Scamp or what?

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I know I'm going to have to buy one of the Fish ID CDs. In the meantime, can someone with the CD tell me if is this another pattern of a scamp. It's not in my edition of the Fish ID book. I know the fis in the background is a scamp.

Yellowmouth Grouper

I know the pictures in the book don't do it justice, but the CD states about the scamp: "Were it not for the lack of yellow on the inside or at the corners of (the scamp's) mouth it could easily be mistaken for the yellowmouth grouper" In this case your front fish clearly shows yellow mouth corners.

As for the back fish, I'll just say be careful, because there are yellowmouth's in the CD pictures displaying that scamp like pattern. Unfortunately I can't see the mouth in this pic.

Scamp with yellow mouth

Livi, I apologize because I should have told you that all the scamps we photograph and catch here have yellow mouths. I've posted a better photo of the scamp that is in the background. After looking closer at the new photo I realized it has a pattern of spots below the scamp markings that are similar to the spotted pattern on the fish in question. I was hoping the CD would confirm this color pattern. I also apologize for not listing the location as the northern Gulf of Mexico. Although I have photographed species not previously listed for this area, I haven't seen any other yellow groupers this far north, either by diving or by fishing. Scamp are common to this area. I take it from your comments that the CD doesn't show the dotted color pattern.


The CD has 4 pics of the scamp, all four of a smallish specimen with a very white background color and the spot pattern pretty identical to your scamp. All very much like the pic on the H/D 3rd edition p.163 (no mention of yellow around mouth in either pics or written description, and the CD does say that "it lacks the yellow in or around the mouth"). I look it up on other online sources and they contradict H/D saying scamp have yellow mouth corners. ex:
Now all sources agree that the scamp can darken dramatically. So if what I read or interpreted from the H/D source is incorrect and scamps can have yellow mouths, then I don't see why the foreground fish would not be a darker scamp (one that "turned on" all its dots)

Now for the Yellowmouth Grouper (Mycteroperca intertitialis) [I want to clarify that 'cause there's also the yellowfin and yellowedge groupers] There are 11 pictures and a video on the CD. One has the even brown dot pattern like your picture, in two of the other pictures the pattern looks much more like that of the scamp. Again in the yellowmouth ID page the H/D 3rd edition book says: "Scamp does not have yellow around the mouth" but this may be wrong ???

I also read in H/D that the scamp usually have 11 soft rays in their anal fin and the yellowmouth 12. But this ID would have to be in a case where maybe you caught the fish and can count carefully and at any rate it says "usually" so you still wouldn't be sure.

As far as location, I did read that the scamp is a lot more common in the gulf that the yellowmouth. But the yellowmouth is listed as a rare to uncommon in the gulf so there's slight possibility there.

Sorry for the rambling post LOL but I just wanted to explain I though the yellow around the mouth was the defining difference between the 2, if it's not then I'm not sure how to tell the 2 apart more definitively. I have to say though that yellow jaw notwithstanding I think the skin pattern of these looks more scamp than yellowmouth.

Hopefully someone with more experience with these 2 species can chime in.

Carol, I also found this

I found a similar question to ours on Scubaboard. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to come to any resolution either.???,

No wonder I'm confused

Either the fish ID book is wrong about the coloring of the scamp or wrong on location of yellowmouth groupers. All the "scamp" around here have yellow around the mouth. I got a laugh out of another web site that states "The yellowmouth grouper is very similar in appearance to its close relative Mycteroperca phenax, with both commonly identified as ‘scamp’ (2) (6). The two are only really separated on the basis of slight differences in body and fin proportions, and by the yellowmouth grouper’s lack of dark spots on the dorsal and anal fin (2)." If the dark spots on the fins are the deciding factor, then these are scamp, if the yellow jaw is the decider, then it's a yellowmouth; then location points back to scamp. Do the fish on the CD show the spots, or lack of, on the anal and dorsal fins? The web site I just found is

The anal fin of the

The anal fin of the yellowmouths on the CD seem pretty spotless but is hard to tell (they are mostly dark). On the dorsal fin both for the scamp and the yellowmouth what ever the pattern is along the top of the body seems to go right into the fin (looking like bars made of dots). But, this is what I notice looking at all these pics (forget the yellow mouth):
The scamp (and let's say yours are scamp) has larger dots in proportion to the body (more like polka dots) the yellowmouth has smaller spots (the one with spots all over looks kind of like a granite counter top). On the pictures where both fish are displaying the blotches on a pale background the yellowmouth spots bleed together to form more solid looking blotches (look at the rectangles on the top/back) The scamps blotches seem to be made of less, bigger spots surrounding a pale center. Going by that I say you got scamps here.

