Best Bait For Grouper Fishing

Carole Stephens
• Sunday, 26 September, 2021
• 20 min read

Some grouper grow to over 500 lbs, and can often be caught with a simple hook and sinker style rig. As with most predatory fish, using live bait for grouper will be your best bet as long as local regulations allow.

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If you’re targeting a rock pile or wreck, anchor your boat up current and throw some old cut bait in the water. This technique works great for both bottom fishing and spearfish, as long as you have a solid pair of free diving fins.

Combine this with a 2 to 3 foot long 80 lb test monofilament leader, a 4-ounce egg sinker, and you’ll be set up for grouper success! 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. Gag groupers will even hang in water only a few feet deep if there are structure and bait fish nearby.

Their massive size means you need to fish with an extra heavy-duty set up in order to stand a chance. Lastly, we wanted to share some grouper fishing tips that will improve your chances of catching grouper significantly if you follow them.

bait fishing grouper amberjacks
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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. This is why it’s always a good idea to have a bottom fishing reel and rod ready for off days.

Grouper put up a great fight and taste delicious if you prepare them correctly. Not only are these fish very intriguing to tackle and catch, their meat is always soft, fluffy and very tasty.

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They require special types of bait to lure, and very hard tackles to secure them, and to pull out of the waters. However, you also stand to lose your bait, your hard-earned grouper game and you will definitely feel some pain if your rod finds itself hitting your gut.

Even though you can use frozen mullets from local bait shops, it would be even more fun and practice to catch some on your way to fishing groupers. Live and hooked mullets provide an even more attractive allure to groupers, especially when they look slow due to injuries.

Fishing pros attribute the impressive bait qualities of squid to their smelly and oily nature. You might find that you could be lazy and fail to go to the exact spots where groupers lounge and breed, but you will still catch some other tasty giant fish.

Squid can also be caught easily or bought at local bait shops at very affordable rates. Because of their shiny and lively visibility, and of course their tasty and oily fleshy, sardines make very great grouper baits.

Even when dead and frozen, sardines will still do the trick of luring groupers out because of their shiny bodies. Pinkish are great bait because they really hate being on hooks and complain a lot by making grunts.

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The grunts and their average size of about 7 inches make groupers eager to just swallow them whole in feeding anticipation. You can fish them out with traps as you go out on the deep waters to catch groupers, or you can buy them cheaply at local bait shops.

These fish baits are great because they are big enough to catch Goliath groupers and small enough not to be wasted food. They will be very helpful to you, especially if you would like to isolate giant groupers and tackle them hard when they are distracted with their own hunting success.

There's nothing more disheartening for a serious angler than spending a day on the boat only to come home empty-handed. When catching Red Snapper or Grouper, the right bait makes all the difference.

Red Snapper, in particular, are not necessarily picky, but if you are targeting the larger fish there are definitely better baits to use than others. Red Snapper tends to be wary, and they don't bite if they notice anything suspicious.

Regardless of what you're hoping to catch, tailoring the bait to the type of fish is common sense. Live bait is King when fishing Red Snapper and Grouper, and they do have their favorites.

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Grouper also prefer large live bait fish, but they tend to be less picky than Red Snapper. You can opt for either frozen or fresh fish purchased from your local bait shop.

These fish flit through the water quickly, easily attracting a predator's attention, plus they're shiny and oily, making them even more visible. Other options include squid, blue runner, mullet, pinkish, and grunts.

Drop your baits (ideally cigar minnows or pilchards for red snappers or sardines for groupers) down deep into the water column. Many of the trophy sized fish are in holes and covered areas where they tend to rest and stay safe from other predators.

If you fail to do so, your live bait may come loose on a heavy current. Red Snapper love this and tend to strike the bait before it even hits the bottom.

Simply cut a strip of Bonito (we leave the skin on), attach with both hooks on your double Snell rig and slowly drop the bait to the bottom. When the fish strikes it is important to quickly reel in the line to set the hook.

grouper fishing bait
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When fishing for Red Snapper, many anglers have great success using artificial lures. Vertical jigs, in particular, can trick the fish, which confuse the shiny objects with an easy bite.

