Some bait shops may have pinkish you can buy, but we recommend going out a day before your grouper trip and catching some above bait fish to store in your live well. If you’re targeting a rock pile or wreck, anchor your boat up current and throw some old cut bait in the water.
A regular bottom fishing tackle setup is a great place to start. We like using a 6 to 7-foot long heavy action rod paired with a bottom-fishing reel and 50 lb test braided line.
Like we mentioned earlier, we usually fish for grouper off the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species you’ll most likely encounter there. They are gray and brown and love living close to coastal rock piles and underwater wreckage.
Their massive size means you need to fish with an extra heavy-duty set up in order to stand a chance. One of the first mistakes amateur grouper fishermen make is keeping their drag at a normal level.
This is a big mistake when fishing for grouper due to their tendency to retreat back to rocky holes and tunnels after they take your bait. IF your drag is set high, it will be much harder for them to make it back to their rocky hideouts before you can reel them away.
Drifting allows you to cover more water and get your bait in front of more fish than if you anchor your boat. Since oftentimes the difference between catching a grouper and not is just finding them, drifting allows you to maximize your chances enticing them to bite.
As long as the current isn’t too strong and your lures aren’t down too deep, you should still be able to keep your live/dead bait right where you want it. Since they live at deeper depths than other sports fish, they still enjoy feeding when the surface bite is off.
Goliath's can often be seen around structure including wrecks, reefs, inlets and bridges. They can be found at almost very single bridge and jetty along Florida's East Coast, at certain times of year.
I often target them at the Sebastian inlet jetty, where they can be found in huge schools! These included mackerel, moon fish, jacks, mullet, spade fish, craters, catfish and more.
Eddie sat down on the deck and braced his foot against the rail, I figured we were into a big one. When his hat fell off, and he started to make grunting sounds, I was sure of it.
Eddie looked up at me with a twisted smile and was just hanging onto the rod for dear life. Something was living in this wreck 10 miles off southwest Florida, and whatever it was had already beaten us up several times.
But on this day we were maxed out on gear big enough to crank one of these monsters up ... if only Capt. This started out innocently enough a few weeks earlier when a couple of fishing buddies and I dropped a live pinkish on 30# mono down on a wreck 50 feet deep looking for a grouper dinner.
Something big grabbed it, screamed out about 40 feet of drag, got into the wreck and cut the line on something sharp. Something wolfed down the pinkish and took line like the rod was tied to a dragster.
It had to be a big grouper, a shark, a giant ray, or maybe a huge barracuda. The rod bent over 180 degrees, the back of the boat went down 6 inches, and the 150# braid snapped like a rifle shot.
I asked the guys in the local bait shops if they knew any captains up for the task of fishing for seemingly unwatchable monsters. The Goliath, once called the Jewish, is the biggest member of the grouper family.
Goliath's can live 50 years and grow to behemoth size. The winds of spring kept us inshore for a couple of weeks, so we enjoyed the opportunity to fish the bridges for pompano and sea trout.
It finally took a rig spooled with 150# braid, a 500# mono top shot, and huge #16 circle hook under 2 ounces of lead to bring a Goliath to the surface. Eddie's wreck, and he pulled a big Spanish mackerel out of his cooler, the one bait he said Goliath can't refuse.
It was a short, furious, and profane battle, a hard fought back-and-forth fish fight, exciting to watch with an uncertain end. Eddie prevailed, and suddenly a giant brown fish appeared on the surface and lay at the side of the boat as exhausted as Capt.
On the next calm day I returned to my wreck lying now in water so clear you could see its dark silhouette on the white sand bottom 50 feet below. I went over the side to find an old shrimper torn apart by hurricanes and fishermen's anchors, its wheelhouse barely recognizable.
And then they appeared, slowly emerging from the shadows of broken masts and rigging. A fearless giant Goliath carries the remnants of three different rigs ripped from fishermen.
Three fishing rigs hung from his mouth, one still with its sinker, medals of recent battles won, and then I recognized one of my rigs, the 150# braid to a black swivel to 200# mono, hanging out of the left side of his mouth. There was the proof: These were the bad boys that had beat us up, and a few other fishermen, too, by the looks of it.
I returned to the surface knowing those hooks will soon rust and the line will fall away, and these Goliath's will own this wreck for many years to come. Goliath grouper can be found across the Caribbean from Central America, around the Gulf, and up the Atlantic to the Carolina's, but they are most plentiful in Florida.
Below are some of the more popular baits that anglers use for catching grouper. Fish them alive or dead, however, the lively ones tend to be more productive for grouper.