I asked for another opinion

Hi Carol,
I saw ddeborahdelamar (screenname) talk about this dilemma in the Scubaboard ID forum and I asked her if she would take a look at our discussion here and give her 2 cents. This is what she had to say:

"OK, I'll bite...

You didn't say where you found the fish but I have to assume that both fish were within their known range.

Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that the larger fish is a yellowmouth.

ID clues:

-Yellow on the dorsal fin of yellowmouth is not reliable -- it's very apparent in fish transitioning from juvenile to adult but, in my experience, it seems that the yellow fades away as the fish matures. Given the relative sizes of the two fish, the yellowmouth has been around for some time.

-Dot pattern & color -- never seen a scamp that didn't have "paw prints" and have seen many spotted yellowmouth. Yes, the spots are large but that may be a inherited from the gene pool that this fish came from -- there are definitely regional differences in fish appearance. Yellowmouth have the ability to lighten and darken and this coloration is definitely within their normal range.

Fins - Pectoral, dorsal, ventral aren't helpful here. I count 12 soft rays on the anal fin in photo #2.

I may be wrong, but that's the best answer I can give based on my experience.

Good luck solving your mystery!"

to clarify what she means by "paw print" (she explained it in her other post) is that the scamp's dots make like a circle or doughnut around a light empty middle, she describes it like the IAMS paw print label.

So her 2 cents are as follows: pic 1 front and pic 2 Yellowmouth Grouper. Pic 1 back, pic 3 and 4 Scamp.

Scamp with lighter paw prints and more prominent spots

Maybe you should let her know that these are far from Yellowmouth range. These were photographed SE of Panama City, Florida, in the far northern part of the Gulf of Mexco. Also, the two fish were close in size--it is a trick of the camera that the one in the foreground looks much larger.

I'll post a photo from another dive site of a scamp that has pale pawprints, and more visible spots.

Field Guide to Groupers

Here is another photo to add to this string. In the 6th photo there is another spotted grouper-like fish hanging out with a scamp that is in the background. It has the spots the continue onto the fins like scamp, but doesn't have paw prints. The spots are larger than the speckles found on a yellowmouth grouper, and this one doesn't appear to have a yellow jaw. Photo #6 was taken off Pensacola on the Oriskany in 2006, a few months after it was sunk.

I was almost convinced this was a yellowmouth grouper, but then I found another reference manual on groupers that talks about dfferent color patterns in scamp. Colour: “Colour: Four colour patterns were described and illustrated by Gillmore and Jones (1992); the usual pattern is the brown phase, with head and body pale brown, covered (except ventrally) with small reddish brown spots (1 on each scale) which extend onto the median fins. The “cat’s paw” phase is pale brown, the dorsolateral parts of body with several clusters of dark brown spots resembling the paw print of a cat.." This was on page 272 of a field guide that can be found at

By the way, I bought the DVD and love it.


scamp or what?

I recently completed a project using underwater video that necessitated telling these species (Mycteroperca phenax and M. interstitialis) apart. After viewing thousands of scamp and hundreds of yellowmouth it is my opinion that color and body patterning are poor for differentiating scamp and yellowmouth. In my experience fin shape, especially the caudal fin is highly reliable for telling adult fish apart. Adult yellowmouth have a distinctive, and regular, sawtooth pattern to the caudal fin. Body coloration and pattern are highly variable. For color and pattern changes in the scamp this article is very helpful

Gilmore, G. R. and R. S. Jones. 1992. Color variation and associated behavior in the epinepheline groupers, Mycteroperca microlepis (Goode and Bean) and M. phenax Jordan and Swain. Bull. Mar. Sci. 51: 83-103.

As to your pictures, I believe that all of the pictures with the exception of #6 are scamp. In picture 6 the background fish (I call them cat's paw marking) is a scamp and the foreground (main) fish is likely a transitional (juvenile) yellowmouth. If you need more info please contact me at eburge (at)

Scamps and Yellowmouths

Thank you very much for the educated response. I hope you will be chiming in more often. ~Carol

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