Groper – Polyprion oxygeneios
Other names: hapuku (pronounced hapuka)
This species is often called Hapuku in the North Island, and groper in the south.
Many believe, incorrectly, that groper is a deepwater species only. However, before they were fished-out they were once caught surfcasting off Canterbury beaches. They were also known, according to David H. Graham in Treasury of New Zealand Fishes, to be plentiful in Otago Harbour at the beginning of the 20th century.
In the North Island, this fish is often known as hapuku or puka. Average size fish measure from 80cm to 1m while a big one can measure 1.5m and weigh more than 30kg. Your best chance of catching a really big groper is to fish around distant offshore reefs and pinnacles that rarely see angler’s lines.
Once lifted a short distance up from the bottom their air bladder bursts and they float up to the surface. When deep-sea long-lining it isn’t unusual to see a string of groper floating on the surface like a row of buoys having all floated up together from the dark depths.
Groper is a premium eating fish. The firm white flesh is much prized either cut up into fillets or sliced into steaks. Many expert fishermen believe the tastiest part of a groper is the flesh from the cheeks. The cheeks are sold in some supermarkets having been hot smoked.
It is thought that smaller groper school and move around while the bigger fish tend to take up residence in one area.
NIWA have done considerable research into the possibility of farming groper in sea cages. Once groper eggs hatch the small fish grow very rapidly for their first year or so. The research is looking promising.
Colin Wilson caught this groper deep sea fishing off the Canterbury coast.
In the South Island, this species is called groper while in the North Island most anglers call it hapuku, or even just “puka.”
Whatever the name this is one of the best-eating fish in the sea.
Groper can grow to 1.5m in length and weigh 60kg or more.
Unusual Video: While searching for a potential shipwreck approximately 80 miles off the coast of South Carolina the Deep 2019 expedition team had a rare encounter – a group of sharks in what looked to be a feeding frenzy on a dead swordfish. Then a grouper appears with shark in its jaws. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Windows to the Deep 2019.