Grouper are delicious and are coveted by anglers and diners alike, but many consider scamp the sweetest prize of all the grouper. Scamp are relatively small members of the grouper family but, in my opinion, they beat out all the competition as the tastiest treat of all fish. Winner, winner, scamp for dinner!
Scamp (Mycteroperca phenax) are also known as brown grouper, broomtail, or abadejo and are sometimes confused with the yellowmouth grouper. A slender bodied grouper, the scamp has an average size of 4 to 6 pounds but it is not unusual to catch one up to 8 pounds or more. The Florida state record is 28 pounds 6 ounces caught near Mayport, the Alabama state record is 29 pounds 10 ounces caught near Dauphin Island, and the IGFA record is 32 pounds caught near North Carolina. Personally, I would be thrilled with 5 pound scamp any day!
The elongated body of the scamp can be deep tan, brown, even dark gray in color with many dark or reddish brown marks that group into spots or lines that form different patterns, some looking like rosettes or paw prints (this is what my skin looks like these days). Scamp have the ability to change color to camouflage themselves in the surrounding environment using chromatophores or pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells found in fish scales. Their head profile is somewhat concave with the posterior nostril being larger than the anterior nostril and the corner of the mouth may have a yellowish coloration. The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins have protruding rays in the adults. As the fish ages the caudal fin may appear to have a ragged appearance with uneven rays.
Scamp tend to inhabit near and offshore reefs, ledges, and rocky bottoms where they lurk until darting out to ambush their prey. Feeding on small fish, crustaceans, and even octopus; scamp can and do feed on anything they are able to fit into their mouth. This ambush activity is what I look like each time I approach the refrigerator to snare my latest snack during this stay-at-home adventure!
Spawning occurs in late spring and scamp are protogynous grouper. Protogynous hermaphrodites are fish that are born and mature as females but will change to males as they mature or are needed to aid in reproduction. Scamp live in “harems” of 3-15 females to one male who seems exhibit a preference to a specific spawning area. Most scamp that are 24” or less are typically female.
These slow swimming grouper are very powerful and are excellent fighters on light tackle. Scamp are a great sport fish with quite a hefty pull when the decide to dive. As I mentioned before, scamp eat most anything that will fit in their mouth, so any type of small fish will work
as live bait and shrimp, squid and cut baits will also get the job done. Head out and try your
luck catching the desirable and tasty scamp. Most importantly, do not forget to drop off a
fillet with me!
Photos of different colored scamp: