If you are casting in the shallows, use jerk bait and retrieve it erratically to lure the fish out in the open. You will need heavy tackle, especially if there are a lot of rocks under the water where you are fishing and a braided line that can withstand the powerful pull of a caught grouper.
If you are using spinning tackle, make sure that the reel is heavy enough to withstand an 80 to 100-pound test mainline and a low gear ratio to give you more control. This tackle will come in handy when the panicking grouper fish tries to swim under a ledge to break the line.
For live bait, use pinkish, grunts, blue runner, sardines, and mullet. Bridled bait will set in nicely in the mouth of a giant grouper.
The grouper is a lean and moist fish that has a mild flavor, and the flesh is firm and flaky. “Adult gag grouper live in nearshore waters from coastal North Carolina south to Brazil and as well as in the Gulf of Mexico.
Smaller gag are a lot of lighter in coloring, and have numerous dark brown, or charcoal, kiss-like marks along their sides. “Adult gag grouper, live over on top of low- and high-profile hard bottom such as reefs or shipwrecks in waters between 60-250 feet deep,” said McLean Seward, fisheries biologist with the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries.
“Young gag grouper will live in oyster reefs, estuaries and seagrass beds from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The coloration of red grouper helps to distinguish this species from gag with its head and body being dark reddish brown, shading pink or reddish or even pale pink along the lower part of its body,” Nash said.
“In North Carolina, gag will typically spawn in February and have clear larvae, which then make their way into estuaries. As water temperatures start to go down in the fall, juvenile gag will migrate from estuaries to offshore hard bottom habitat and larger members of their species,” said Seward.
Seward noted that all grouper are considered protogynous intersex, “that is they start their lives as females, and a part of the population will morph, or make the change, to males as they get older. Females start to reach sexual maturity when they are about 24 inches in total length and about 3 years old.
They are voracious predators, and will feed on whatever they can capture including scad, snapper, grunt, sardines, crabs, porgies, shrimp and squid, said Seward. Red grouper sitting on sand habitat 45 degrees to camera full body view mouth open.
In addition to their color, redgroupercan be distinguished from gag by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. “The red grouper is also a protogynous intersex and females are sexually mature by the time they reach 4 years old,” Seward said.
Females typically will let go an average of 1.5 million pelagic eggs that stay at the surface for between 30-40 days before finally settling down to the bottom. “ Red grouper may live to be as old as 25 years of age, with older specimens reaching a size of 32.5 inches and up to 25 pounds.
They will feed on lobster, shrimp, octopus, crabs and fish that are found close to their preferred reef habitat,” Seward said. Bottom fishing is the best way to catch gag grouper, using live bait, including squid and cigar minnows.
Use a depth finder to find deep-water rock ledges, artificial reefs and shipwrecks, a gag grouper ’s favorite hiding place. Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for the snapper grouper species.
“This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed and sold before the annual catch limit is reached and held in cold storage by a dealer,” said North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Executive Assistant to Councils Steve Poland, who is also a representative with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Charter and head boat and commercial snapper grouper vessels must have National Marine Fisheries Service-approved sea turtle release gear and adhere to small tooth saw fish release protocol, Poland added.
While populations of gag grouper have remained healthy, a 10-year effort to rebuild the red grouper stock has failed, leading to new, stricter rules and regulations taking effect this year. Therefore, on Sept. 27, 2017, NFS sent a letter to the council stating that the South Atlantic red grouper stock was not making adequate progress toward rebuilding.
So, NFS took steps in 2018 to immediately end overfishing of red grouper by reducing the total commercial and recreational annual catch limits, based on the acceptable biological catch recommendation from the council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee. “For red grouper, this final rule extends the closure season formerly from January to April, to January through May of each year for the next ten years for the commercial and recreational portions off North and South Carolina, and establishes a commercial trip limit,” said Poland.
This final rule establishes a commercial trip limit for red grouper harvested in the South Atlantic EEA of 200 pounds, gutted weight. The trip limit is expected to help rebuild the red grouper stock by discouraging directed commercial fishing for the species, although it is not likely to substantially reduce the current level of commercial harvest of red grouper, according to the National Register.
“The council selected a commercial trip limit that in combination with extending the spawning season cloture for red grouper off North Carolina and South Carolina would help keep down harvest numbers to help rebuild the stock,” Poland said. You can help pay some cost by sponsoring a day on CRO for as little as $100 or by donating any amount you're comfortable with.
Miles of mangroves and pristine waterways lead to the Gulf of Mexico where the saltwater fishing for redgroupercan be as sizzling hot as the summer temperatures. One can pretty well set a clock by the afternoon thunderstorms in this area, but they serve to cool down the atmosphere enough for the natural world to come alive before sunset.
The Kingfisher Fleet charter service has a wide variety of vessels to pursue fish both inshore and offshore. Riding two hours from port into the Gulf of Mexico to reach the fishing grounds, Captain Rick Polio positions the 35-foot vessel over a live bottom area before anchoring the boat.
Once a bite is felt, any hesitation by the angler gives the fish an advantage, since it will move into the underwater structure and cause the line to part. If the rod is doubled over, anglers can bend their knees and use their body to generate more upward force, moving the fish away from any rocky outcrops.
The coloration of the red grouper make it a compelling species to photograph, with a brownish- red body that is accented by irregular white blotches that serve as underwater camouflage. Gulf grouper are large fish that live in shallow, coastal areas during their first 2 years of their life, before moving on to rocky reefs and kelp beds.
Gulf grouper used to be very common in the eastern Pacific Ocean, but they became scarce because commercial and recreational fisherman could easily catch them. Their abundance has severely declined since the mid-20th century primarily because of direct harvest by commercial and artisanal fisheries.
