Josh Jorgensen, producer of extreme fishing videos for Blackish, told For The Win Outdoors that he and his crew had been fishing in the Atlantic over a sunken wreck when the scene unfolded. In the video Jorgensen says, “The dinner bell is ringing” as his hooked bonito languished at the surface.
They’re protected in state and federal waters off Florida, and anglers must release hooked fish as quickly and carefully as possible. Some grouper grow to over 500 lbs, and can often be caught with a simple hook and sinker style rig.
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.
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. 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.
A huge fish with a hard fight that will test you and your strongest tackle? These beasts of the deep hit like no other fish in the world and will strain even the strongest fisherman.
There is a reason that many people in South Florida seem to give up on all other species and target grouper specifically. While some people describe the fight as “like a large catfish,” this is like saying that a monster truck is “like a car.” The initial hit will bury the butt of your rod in your gut and leave you breathless.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a man made reef or natural, this is the preferred habitat. You can also find them near drop-offs, rock structure, and the steeper sides of shipping channels.
No matter the size, the grouper is a stout fish with a lot of strength. Their strength combined with their massive mouth makes them an outstanding ambush predator.
Normal foods are mostly baitfish, but they have been known to feed on crustaceans, squid, and just about anything else that gets too close. These makes bait selection for grouper quite easy as they will eat most anything if it gets close enough.
In the cooler months, grouper are likely to move closer to shore but there is no season that you can’t land one. On cooler, sunny days you can find good grouper fishing in as little as 15 feet of water.
You will need the strength of this setup to get the bests off the bottom or out of the holes they often run to when hooked. You can successfully fish groper with a spinning reel as long as its heavy duty and can hold the right line.
I’m pretty sure that even the largest wire hook would be straightened by a large grouper. Either braided or mono main line works as long as it’s strong enough and you have a good leader.
Being more abrasion resistant is a bonus when your quarry lives in rocky holes. The following three are general purpose rigs that will work well for Grouper or any other bottom feeding species.
This simple setup uses a three-way swivel with one loop attached to your mainline, one sinker, and one to your leader. A heavier leader is preferred but the line to the sinker should be relatively light so it can be broken off if need be.
Your swivel and line weights should be the same as the above rig and your leader should be less than 10 feet. This takes any slack out of the leader and gives you a shot at setting the hook before the fish darts back to cover.
This rig offers any live bait more room to move and works well to draw out reluctant feeders. In this case, the sinker is attached to the mainline above the swivel, usually by simply looping the line through.
The main downside of this rig is that it gives a grouper plenty of time to get back home before you get the hook set. Sardines are probably the most successful live bait, especially if caught fresh with a net or bait fish rig.
Grouper are not a picky species and will most anything including lady fish, menhaden, squirrel fish, and thread fin just to name a few. Crab is a less popular bait for grouper but can work well of a bottom rig, especially for shallower water species.
One of the biggest problems with using lures is getting down deep enough without getting hopelessly caught on the structure they call home. While they are effective, you may need to add a piece of shrimp or other bait to the jig.
Buck tails fished the same way can produce some good hits, especially with juvenile or smaller grouper. Alternatively, butterfly jigs can be a great way of pulling reclusive grouper out into the open.
I will admit that I am a big fan of fishing spoons in general, I think they are an underrated lure option. Getting hung up is a real concern with spoons but if you drag one in front of a grouper, there is a good chance he is going to take it.
Grouper are not a fast fish and may ignore lures that move by too quickly. Moderate your speed and pauses, you can expect more hits when the bait is left idle for a second.
Though normally associated with open water fish, trolling is an excellent tactic to cover a lot of ground in your search for grouper. You will have to factor in fuel cost but you may find it worthwhile to spend the extra money for a more likely catch.
Off the coast of Miami, trolling for grouper has become a big part of the local fishing scene. The idea is to get a large lipped diving plug and send it down to skim the sand in 20 to 30 feet of water.
Your trolling speed should be slow and your lure should be running less than 20 feet from the abundant rock structure in the area. If you pass your lure close by a waiting grouper, it is more than likely that he will rush out to grab it the moment he sees it.
If you head over to Florida’s west coast, you will see something a little different. The Tampa fishermen will run the sides of shipping channels with a live bait suspend just along the steep edge.
Controlling your depth to keep it in range of the channel wall without getting it hung up requires some skill. The boat will easily haul them out of range of their cover and all that’s left is the fight.
If there are grouper, trolling is an effective tactic provided you can get a lure down deep enough. Usually, you will see fishermen using either live bait or large lipped diving plugs when trolling.
You will have to get them down to the bottom and that can be rough on live bait but may be worth the trouble. Keep your speed low, your lure deep, and stay close to structure.
If you get a hit from a large grouper, it may feel like you are hung up until it yanks hard on the line. That critical moment of the bite is your only shot at a solid hooks set.
After the shock of your first large grouper catch, the first order of business may be shaking some life back into your arms. It will surprise you just how hard a 20-pound grouper can pull compared to any other fish you have ever hooked.