So, wait for a bite, slowly wind the line until you feel it go very tight, the haul in the fish. Drift fishing for grouper involves using the weighted rigs described earlier while allowing the boat to drift with the current and wind.
While you are waiting keep a close eye on the fish finder and mark any interesting areas. When you find a producing area, drift back over it several times, starting at slightly different positions.
In an area new to you near areas that have produced fish in the past in low to moderate drift rate conditions in very deep water when you have plenty of time during lunch (it's a great time to eat) to save fuel If the drift rate is too high, an impractical amount of weight would be required to keep the bait near the bottom.
Also, the bait may move too fast to allow for a good chance of strikes. Lines don't tangle from the drift, you don't have to watch for bottom changes and you can generally use lighter weights.
If you are lucky enough to have a windlass, dropping and retrieving an anchor is a snap. I installed one after a few years of pulling the anchor by hand (and back).
While in idle or slight up current thrust, a line is dropped to test the spot for fish. If fish are found, either anchor or repeatedly drift the area.
A heavy rod with a tight drag is required due to the strain the plug generates to dive deeply. It is especially effective during the winter gag season when the fish are found in shallow (20-40') water.
The grouper is essentially dragged from the bottom and half drowned before you get it to the boat. With the arrival of our first few mild cold fronts, Red and Gag Grouper have begun their fall migration into nearshore shallow water haunts.
This seasonal migration offers bay boat anglers the opportunity to target keeper sized grouper well within sight of land. The most common methods for targeting gags is trolling lipped plugs near the bottom, or anchoring up on rock piles, ledges and wrecks.
It’s a wonderful way to scout for new fishing areas and it’s also great for pulling big grouper away from heavy structure. These depths generally produce Gag Grouper, so I’m looking to troll near hard bottom areas with small breaks and ledges.
Make sure to mark your GPS when a fish is hooked for a second round of trolling or jigging. Heavy action spinning outfits are preferred for jigging, they offer a lighter weight package that’s more comfortable to fish for extended periods of time.
I’ve often seen fish ignore a standard 80lb grouper bottom rig, yet jump all over a lightweight jig head-rigged pinkish on 40lb leader. Owner of The Intrepid Angler, Captain Ross hails from the historic waters along the Caloosahatchee River.
He has a a fishing guide and outdoor professional working the waters of Florida and Alaska over his career. He now permanently resides in Cape Coral offering anglers exciting opportunities to target trophy game fish around Southwest Florida on a custom Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid Bay Boat.
Grouper are part of the Mycteroperca family, which means these bottom dwelling predators enjoy anatomical features which are perfectly suited for strength and endurance in a fight to the finish. Groupers make their home under coral ledges, within rock piles, and particularly wreckage for sunken ships and debris.
While I was diving on a wreck in 110 the other day, I came across a big dead black grouper that was half buried in a hole. I was intrigued by the giant fish half poking out of the hole, stiff as a board, and pulled him out of the wreckage for a closer inspection.
Make sure you’re using a strong shock leader of approximately 25 connected by crimps to 100lb ball bearing swivels (use the same outfit you would use when trolling for bull dolphin offshore). Some of the most popular lures for grouper trolling in Miami, FL include Mann’s stretch 20s, Papal Magnums, and Your’s in pretty much the largest size available.
It’s best to use one rod when trolling for grouper, unless you’re feeling somewhat adventurous and are confident you can keep the plugs far enough apart as to avoid snagging and wrapping up the lines. We typically troll between 20 and 30 of water along the patch reefs, working the sand immediately next to the reefs/rocks which are widely scattered from Iowa Rocks south.
If we’re targeting groupers specifically on a trip, we will bring a selection of baits to make sure we can offer a wide menu. We find that pinkish, goggle eyes, and big pilchards work best for grouper in the summer months, but grunts and blue runners are a close second.
If you’re anchored up on an area and the grouper bite is consistent, you might consider tossing a few chunks into the water to get fish fired up while vertical jigging. Often they will drop baits to the bottom and keep the line completely slack, so they can feel the bite, then wind tight and hold on with all their might.
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. Grouper will chase a bait occasionally, but by far they prefer to ambush their prey.
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.
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.