Diving plugs are ideal for groupers if you're fishing in reef areas, allowing for deep trolling at depths of 20 to 40 feet. Finally, you can try a butterfly jig, a thin but heavy lure that moves erratically in the water.

This movement mimics a real fish as the lure free falls through the water. Jigging requires you to snap or pop the rod tip as you move the lure up and down in the water column.

Opt for cigar minnows or pilchards for red snapper, and sardines for grouper. Generally, Southern California, the Gulf of Mexico and around Florida are great places to fish for grouper and red snapper.

Isolated areas are also preferable and the Florida Gulf Coast is a great location. They are found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and points south.

grouper fishing bait gag jig surefire tactics summer hook
(Source: miamifishing.com)

While they are a powerful fish that puts up a strong battle, grouper are prized by many anglers for their flaky white fillets! There are quite a few other species of grouper that are found in deeper waters and throughout the Bahamas and other locations.

For the most part, their habits are very similar and will be treated all the same when it comes to tackle and techniques. The one thing that all groupers have in common is that they are bottom dwelling, structure oriented fish.

Seldom will one be found high up in the water column or on sandy bottom with no structure. Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices.

This can handle most the bottom fishing situations as well as some light tackle trolling. Anglers using conventional tackle for grouper fishing can choose a reel with a level wind or one without.

Level winds are nice in that the line is spooled up evenly as it is retrieved. Many old school grouper fishing reels such as the venerable Penn 4/0 do not have a level wind.

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(Source: www.floridasportsman.com)

Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle. Anglers fishing in hundreds of feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean with heavy lead will need a stouter outfit than those fishing in 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anglers fishing in shallow, clear water sometimes find that lighter spinning tackle makes a more natural presentation. Some anglers simply prefer the comfort and feel of a spinning outfit.

This mostly occurs in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico north of Tampa. Therefore, anglers anchor or drift a decent distance from the spot and cast live baits or lures in towards the structure.

A 7-8 foot heavy action rod with a 6000 series real is a good all-around combination. In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice.

Anglers shopping for grouper fishing tackle and lures will have quite a few choices when it comes to fishing line. While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament.

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(Source: www.fishmiamicharters.com)

This is very important when grouper fishing as it allows anglers to feel the take as well is get the grouper away from the structure. Braided line is also thinner in diameter, which allows it to sink faster when fishing in deep water.

Many use a strong black swivel to connect the leader to the main line. A sliding sinker is often placed on the main line and then the swivel stops it from going any further.

Leader length and strength varies greatly, depending on the fishing situation. Many anglers fishing in deep water use a very long leader, up to 20 feet and even longer.

Anglers grouper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. The hook may look huge, but the important part is the distance between the tip and the shank.

Standard short shank live bait hooks are also popular for grouper fishing as well. In very deep water, just reeling and coming tight as is done with circle hooks works the best anyway.

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(Source: theintrepidangler.com)

The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader. With this rig, the sinker slides on the leader and rest right on the eye of the hook.

Also, when snagged up, the sinker jerking up on the line then banging the eye of the hook will often free it. With this rig, multiple hooks are tied off of dropper loops on the main line.

The bank sinker works well as it tends to walk and bounce off of rocks and other snags. While most grouper are caught on live or natural bait, there are a few situations when they can be taken on artificial lures as well.

Trolling with deep diving plugs is an incredibly effective technique when grouper are in fairly shallow water. It allows anglers to cover a lot of water over a large piece of structure in search of fish.

Trolling is effective anywhere that there is submerged structure in the 50 feet deep or shallower range. The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, channel edges and large bays such as Tampa Bay, and coral reefs of the Caribbean are prime spots to troll for grouper.

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They are categorized by size, giving anglers a good idea of how deep they will go. Papal and several other lure manufacturers also make quality deep diving plugs for grouper fishing.

With the boat idling along at 4 to 5 knots, the plug will dig down to the maximum depth, putting out a lot of flash and vibration. A down rigger is a device with a cable and a heavy ball which takes the lure down deep.

