They prefer to be able to seek shelter and hide, and although their name implies that they stay together, they can also be very solitary fish. Their coloration and ability to change hues and shades to identify with their surroundings give them that ambush capability.
Anglers find that medium heavy bottom fishing tackle is the best way to approach the grouper. Conventional reels in the thirty- to fifty-pound class teamed with a medium heavy boat rod will do the trick.
Grouper feed on other small fish, crustaceans like crabs or crawfish, and squid. When an easy opportunity swims buy they rush out, inhale their prey, and quickly return to their lair.
A good rod and reel, with fifty-pound test monofilament line, can handle almost all the grouper you may encounter. The terminal tackle consists of a sinker, leader, and hook arranged one of two ways.
Even when the rig is dropped right into the bottom structure, it seldom hangs up, something charter captains love. More serious grouper anglers will opt for the second approach, called a live bait rig.
Advertised as virtually invisible to fish, it does seem to draw more strikes than regular monofilament. Grouper run out, grab a bait, and head back for cover.
Serious grouper anglers will crank the drag down on their reel as hard as they can, often using a pair of pliers to lock it down. The idea is to stop the grouper from taking the line and returning to his structure home.
When a grouper strikes, anglers will lay their rod on the rail and start winding as hard as they can. When a grouper makes it into a rock or reef, many anglers will simply break off the line and try again.
In the Gulf of Mexico, grouper anglers use magnum diving plugs that will go as deep as thirty feet or more. Strip baits are cut and attached to a double hooked trolling feather.
The wire line method is popular in and around south Florida in the winter when big black grouper move into the shallower reefs. Sometimes thirty yards in diameter, they are an ideal habitat for black grouper.
When one occurs, the boat moves directly away from the reef to drag the fish away from its hole. A head boat that provides the bait and tackle is an ideal way to bring some home to eat.
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.
Reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, areas of rocky bottom, and ledges are the top spots where anglers catch grouper in open water. Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices.
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. With this outfit, anglers can cast lures and live baits towards structure as well as have a decent chance of landing a big fish that might be hooked when bottom fishing.
In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice. While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament.
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.
In very deep water, just reeling and coming tight as is done with circle hooks works the best anyway. The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader.
However, there is another rig that works very well for grouper fishing, particularly in water shallower than 100 feet. 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.
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.
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.
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.
This technique works great for both bottom fishing and spearfish, as long as you have a solid pair of free diving fins. We recommend using either a 6/0 or 4/0 sized circle hook when using both dead and live grouper bait.
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. 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.
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.
Now that you know what the proper grouper bait is and how to fish it, you’ll be prepared next time you get out on the water. Sliding sinker rig with 6-foot mono leader, ready to drop sardine, pinkish or other bait.
“Sometimes it’s hard to grouper fish with Mali swimming around your boat, but our stretch of offshore reefs can give up some really quality gags and scamps this time of year, particularly on spots deeper than 120 feet,” he said. The rig consists of an egg sinker sliding on an 18-inch piece of 100-pound mono between two swivels.
A 6-foot piece of 100-pound mono leads to a circle hook, with the size depending on the bait. “If I’m fishing for gags, my favorite bait is a live golden spot or a pinkish,” said Johnson.
Johnson prefers the slip sinker rig, because fooling big grouper is all about presentation. Keep the sinker pinned against the bottom swivel and at the first sign of panic in the bait, let him swim away from the weight unencumbered.
Grouper are often targeted because their flesh has an amazing texture and consistency that people love on sandwiches, blackened on a plate, or in a salad. If you haven’t had a grouper sandwich, you’re missing one of life’s true pleasures.
Most anglers don’t realize it, but there are actually 17 different species of Grouper swimming in the waters of Florida. Only three species cannot be caught and eaten, you can see in the black cells in the chart below.
You’ll find the adult fish around 60 feet deep and more. And stay at the bottom (3 to 230 feet deep) eating crustaceans and smaller fish.
