Try Jacques Pepin’s recipe, served with black bean sauce and simmered vegetables, or our Asian-inspired version, which features a soy-mustard dressing and a crispy pan-fried fillet. He likes serving the grouper with a quick and punchy citrus sauce and a briny “martini” relish made with olives.
For his take on the sandwich, he tops the crispy fish with a tangy relish and a drippy ranch-style sauce studded with charred jalapeños. A simple salad of julienne cucumbers and carrots tossed with a soy-mustard dressing makes this light fish dish incredibly vibrant.
The grouper represents the coast, while the creamy butter beans, tomato and dill exemplify the seasonal bounty. This dish was inspired by the delicious local grouper Jacques Pepin picks up at the beach when the fishermen return with their catch.
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.
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.
Even a 50-pound grouper is very capable of tearing apart a rig used for other similarly weighted fish. The reel needs to be heavy and capable of holding 80 to 100-pound test line.
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.
The sinker will slide closer to the swivel as the bait settles. 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.
Due to the noise they make, many fishermen swear by using live grunts as an at tractor for grouper. Blue Runners are another popular fish if you are after larger grouper species.
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.
Any soft plastic that mimics the usual food for grouper can be effective. Patterns that imitate sardine, mullet, and pinkish are probably the most popular and successful options.
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.
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. It may be worth a try just keep it slow so the scent of the bait has some time to spread.
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.
It will surprise you just how hard a 20-pound grouper can pull compared to any other fish you have ever hooked. They are found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and points south.
While they are a powerful fish that puts up a strong battle, grouper are prized by many anglers for their flaky white fillets! 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. Reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, areas of rocky bottom, and ledges are the top spots where anglers catch grouper in open water.
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.
With this outfit, anglers can cast lures and live baits towards structure as well as have a decent chance of landing a big fish that might be hooked when bottom fishing. In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice.
While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament. 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.
The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader. However, there is another rig that works very well for grouper fishing, particularly in water shallower than 100 feet.
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.