Such depths are more easily reached along the middle and South Texas coasts, while anglers in Sabine Pass would have the longest run offshore. These deeper depths do not offer a catch -and-release fishery; one can expect almost 100 percent fish mortality.
Gas inside each fish doubles every 33 feet as it rises to the surface, so a deep-water grouper (or snapper) will balloon and float. Our grouper caught in 900 feet typically have ruptured scales, their eyes bugged out and stomachs fully extended.
Black grouper : Smaller specimens grow up on the coral reefs of Florida and the Caribbean, and then move into deeper water. I've only heard of a few big ones migrating to Texas waters, where they're occasionally caught around coral and rocks like the Clay piles off Galveston.
This is a big, aggressive, opportunistic fish that has been known to follow boats and strike trolled baits on the surface in 100 feet of water, in the Florida Keys. Also known to carry ciguatera poisoning, because of its affinity for eating smaller fish living around coral reefs, where the toxin is produced.
Gags start their life in very shallow water, preferably grass flats, then migrate offshore. Years ago on Halloween we caught a stringer of 10 at the South Padre jetties, on 52M Mirrors when the water was quite clear, and should have released them all.
Gags like to bunch up in a spawning aggregation late each winter, with hundreds of females and only a few males to mate with. This makes for poor spawning success, and this scenario remains the gag grouper's Achilles' heel.
Goliath grouper : Formerly called “Jewish” or (even earlier) “sunfish”, these guys grow to about 800 pounds, yet inhabit depths of only 12 feet or so, on occasion. We've caught lots of them under shady mangrove trees in southwest Florida, where Naples is the center of the Goliath grouper universe.
Federally protected since 1990 Gulf-wide, their numbers are now such that they will attack hooked fish around the wrecks offshore in 30 to 50 feet, separating fishermen from their shook, permit, snapper and grouper, even blacktop sharks. There are countless shrimp boat wrecks off the beach offering shelter to these giants, and Texas probably has the biggest series of fish-sheltering rock jetties of any coastal state.
Catch and release only, so don't drag your Goliath into the boat for a hero picture, it's hard on the grouper's vertebrae. Be sure to dump your extra stingrays in the rocks when you leave; it helps sustain the local population of Goliath, and they will appreciate the gesture.
Grays by: More of a coral grouper, and visitor from The Bahamas, I've only seen one, a hefty specimen of eight pounds or so, at the Served Rigs off Galveston. It seems our planted, deepwater platforms in 800-900 feet have become population islands for tropical fish from The Bahamas and Caribbean.
Red hind grouper : This is a coral reef visitor from the Caribbean, and we've caught them at the Flower Gardens at night, on cut bait. Small red hinds are thick in The Bahamas and fierce enough to hit trolled plugs as large as themselves.
Rock hind grouper : Very common at Texas Gulf platforms, ranging a half-pound up to maybe three pounds. I've talked to Florida Atlantic anglers who have never heard of snowiest of that size, but I told them it was in Texas, where all fish grow larger.
We caught ours on large fillets of blue runner for some reason black fin tuna strip baits didn't work as well. Speckled hind grouper : I haven't actually seen one of these in the Western Gulf, but a friend, Alan Reynolds in Port Niches, saw one landed in about 600 feet out of Venice, Louisiana back in early June.
Most big Warsaw years ago were landed by the party boat crews on the typical 80-200 foot snapper rocks during late winter and early spring, when these fish were spawning in (for them) shallow water. Yellow edge grouper : This is a deepwater fish and fairly numerous; commercial boats target them with long trot lines on the bottom.
The specimen I caught in the picture hit around midnight, about 120 miles southeast of Sabine Pass. Daily Bag: 5 Min Length: 14 inches Max Length: 30 inches No more than one black drum over 52 inches may be retained per person per day and counts as part of the daily bag limit and possession limit.
Daily Bag: 3 Min Length: 20 inches Max Length: 28 inches During a license year, one red drum over the stated maximum length limit may be retained when affixed with a properly completed Red Drum Tag and one red drum over the stated maximum length limit may be retained when affixed with a properly completed Bonus Red Drum Tag. Any fish retained under authority of a Red Drum Tag or a Bonus Red Drum Tag may be retained in addition to the daily bag and possession limit as stated in this section.
Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks MUST be used when fishing for sharks in state waters. Min Length: 24 inches Max Length: No limit Min Length: 99 inches Max Length: No limit Min Length: 64 inches Max Length: No limit Atlantic angel, Basking, Big eye sand tiger, Big eye six gill, Big eye thresher, Big nose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharp nose, Dusky, Galápagos, Long fin make, Narrow tooth, Night, Oceanic White tip, Sandbar, Sand tiger, Seven gill, Silky, Six gill, Small tail, Whale, and White.
Warsaw groupers spend their growing years in bays, and around jetties, artificial reefs and offshore old platforms. Deep dropping for tile fish and grouper is becoming more and more popular by the day here in the Gulf of Mexico.
I began fishing for these deep-water critters in the mid-1980s, and the sport has grown into a daily routine for many Gulf anglers. These deep drop techniques will help you find these fish in 400–1,300 feet of water.
Mike Parsons with a huge tile fish that measured in at 43 inches and 33.08 pounds. Warsaw, yellow edge and long tail sea bass are commonly found around mountain tops, hard spots and deep water oil rigs in the 400–900 foot range.
Yellow edge grouper are delicious and average 8–18 pounds, with a few 20–30 founders still caught fairly regularly. For big barrel fish, you want to fish down current from the edges and walls of deep water mountain tops.
The edges will have well-defined drops and barrel fish can stack up very thick at the top and bottom of this structure. They’re usually found a bit higher off the sea floor and mark well on a good bottom machine.
Now that eyes are opening to the new daytime sword fishing industry here on the Texas coast, more and more tile fish are being boated. Smaller tiles, averaging 2–10 pounds, can be targeted on the continental shelf wall without any special areas or specific “numbers.” Muddy areas anywhere from 900 to 1,000 feet of open water will hold tile fish.
Drop on the down current side of small dips and slopes in 1,000–1,250 feet of water. Tile fish tend to feed right on the bottom, so try to stop your bait and hold the boat on an area as tight as possible.
However, slow drifting will also produce tile fish and is great for covering ground. Drag the bait against the bottom, stopping often, and then continuing the drift to explore new areas.
The biggest ones will hold against ridges at 1,200 feet and are bold enough to follow baits headed for deep water. Use a large hook and bait to avoid the smaller fish when targeting big tiles.
I seem to catch lots of big tiles early in the year, April through May, and sometimes in as shallow as 850–1,000 feet. Beware of spiny, toothy and venomous critters that you might pull up from the deep.
Spiny dogfish are small, deep water sharks that have spikes near the dorsal fins that can cause a painful sting. Hake, a small brown fish averaging 1–3 pounds, also bite at night and can be a nuisance.
The tile fish don’t bite at night but grouper will if you ’re in an area free of eels. If we are targeting BIG tiles I will rig the weight and light 15 to 20 feet above the bait.
The standard double and triple bait drops work well for yellow edge grouper and smaller tile fish. With a light current and this braid, 3 pounds is a good weight to start with on your standard double bait leaders.
I use cannonball style weights because they don’t get hung up as easy on rough, rocky bottoms. Some of these deep water fish have sharp teeth, so heavy mono leaders are a necessity.
Yellow edge, long tail sea bass and other smaller grouper are not so bad but tile fish, eels and small sharks have sharp teeth. The grouper will wear through light leaders eventually and the tiles will bite clean through them.
Tile fish and grouper have no problem snagging themselves on a circle hook and I would say it definitely helps keep the fish on when cranking them up from the deep. It is a long ride to the deep water fishing grounds and you might lose tackle to rocks and snags.
The LP is a deep dropping fishing machine that also has the strength and drag system to handle big Warsaw grouper and swordfish. Toucan also hand crank tile fish and grouper on conventional tackle but it is a long way up and down.
The Reel Frankie is a must-have, great product that can assist in getting your rig up from the bottom fast. It does a great job of winding up all the line, instead of you wearing out your arm on empty hooks.
Toucan also deep drop with two lines but it can be tricky fishing and requires some boat handling. Avoid hard, bony, bulky baits that can push a fish off the hook.
Softer baits like fish fillets and squid will result in better hook ups. These fish eat lots of shellfish, which can result in some nasty strong tastes in the meat if not taken care of properly.
The entire continental shelf from Texas to Louisiana holds great bottom structure, supporting tons of deep water species. Some fish stay directly on top of structure, some live on the walls, slopes and drop offs and some species are found on flat bottoms.
Don’t forget to mark your hook ups on your GPS and keep a track record of your best catches. Brett Holden is the captain of the Booby Trap, which holds the record for largest swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico.