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.
Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices. This can handle most the bottom fishing situations as well as some light tackle trolling.
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.
While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament. This is very important when grouper fishing as it allows anglers to feel the take as well is get the grouper away from the structure.
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.
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.
If you are looking for a great fight and even better table fare, when in season, grouper bottom fishing can fit the bill and then some. Both conventional and spinning gear can be used, however conventional tackle is the norm for straight up bottom fishing with live or dead bait, while spinning tackle tends to be the go to when jigging for grouper. When looking for the best grouper bottom fishing reels, you will want to prioritize drag, line capacity, and most importantly gear ratio.
A gear ratio in the range of 4-5.5:1 is generally where you will want to be, providing the best blend of speed and torque to break the will of a bruising grouper. Some of the best options on the market currently are the Tali ca 12 and 16 single and two speed reels, Avert Ex and Haj G2 or Raptor Models, Accurate Boss Valiant 500 PN and 600 PN.
The Penn 113H2 4/0 has also been a solid option for decades that does not have any of the modern features found in the reels above but continues to get the job done. The only downside to braid will be its lack of abrasion resistance when compared to monofilament line, however a long fluorocarbon or mono leader will easily help you avoid that from becoming an issue.
Just so you know, Track Fishing may earn an affiliate commission from the links on this page, at no extra cost to you. Often considered a classic bottom fish, grouper is one of the most popular species to go after for beginners and experienced anglers alike.
Although heavy reels are not required for inshore fishing with live bait rigs, they don’t hurt. This will allow you to exert more strength and precision when it comes to extracting the grouper from its hiding places.
Shaman TLD 2-Speed Conventional Reel is durable, sturdy, and remarkably powerful. It offers exceptional lever drag, a unique feature that should be praised for numerous reasons.
The Shaman TLD has a unique design that includes a solid graphite frame as well as a side plate with an aluminum spool. Shift gears easily with the two-speed effect of this reel and know that it has a maximum drag of 42 lbs.
A slight upgrade to the Penn Squall series, this reel is not only robust but it’s also durable. The Penn Squall Level Wind is corrosion resistant as it is designed for saltwater.
Corrosion-resistant and perfect for saltwater use Has a large spool capacity A versatile and strong reel You aren’t limited just to grouper when you use this reel, however, as it can also be used for other bottom fish or large species, too.
Built with a solid aluminum frame, this reel is strong, and resists rust and corrosion. The Penn US Senator also has the HT 100 drag system, providing you with all the fishing power you might need.
It can easily land fish past 50 lbs, offering power and user-friendly design. It has a power handle that is comfortable to use and easy to hold along with reversible harness lugs.
It has a durable gear train and is machine framed, making it more resilient and perfectly aligned. You can add a backlight side plate, for instance, to make it perfect for commercial use.
Great for hobby or commercial use Excellent for saltwater use Has six stainless steel bearings Known as the Saliva Lever Saltwater Reel, this product has six separate corrosion-resistant ball bearings.
It performs well on fresh and saltwater, offering greater versatility and strength than some smaller models. A highly capable reel, it can hold a ton of monofilament or braided line.
Some grouper grow to over 500 lbs, and can often be caught with a simple hook and sinker style rig. As with most predatory fish, using live bait for grouper will be your best bet as long as local regulations allow.
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 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. 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. If you are looking for a great fight and even better table fare, when in season, grouper bottom fishing can fit the bill and then some.
When looking for the best grouper bottom fishing reels, you will want to prioritize drag, line capacity, and most importantly gear ratio. A gear ratio in the range of 4-5.5:1 is generally where you will want to be, providing the best blend of speed and torque to break the will of a bruising grouper.
Some of the best options on the market currently are the Tali ca 12 and 16 single and two speed reels, Avert Ex and Haj G2 or Raptor Models, Accurate Boss Valiant 500 PN and 600 PN. The Penn 113H2 4/0 has also been a solid option for decades that does not have any of the modern features found in the reels above but continues to get the job done.
The only downside to braid will be its lack of abrasion resistance when compared to monofilament line, however a long fluorocarbon or mono leader will easily help you avoid that from becoming an issue. When you know your favorite spot is holding them, but they are being finicky on baits, jigging can often be the ticket producing a reaction based strike that triggers their predatory instinct.
Best places to jig for black, gag, red, and scamp grouper include hard bottom outcroppings, reefs, wrecks, oil rigs, and other structures that hold bait fish and provide hiding spots for ambushing their prey. The Shaman Saragossa 8000 and 10000, Died Saltiest 5000, and Penn Slammer SLAIII6500 are all more than capable if you are just getting started.
Black Hole Cape Cod Special 250g, Otis Fathom Blade 300g, and Shaman Arévalo 58XXH rods in both spinning and conventional models are all fantastic options that are super light weight with plenty of power and action to fool and whoop up on the best of them. If you are using a buck tail, you can simply attach directly to the jig and avoid the rest of the terminal tackle.
Otherwise, keep your jig at the bottom and reel in about 20-30’ towards the surface and then drop back down to stay in the strike zone longer. The higher you get in the water column also increases the probability of hooking amber jack aka Reef Donkeys, king mackerel, and more.
The reports I was seeing posted with large grouper being caught in shallow water got me thinking. “Honey, I think it’s time we spent Thanksgiving with your family in St. Petersburg.” It was already mid-November, but the three-and-a-half-hour trip from Stuart doesn’t take much planning.
My wife Chris called her parents and happily told me they were looking forward to seeing us. It was a good thing considering I had already booked a three-quarter day grouper fishing with my friend Capt.
I lived in the St. Petersburg area for 14 years and always wanted to target the fall time inshore gag grouper bite. Each October when the water temperature starts to drop, beginning at 76 degrees and peaking at 70 degrees, the gags begin to show up on the inshore rock piles of the northern Sun coast, ranging in depth from a super-shallow 8 feet to 20 feet.
I wasn’t going to let another fall go by without being able to bottom fish for grouper without a sinker. He said what you’re looking for are isolated rock piles, not typical west coast limestone cheese bottom or ledges, in 15 to 20 feet.
Ed Walker prefers side scan to traditional sonar for locating rocks, not fish. The trolling lures will tell me where to begin fishing.” As for what type of rock pile to look for, Walker stresses the smaller the better for later in the season.
Once Walker catches a keeper, he marks the rock pile, both visually via his sonar and with his GPS. The quickest and easiest way of doing this is by shifting to neutral and letting your boat drift in the current and wind.
Ed uses a dry-erase marker to keep track of both the anchor heading and number of fish in the box. “An accurate anchor job, meaning the rock pile ends up just off the stern of the boat is key,” emphasized Walker.
Ideally you have the wind and tide working with you, it’s a small victory every time you get your anchor back.” But, we didn’t have any problems in our five or six stops. A couple of anchoring tips: One is, you may want to think about shackling the terminal end of the chain to the fluke end of your anchor, then use twine, wire ties or heavy mono leader to fasten the chain along the shank.
Finally, anchored up, it was time to get serious about catching our Thanksgiving Day gag. “Don’t stop’em, let the line peel off the reel.
Once your bait realizes that there’s more harm in the rocks than in the live well you won’t get him to swim back down,” said Walker. Free lining live baits while you’re bottom fishing isn’t your typical grouper fishing.
And just as Ed predicted after a swing and a miss on a grouper strike, my pinkish wouldn’t go deeper than the keel of the boat with my next attempt to send it back down. As soon as we had a new recruit pinned to the 9/0 Owner circle hook he eagerly, and quickly, made the wrong decision and beelined it for the rocks.
For line Ed uses 50-pound mono, no leader; 60-pound is too thick and jumps off the spool and 40-pound breaks too easy. As soon as my clear keeper came over the gunnel, Ed was encouraging my father-in-law, Art, to cast his bait towards the rocks ten feet off our starboard side.
Art’s fish was a keeper and Ed made an update on the console next to the anchor heading. Within minutes, we were trolling again and equally fast we were establishing our COG and anchor heading.
“No better Thanksgiving gathering than the one we spent on the rocks with Ed,” said Blair, who took this picture of family with fish. It wasn’t even 11 a.m. when Al brought over the gunnel the biggest fish of the day and with that, Sharpie in his mouth, Ed exclaimed that his streak was alive.
Rock piles north of Anecdote up to Cedar Key, on Florida’s Gulf coast, represent an important aggregation zone for pre-spawning females. Gag eggs have to be spawned at the right time and place to ride with ocean currents to estuaries 50 to 100 miles away, where they spend their first months of life.
After gag are about half a year old, they begin to move to shallow nearshore habitat. But before this, they form all-female pre-spawning aggregations that begin to show up when the cold fronts pass through.
At this time, females feed heavily to build up their reserves before migrating. Dr. Sue Lowerre-Barbieri’s lab (Fri/Of) is researching gag behavior, movements, and sex change, working with knowledgeable fishermen.
As part of the gag research he has been sharing data from shallow-water respawning aggregations and dart tagging females he releases. If you capture a gag with a dart tag, please call the Fri hotline at 1-800-367-4461, so we can better understand the habitats these iconic Florida fish.
Trailer for Targeting gag grouper in shallow water is really fun. Learn how to bottom fish, troll and cast plugs for grouper.
There is a guy in Crystal River, Florida that is an absolute grouper fishing wizard. He is one of those fishermen that has a deep understanding of the fishery and how any given atmospheric or tidal condition drives fish behavior.
Dan is not going to blur the lines as he lays out how to catch grouper with dead bait on the bottom and how to use lures to trigger bites on the troll and casting. Now, this is shallow water, so the bites are fast and the action faster.
Dan will talk about how he positions his boat relative to the target zone and how he drifts baits into the lions' den. In Florida, circle hooks are required when targeting reef fish.
Since you are trying to stop a powerful fish close to his house, you will need some stout tackle and high speed reels. Dan will explain everything about the tackle, tactics and the grouper rig.
See what kind of monofilament he uses, how much weight, the swivels, leader material and hooks. As the cooler water starts to move in during fall, bait scatters and grouper become really responsive to a lure vibrating over their house.
In 15 feet or fewer trolling for grouper is a very productive way to cover water with lures. Dan will tell you how far back he's trolling lures and the speed he finds gets the most bites.
Grouper will key in on a specific cooler at times, so you need to be prepared. Learn how Dan quickly dials in which color is the flavor du jour.
Plus, he will share his stealthy tactic of getting extra action out of the plug to produce more strikes. The act of casting a big plug and cranking it back only to have it get smashed by a powerful fish with the sole intention of getting into the rocks is the thrill.
All along Florida's Gulf coast, there are rock piles in 6-8 foot range that offer excellent gag grouper action. See which plugs Dan likes to fish and why, the size/class of rod and reel he prefers for casting long distances, the line he spools his reels with and how much drag he prefers.
Most catches are fish in the five to ten pound range, just over the legal size limits. They like any kind of structure, including ledges and holes, and will take up residence in any object that will hide them.
Huge migrations of gags gather in the winter months in the Gulf of Mexico to spawn. Deep trolling large lures or jigs with a strip bait is popular in the Gulf of Mexico.
Heavy tackle in the thirty to fifty pound class with conventional reels and boat rods is the standard. Wire line trolling with a feather jig and strip bait is popular in Florida and the Caribbean.