Coney Grouper have color variations including hues of red, brown, and yellow. Body with many small blue spots unless in bright yellow phase coloration.
Identification isn’t difficult when the Goliath Grouper is mature at 400 to 800 lbs. Goliath Grouper Identifying Features Can grow to 8 feet in length and over 800 lbs.
Grays by Groupers are best identified with series of spots below dorsal fin. Operate with 3 flat spines (by anus) 4 dark or white spots at base of dorsal fin.
Misty Grouper Identifying Features Easily recognizable by 8-11 dark bands, similar to Sleepyhead fish. These Red Grouper spawn more than twenty times between February and June each year.
Lives on rocky reefs and feeds on crabs mostly and fish secondarily. Rock Hind Grouper Identifying Features Coloration varies, but overall tan color with large oval/circular spots of reddish brown, red, and dark gray and black that get larger toward the ventral side (belly).
Scamp grouper have almost decorative fins, which can make them easy to identify. Scamp Grouper Identifying Features Scamp Grouper have a brown or reddish body, sometimes it is light gray Lateral (sides) are covered with dark spots, sometimes in small groups.
Upper and lower caudal fin rays are long in a spot, giving appearance of an oriental style fish. Tail is also unique with top and bottom having lengthy spines.
Sub-adults are dark brown and have white spots in vertical rows on head and body. Speckled Hind Grouper Identifying Features Adults (15 inches +) are dark reddish brown and covered all over by small bright white spots.
These are beautiful fish to see in real life, the illustration isn’t bad either. Yellow fin Grouper Identifying Features The outer one-third of the pectoral fins are bright yellow.
IUCN Realist Status: The Goliath Grouper is listed as Vulnerable and populations declining. Other Grouper species in Florida State waters are plentiful and not in danger of being overfished.
Appearance: Grouper have a thicker body than some other fish with respect to length. Some Grouper are found in the Caribbean, Cuba, Portugal, Trinidad, Brazil, and the West Indies.
Young grouper spend their early years near submerged rocks and other structure close to the beach, so they don’t become prey for Shook, Jacks, Redfish, other Grouper, Tarpon, and Sharks. Diet: Pinkish, mullet, other bait fish, crabs, squid, octopus, lobster.
This section was easy to write because all three grouper world records were caught in Florida, so they’re the same. The Biggest Gag Grouper was caught in 1993 in the waters off Destiny, Florida and the big fish was 80 pounds, 6 ounces.
With the average adult Goliath Grouper weighing in at around 400 lbs., you know the biggest one recorded is going to be huge right? The Biggest Goliath Grouper was caught on hook and line in 1961 at Fernanda Beach, Florida.
I remember talking to some people who’d seen a massive Goliath Grouper at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that they named Hitler. The Biggest Red Grouper was 42 pounds, 4 ounce fish that was caught on hook and line off St. Augustine, in the Atlantic side of Florida in 1997.
Grouper is one of the most often targeted species of fish by anglers all over the USA for a couple of reasons. If you’ve never had a blackened grouper sandwich at a restaurant along the coast in Florida, you’re missing an incredible experience.
Grouper is thick and juicy and has an odd texture that most fish don’t possess. Besides being great for a meal, Grouper takes your bait and immediately pulls hard when it realizes it is attached to your line.
It’s a real fight to get a grouper up off the bottom of the sea, especially if it’s down 100 feet or more. They’re heavy, strong, and tough fighting fish that will give you a workout.
Small grouper can be found generally inshore, and in water 15 feet deep or more usually. I’ve caught small black, red, and gag grouper in shallow areas near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in south Pinellas County.
To find adult grouper you’ll need to take a charter off the coast and ride out for a while to reach deeper water. Around 60 feet deep is a good starting point, and any structure, wrecks, or rocks will probably hold at least a grouper or two, but bigger areas will hold dozens, possibly hundreds.
Don’t get me wrong, you CAN find grouper in shallower water when it’s cooler, and I’ve seen them pull 12 lb. Gag Grouper out of 10 feet of water off the Gulf Coast.