Outside a known population in Bahia Magdalena, there is no published evidence of gulf grouper along the Pacific coast of the Baja California peninsula. Current gulf grouper distribution appears to be much more limited than their historical range.
They gather at reefs and underwater mountains and form spawning aggregations from April to June. Activities that may degrade their habitat include the release of contaminants, such as urban runoff, wastewater, or oil and gas spills.
Pollution can also reduce the amount of oxygen in the water or deliver chemicals that are toxic to these fish. Physical barriers, such as shoreline and offshore development can also threaten gulf grouper by limiting their access to important breeding or feeding areas.
Overfishing Direct harvest of gulf grouper, especially at spawning aggregation sites, is the biggest threat to the species. First, adult gulf grouper gather in large groups at the same time every year to reproduce.
Additionally, gulf grouper likely start life as females but later transition into males. This means that there are fewer male groupers left in the oceans, which makes reproduction more difficult.
This is because grouper like to live near the bottom close to underwater structures like rocks and wrecks. The Your Crystal 3D Minnow Deep Diver Trolling Lure is a great option when trolling for grouper (and other saltwater fish like Spanish mackerel) as it’s realistic 3D eyes mimic an actual bait fish’s eyes.
The X-Rap has been a trolling favorite for years and works well for many species (like halibut, lake trout, and more) of fish besides just grouper. If you find grouper that are close to shore or in shallow water, your best bet for a trolling lure is the Papal Shadow Rap Shad Shallow Trolling Lure.
These lures look and feel more like the fish grouper are used to eating, and are an excellent choice for trolling. The rubber tail’s action imitates a frantic bait fish trying to escape a hungry grouper.
The rubber tail flutters in the water at all speeds and mimics a scared shrimp or shad. Grouper love feeding on both small crustaceans/bait fish and find the Each Fat Swing Impact Rubber Shad irresistible.
If you aren’t getting any bites on your soft plastic lures or the diving plugs, we recommend trying out a fishing classic: metal spoons. Metal spoons imitate sardines, mackerel, and other small shiny fish that grouper like to eat.
These chrome-covered spoons have been catching many types of fish for years, including grouper. They have a simple action that when trolled with a down rigger looks like a small bait fish that has been separated from its school.
It has a more aggressive action than the Clark spoon which can entice reclusive grouper from where their hiding in underwater structure. The Huntington Stainless Steel Drone Spoon works for many saltwater species (such as smaller yellow fin tuna and bonito) along with grouper, so it’s a solid addition to any tackle box.
Keep in mind that we typically fish for grouper in the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species common to those areas. 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 is structure and bait fish nearby. They’re often caught using down riggers and keeping your trolling lure 10 to 15 feet off the bottom.
While this can make figuring out where to fish for them easy, you need to be extra aware of your lure depth and how fast you’re trolling. If your lure bounces off the bottom when you’re trolling over underwater structure, you’ll most likely snag and end up losing equipment.
While most groupers won’t be larger than 40 lbs, some grow to enormous sizes! This might seem counter-intuitive when trolling, but you don’t want to give a hooked grouper any chance to swim back into the cover it darted out from.
If it gets back to the hole it lives in, chances are your line will scrape against the rocks and snap. A tight drag will not only prevent this but also act to set the hook with the movement of the boat.
Taken as a group, the grouper is one of the most popular game and table fish in all of Key West. Here is your guide to everything you need to know about the most common varieties of grouper to be found in the water around Key West.
You and your party will have a wonderful time with Captain Pepe’s Key West Charter Fishing. RememberS hallow water grouper are closed for harvest January 1st to May 1st in the Atlantic.
First, its mild, delectable flavor makes the black grouper an excellent table fish. You can find the occasional black grouper further north along the Atlantic Coast, but they’re much more abundant in the Bahamas, here in the Florida Keys, and in the Caribbean.
Their coloring is quite variable, ranging from an olive green to a splotchy gray with dazzling patterns that emanate from the eyeball and radiate toward the tail in very complex lines. Unfortunately, because they’re considered an endangered species, the Jewish is catch and release only at the current time.
Size and Appearance Needless to say, the Goliath grouper is absolutely huge. They tend to stay at depths of less than 200 feet and like to swim near rocky formations and shipwrecks.
But if you want to give the Jewish a shot, bring along your heaviest tackle and some 100-pound test line just to be sure. For bait, you should only use live fish under 15 pounds, as artificial lures and jigs pretty much never work.
Important for both commercial and leisure fishing, the red grouper is as tasty as its black counterpart and is the centerpiece for a practically endless list of delicious recipes. Size and Appearance Red grouper tend to be a bit smaller than the black grouper, ranging between 1 and 2 feet and weighing 5-10 pounds.
Just like its name says, the red grouper has a brown to reddish tint and is frequently marked by occasional white spots. Typically, the red grouper is a bottom-dweller, with adults usually preferring rocky structures or reef waters.
This popularity is mostly due to the fact that the gag is considered to have the best flavor in the grouper family, but the strict regulations on catching them contribute to it as well. It usually presents a mottled, gray color, but you’ll sometimes find a gag with markings that look like a black grouper ’s radiating patterns.
Like other grouper, the gag can often be found near rocks, ledges, coral reefs, and shipwrecks. They’re not the easiest grouper to catch, but with heavy tackle and a good guide, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
We had a tremendous time with Capt Pepe and would highly recommend him to anyone looking to fish while in Key West. He is extremely personable, his boat and equipment are top-notch, and he kept the fishing action hot all day.
My girlfriend and I fished a 1/2 day and it was the BEST part of our recent trip to KW. She hooked into a nice sized bar jack and had a blast fighting it to the boat.
During any break in the action, we had a great time talking with Pepe about his various experiences being a capt in KW. My wife and I had been fishing only a couple of times before going down to Key West for our 25th anniversary.