It is our mission to help millions of anglers spend more time fishing and that starts with YOU! Eddie sat down on the deck and braced his foot against the rail, I figured we were into a big one.
When his hat fell off, and he started to make grunting sounds, I was sure of it. Eddie looked up at me with a twisted smile and was just hanging onto the rod for dear life.
Something was living in this wreck 10 miles off southwest Florida, and whatever it was had already beaten us up several times. But on this day we were maxed out on gear big enough to crank one of these monsters up ... if only Capt.
This started out innocently enough a few weeks earlier when a couple of fishing buddies and I dropped a live pinkish on 30# mono down on a wreck 50 feet deep looking for a grouper dinner. Something big grabbed it, screamed out about 40 feet of drag, got into the wreck and cut the line on something sharp.
Something wolfed down the pinkish and took line like the rod was tied to a dragster. It had to be a big grouper, a shark, a giant ray, or maybe a huge barracuda.
The rod bent over 180 degrees, the back of the boat went down 6 inches, and the 150# braid snapped like a rifle shot. I asked the guys in the local bait shops if they knew any captains up for the task of fishing for seemingly unwatchable monsters.
The Goliath, once called the Jewish, is the biggest member of the grouper family. Goliath's can live 50 years and grow to behemoth size.
The winds of spring kept us inshore for a couple of weeks, so we enjoyed the opportunity to fish the bridges for pompano and sea trout. Goliath's are known to inhabit bridges and even shallow water and canals, and when I watched a fisherman lower a 5-pound chunk of cut bait next to a bridge piling I knew he could only be after sharks or Goliath.
Eddie's wreck, and he pulled a big Spanish mackerel out of his cooler, the one bait he said Goliath can't refuse. It was a short, furious, and profane battle, a hard fought back-and-forth fish fight, exciting to watch with an uncertain end.
Eddie prevailed, and suddenly a giant brown fish appeared on the surface and lay at the side of the boat as exhausted as Capt. On the next calm day I returned to my wreck lying now in water so clear you could see its dark silhouette on the white sand bottom 50 feet below.
I went over the side to find an old shrimper torn apart by hurricanes and fishermen's anchors, its wheelhouse barely recognizable. And then they appeared, slowly emerging from the shadows of broken masts and rigging.
A fearless giant Goliath carries the remnants of three different rigs ripped from fishermen. Three fishing rigs hung from his mouth, one still with its sinker, medals of recent battles won, and then I recognized one of my rigs, the 150# braid to a black swivel to 200# mono, hanging out of the left side of his mouth.
There was the proof: These were the bad boys that had beat us up, and a few other fishermen, too, by the looks of it. I returned to the surface knowing those hooks will soon rust and the line will fall away, and these Goliath's will own this wreck for many years to come.
It's a serious one-on-one fish fight where it's wise to have somebody next to you ready to grab your belt and keep you in the boat. Many charter captains have only to take you to the nearest bridge to find a giant ready to take you on.
There are quite a few other species of grouper that are found in deeper waters and throughout the Bahamas and other locations. For the most part, their habits are very similar and will be treated all the same when it comes to tackle and techniques.
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.
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. Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for shook or redfish.