reel since they do fight.
You can use most baits on groper however you need to make sure that they are of a good size to prevent unwanted fish taking the bait (you don’t want to keep reeling up at that depth to check your bait). Groper are found at the bottom of the seabed so you need to make sure you bait gets to that depth. The best fishing time is at the slack turn of tide to ensure you can get your line to the bottom.
Groper Flesh Characteristics
Groper are considered to be of excellent eating quality. Their flesh is firm and it’s suitable to all cooking methods. Groper also makes good steaks and is great smoked. Due to the size of the fillets often one fish will go a long and suitable to many cooking styles. Groper cheeks are considered by many to be the best part of the fish and often sold commercially.