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What is a Margate?

By Angie Bates
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A margate is a type of grunt, a marine fish, which lives in tropical waters. A popular fish for both commercial fishing and sport fishing, margate is thought to be extremely tasty and can be found in many restaurants near its native range, particularly in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. There are two main types of margate: the white and the black. The scientific name for the white and black margates are Haemulon album and Anisotremus surinamensis respectively.

Similar in general shape to the yellow grunt, margates can be distinguished by their arching backs. They grow up to 31 inches (79 cm) long, but are most often closer to 19.6 inches (50 cm), and can weigh a maximum of 15.7 pounds (7.14 kg). On average, those caught by fishermen usually weight about 4 pounds (1.8 kg).

Both the white and the black margate have silver or gray bodies. The white has barely visible spots on its backs and sides. The black has a dark, thick black stripe from its stomach over its pectoral fins, which ends just before its back. The white margate's fins are also silvery or gray, and the black's are black. Both have a dark, forked caudal fin, or tail. The juveniles are usually a blue-white.

Margates live in areas that have a lot of cover, such as coral reefs, sunken wrecks, and sea grass beds. Though they live in deep waters, usually between 65.5–197 feet (20–60 m), at night they come into shallower water to feed on crustaceans. They can be found in pairs and are often found in schools.

Since these are such a popular fish for sport anglers, many areas, such as the Virgin Islands, institute a closed season where fishing for these grunts is prohibited. The closed season usually occurs for the months of January through March, so the breeding season of the margates is not disturbed. Precautions such as these help to ensure the margate will always have a healthy population and will not be overfished.

In April, sport fisherman often travel to fish for black or white margate. Belize offers good black margate fishing. The margate are found in huge schools during this time, and fishermen use live bait to catch them. Additionally, barracuda and sharks often swim below the margate schools, greater than 90 feet (27 m) deep, and some fisherman will try their hand at fishing for these more dangerous catches as well.

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