Published On: Mon, Nov 10th, 2014

Groper – Polyprion oxygeneios – A favourite New Zealand Deep-water Fish

Denis with a groper taken near Stephens Island, outher Marlborough Sounds.

Denis with a groper taken near Stephens Island, outher Marlborough Sounds. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Groper

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.

Groper caught fishing in Cook Strait.

Groper caught fishing in Cook Strait. Click on the picture to enlarge.

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.

Colin Wilson caught this groper deep sea fishing off the Canterbury coast.

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.

More on hapuka.

Groper often called hapuku in the North Island.

Groper is often called hapuku in the North Island.

About the Author

-

Fishingmag.co.nz website editor.