White Grunt

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Yesterday, I posted a picture of a fish I caught locally. Known as a White Grunt, this unassuming fish is much like the pineapple, it is one of the small cornerstones to Florida’s early development. Its been said many times (does repetition make a statement into fact if repeated often enough?) that when Henry Flagler was pushing his railroad through, the construction crews regularly ate grunts that easily caught out of local waters.

That’s all fine that the railways were built on the bones of this small fish, but I don’t plan on developing any railways, and I only have my family of 4 to feed. What do I care about grunts?

Quite a bit, actually.

a nice snook
a nice snook

The White Grunt represents one of the better baits for a minor obsession of mine, snook.

They are rather easy to catch, and very plentiful.

Then there is taste. Distant cousins to the snappers and groupers, they taste similar (don’t spaz out, I said similar, not exact, sheesh!). Offering a white, flaky meat, I find them to be rather tasty. So much in fact, that I’d target grunts before I’d go after something larger, such as dolphin (mahi-mahi, not the porpoises… although dolphins and porpoises are on my list of creatures to eat some day along with manatees…and panda bears), or the aforementioned snapper or grouper.

Not as a taste preference, but as a frugality measure.

Its simple, really. To catch dolphin or a decent snapper, or grouper, you need a boat. And gear. And gas. An offshore fishing trip, no matter if you are targeting pelagics (dolphin, wahoo, tuna, kingfish, etc), or bottom dwellers, costs money…quite a bit of it.

Catching grunts takes a bit of bait, a hook, and some string, and a nice spot with some structure along the shore. Shoot, you don’t even need to buy a license to catch grunts here in Florida if fishing from the shore (be sure to check your local regulations, they vary from state to state, and seem to change every year).

And then there are the state limits.

For Dolphin: 10 per person, 20 inch minimum

Snapper: Seriously, have you ever looked at snapper regulations? I prefer to file my taxes using the long form rather than try to sort through snapper regs. The only ones I am familiar with are mangrove snapper. Limit is 5 per person per day, 10 inch minimum.

Grouper: Grouper are just about as bad as snapper as far as understanding the regulations. 3 per person aggregate, limited species, and there is a closed season. Bleh, confusing!

Grunts are an unregulated species:

Default Bag Limit for Unregulated Species:  Two fish or 100 pounds per day -whichever is more. For smaller fish like white grunt, the limit is 100 pounds regardless of the number of fish it takes to reach that total weight.

Going offshore might net you (pardon the pun) 10 dolphin that weigh 50 pounds each, and there ARE days like that, I won’t argue it. But how often? If you go with a charter (the least expensive method of going for a single trip), figure $300 for a half day. So your cost per pound (gross) on an offshore fishing trip is about $0.60 per pound of whole fish, on a perfect day.

But stay on the shore, fishing for grunts, and your cost is about $5 for a piece of a Mess of gruntsline, a hook, and a bag of frozen bait shrimp. On a perfect day, your cost per pound on 100 pounds of grunts is $0.05.

Making grunts TWELVE times cheaper than dolphin.

OK, I realize this is a ridiculous example, but I hope it illustrates my point that you don’t have to spend big money to get a quality fish dinner. Don’t overlook the “lowly”  white grunt.

I spoke with SB today, and while he turned his nose up to my canned mullet, he agreed that grunts are mighty fine eating. While I disagree SB on things he says do NOT taste good, what he says DOES taste good has always been spot on.

White Grunt caught todayInexpensive to pursue, tasty on the table, and easy to catch, grunts offer a viable alternative for non offshore-capable boat owning folks (like me), that either get seasick (like me), or won’t spend the money to go (like me).



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