If you’re fishing with artificial, you can get some larger Your Minnows with 2 treble hooks and try those retrieved at a fast (but not blinding) rate. Hit the piers, wrecks, rocks, and fallen trees to try to find some Grouper in the shallows if you are in a Kayak fishing or other small boat.
Every year there are some good sizeGrouper pulled in at most of the big piers in Florida. Big Grouper bait casting reels and strong rods are essential if targeting fish over 50 lbs.
Bait casting / Trolling Reels This PENN REEL (at Amazon) for Inshore Fishing (Grouper, Redfish, Cobra) Made in America (Philadelphia, PA.) The easiest way to set up a Grouper Rig is to use a simple egg sinker, swivel, and leader on the end of your braided line.
Mono with an 8/0 Circle Hook holding live bait like a Pinkish, Pilchard, or other similarly sized fish. You don’t set a circle hook, you’ll likely just pull it free of the mouth before it has a chance to work itself into the jaw of the fish.
You can Troll for Grouper in the Gulf, and that works well for people who feel like they have to be on the move and want to fish shallow water. Hook and line, and spearfishing are legal options for harvesting most Grouper Species.
Grouper species are regulated differently, and it’s quite daunting to try to comb through the official website and figure out what you can and can’t catch, when and where. We’ve combined all Grouper Laws into this graphic to make it easier, but to be honest, it’s a bit easier, but you still need to read a lot to understand how to take Grouper legally in Florida and in International Waters.
If fishing from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, Georgia, South or North Carolina, you can use this mobile application to stay up to date on the fishing rules on the Atlantic Coast. Grouper are farm raised in some areas of the world, primarily Asia.
Here’s an interesting and informative article about some challenges Grouper farmers faced in Thailand. The best way to cook Grouper is to blacken it with some Cajun spices or something that adds some spiciness or other flavor to it.
I always bleed the grouper immediately after catching by cutting the gills with scissors or a knife after I’ve put him out of his misery. Trying to bleed a fish after icing, is an exercise in futility as not all the blood comes out easily.
I also coat each side in some finely ground black pepper because I love the taste. Put the Grouper Fillets in the pan and cover, leaving room for the steam to gather, and escape.
Cut your Italian bread into sandwich-sized portions and smear butter and minced garlic pieces on them. Put in oven on top shelf on Broil until lightly brown, remove quickly.
On the latter the sliding sinker is allows moving freely all the way to the hook / terminal tackle. The Carolina Rig includes a stop above the leader to prevent the sinker from sliding as far down the line.
Saltwater angler may now this as a fish finder or live bait rig. A basic Carolina Rig set up is fairly simple and often considered one of the best salt water bottom rigs as it allows a more natural presentation, especially if using live bait, and allows the fish to take the bait without detecting the weight right away.
Saltwater applications require a bit longer and for Grouper this can be as long as 4 or 5’. Although this is an option live or fresh cut bait is more effective when targeting Grouper.
If rigged properly, and with a little of luck, the Grouper will take the bait and start to swim away prior to feeling resistance from the weight. This will increase the chance that it drops the bait before the circle hook sets.
Grouper like to head for cover once they have a meal, so you need to overpower them with brute force to stop & then turn them before they get there. Gamakatsu Grouper Hooks were specifically designed to hook and hold giant grouper in deep water environments such as wrecks and other structure.
Sold in varying quantities based on hook size. Our website requires Cookies to be turned on in order for the login, cart and checkout functions to work.
Please clear your Cookies cache to resolve this error. I like the Mustard demon perfect circle 3X triple strong for heavy-duty applications. When I get a bite bottom fishing (or anywhere near structure), I lower my rod tip, reel up to remove any slack in the line, and then start to pull the line tight (bend in the rod).
Until I get the bend in the rod and feel resistance, I reel slow to medium speed, once I have tension and the rod is bent when bottom fishing, I will try to max out then tension I can to get the fish up off the reef or away from the structure. These charts will help you pinpoint the hook you need based on species or geographical area.