This technique is used extensively in the Great Lakes region for walleye and salmon. Grouper can also be caught by anglers casting artificial lures, though there are limited situations where this can occur.

Basically, when grouper are holding over structure in fairly shallow water, usually 10 feet deep or shallower, casting lures over the structure and retrieving them back in can produce jarring strikes from grouper. Plugs will dive to a determined depth, while jigs can be worked through the entire water column but are extremely effective when bounced on the bottom right on top of the structure.

White buck tail jigs are often used and can be tipped with a strip of squid or cut fish. There are basically four types of grouper that are found in good numbers in the United States.

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(Source: www.howtocatchanyfish.com)

Gag grouper are very aggressive and are the species most often targeted by anglers fishing with artificial lures. Black grouper are normally found in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean and down around the Florida Keys.

Surprisingly, they are often encountered in the inshore waters, as shallow as five or 6 feet deep. Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for shook or redfish.

As far as live baits for Grouper, grunts like Piggish are an excellent choice. But any live Pinkish, Croaked, Sand Perch, Squirrel fish, or Scaled Sardine will produce a good Grouper bite.

I often use fresh caught, non-frozen baits (cut up) such as Mullet, Thread fin, Lady fish and Bonito. This image was circulating around Instagram from a dozen sources, but we found out it actually came from the people at Blackish Fishing.

Now for King fish any live bait fish will work with Blue runners at the top of the list. I find that freshly-cut bait works better than any frozen chum block, although I often use both.

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Here is an overview of the content of this tutorial, feel free to jump to any section you care about: Characteristic features: a large head with a huge mouth, the lower jaw is advanced, a massive, laterally compressed body.

A giant grouper (Red Sea and Indian Ocean) grows over 400 kg. All groupers, from an early age, active predators, food addictions do not exist.

The fish sucks in its victims, creating a vacuum around the object of the hunt, widely opening a huge mouth of a rounded shape. They do not form large groups, they can come close to the shore, although they often live at great depths, about 100 m or more.

For representatives of the serranidae family, to which belong groupers, a certain feature in the method of reproduction is characteristic. In the Gulf of Mexico, during the spawning period, there is a massive production of groupers with nets and hook gear, which greatly affects the number of these fish.

In general, fishing occurs at sufficiently large depths at the bottom or at a complex rocky terrain. With any method of fishing, they use either heavy baits or special deep-wellings, as in the case of trolling.

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Spinning fishing from a boat may differ in lure feeding principles. Many types of marine fishing techniques require very fast wiring, which means a high gear ratio of the winding mechanism.

In order to select the correct wiring, consult with experienced local fishermen or guides. Groupers, due to their size and temperament, are considered a very interesting opponent for trolling.

For fishing on ocean and sea open spaces, specialized vessels equipped with numerous devices are used. The main ones are the holders of the rods, in addition, the boats are equipped with chairs for fishing, a table for making baits, powerful echo sounders and more.

In the case of fishing for groupers, an important element of equipment are various sinkers (deepened). Trolling, especially when hunting for marine giants, is a group type of fishing.

In most cases, fishing is carried out by professional guides who are fully responsible for the event. It is worth noting that the search for a trophy at sea or in the ocean can be associated with many hours of bite waiting, sometimes unsuccessful.

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It is worth considering that the size of trophies can be very significant, which requires special training from the fishing organizers. In most cases, fishing is carried out with the lure of predators by various bites of animal composition.

Among the natural ones, it is worth noting small live fish, for example, juvenile barracudas, sardines. For fishing on a spinning rod, “kickback” or trolling, various cobblers and artificial silicone imitations are used.

Groupers are distributed practically in all the warm waters of the World Ocean and its constituent seas. So many people who are new to fishing share the same common misconception… ‘Sling the line out into the water, a fish will come swimming along and job done.’ That’s why it’s no surprise that beginners spend hours trying their luck and return home with nothing to show for their efforts.

You see, the reason why people fail to catch fish, is because they don’t pay proper attention to the bait. Without an effective bait on the end of your line, no underwater species will be tempted to go anywhere near the hook.

