Red Mouth, Blood Mouth
Managed by: SAFMC
One of the smallest of the grunts, the tomtate are not highly regarded by fishermen, however it is an important food for larger fish-eating reef fishes. Often seen by divers, tomtates are approachable and serve as a warning when larger fish are near by tightening their schools and moving away from the predator. The tomtate is silver white all over with a yellow-brown stripe running the length of the body and ending as a black blotch at the base of the caudal fin. This spot is also evident in most juvenile grunts, and may be lost by older fish. The inside of its mouth is bright red.
The tomtate is distibuted from Cape Hatteras to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Central American coast and the Caribbean. Preferred habitat is rough bottom areas, which are scattered over the otherwise smooth plain of the continental shelf. tomtates are seldom in waters less than 54°F. Females may mature when as small as 5.5 inches and males as small as 6.5 inches, and all fish over the age of 5 are capable of reproducing. Spawning takes place in the spring. tomtate may grow to be 12 inches and 1 pound. tomtates feed on small, bottom-dwelling bottom invertebrates.
South Atlantic Federal Regulations
(For areas three-200 miles off the coasts of NC, SC, GA, and East Florida)
Limited access permit