When you’re out at sea, some of the most common fish that’ll be readily available are cod, grouper, snapper and tuna. As the names suggest, they tend to call the Atlantic and Pacific oceans their home.

grouper fishing islamorada groupers tactics surefire summer tips properly gear offshore
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If you’ve found a perfect spot which is full of fresh cod, then try out these baits: If you come across one snapper, you can guarantee that there’ll be hundreds more nearby, because they typically roam in crowded schools.

They can reach up to 8 feet in length and can weigh as much as 800 pounds, with colors that change to camouflage them against the background. As the fish migrate closer to shore, they often find their way into residential canals, making them easy targets for crafty anglers.

This is a great time to fish from docks, using sardines or live mullet and tightening up the drag on your reel. Yet unlike many species that hurry offshore into the deep, grouper can often still be caught in the shallows.

They head to ledges and holes, seeking to shake the hook or snap your line. If plan to muscle a big fish, you'll want to gear up with a stout rod and reel, and use an 80 to 100 pound mainline.

And as smaller fish chew it up and disperse their leftovers into the water, the larger grouper get stirred up and ready to feed. At this point, you're ready to follow up the chum by dropping a live pinkish or grunt to attract the larger fish.

grouper fishing fish scamp bottom identification technique
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Yet it's not going to be as successful when you're fishing close to a reef because they will go back into holes where they are more likely to break off. One reason for this is you can cover a lot of ground quickly, giving yourself a better chance of hooking a large grouper.

Lures that are designed to dive to depths of 30 or 40 feet will typically catch a lot of fish. When you're trolling slowly over ledges and shallow reefs, these artificial deep-water baits work great.

And because you'll typically be trolling in depths of 60 feet or more, monofilament allows you to set the hook yet still stretch enough so that you don't end up cutting the fish's mouth when it strikes your moving bait. Mono filament is strong yet forgiving, making it the perfect line for trolling.

Using a line that offers greater sensitivity is important when bottom fishing because you'll be working depths of around 160 feet. Leaders are typically made of either monofilament or fluorocarbon, and either material will work fine.

Click here to learn what to expect on a chartered deep sea fishing trip. Call your chiropractor and get ready for a spine adjustment because we are going to give you some sweet tips on how to get the box full.

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There are three main ways to double over your rod on these hard pulling bottom dwellers. Five pound boxes of Spanish Sardines and Cigar Minnows are a great way to get the ball rolling when bottom fishing for grouper.

The most common live baits are pinkish, grass grunts, and squirrel fish. Leader material ranges from 50lbs to 100lbs depending on the depth and the size of fish that you are targeting.

And listen, unless you’re trying to be the little drummer boy, patient don’t bounce the lead on the bottom. Over the last five years, vertical jigs have made their way to many of the top grouper anglers' arsenals.

Braided line is the key component to making this system work. The good old trusty stand by Buck tail jigs can also be fished on these rod and reel combos.

When fishing this bait, you want to let line out about 75ft and engage the reel causing the plug to dive. Gag grouper are a mottled brownish gray in color with irregular square shaped patches on their sides.

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Most catches are fish in the five to ten pound range, just over the legal size limits. They like any kind of structure, including ledges and holes, and will take up residence in any object that will hide them.

Huge migrations of gags gather in the winter months in the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. Deep trolling large lures or jigs with a strip bait is popular in the Gulf of Mexico.

Heavy tackle in the thirty to fifty pound class with conventional reels and boat rods is the standard. Wire line trolling with a feather jig and strip bait is popular in Florida and the Caribbean.

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1 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_grouper
2 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grouper
3 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubba_(fish)
4 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral_grouper
5 fishingbooker.com - https://fishingbooker.com/fish/queensland-groper-giant-grouper
6 commons.wikimedia.org - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Epinephelus_lanceolatus
7 river-monsters.fandom.com - https://river-monsters.fandom.com/wiki/Goliath_Grouper
8 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_goliath_grouper
9 nla.gov.au - https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-142581028/view
10 catalogue.nla.gov.au - https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/4851088