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Gag Grouper Gear

author
Ellen Grant
• Sunday, 26 September, 2021
• 21 min read

U.S. wild-caught gag grouper is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations. Near target levels and fishing rate promotes population growth in the South Atlantic.

gag grouper wrap around reel
(Source: reeltimegear.com)

Contents

The Gulf of Mexico gag population declined for several years beginning in 2005, possibly due to a major “red tide” event (an algal bloom that releases potent neurotoxin). Managers implemented a number of measures to rebuild the stock, and it was declared rebuilt in 2014.

Smaller fish are much lighter and have dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along their sides. Gag grow slowly, can reach more than 3 feet in length, and weigh up to 50 pounds.

Commercial fishermen must have a limited access permit to fish, land, or sell snapper and grouper species. A number of gear requirements and restrictions help reduce by catch and protect habitat.

In the Gulf of Mexico, managed under the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan : Annual catch limit allocated between the commercial (39 percent) and recreational (61 percent) fisheries. Restrictions on the type of gear fishermen may use and where they can fish, to reduce by catch and protect spawning groups.

Area closures for both commercial and recreational fisheries to protect spawning groupers. Few denizens of the deep have brought as many fishermen to their knees or humbled as many experienced sinker bouncers as monster gags determined to make it back to their lairs.

gag wrap grouper around
(Source: reeltimegear.com)

I’ve been there and each time I locked up and held on, pushing my tackle to its very limits in an attempt to prevent the fish from rocking my world, I emitted strange moans and groans reserved for only such occasions. Fortunately, the tables have turned and the majority of my recent hard-fought grouper encounters have left me on the winning end, but that wasn’t always the case.

Years ago I was one of those lost souls who mistakenly believed he could get away with inferior tackle better suited for open water king mackerel fishing than beating industrial-strength bottom brawlers. Powered by wide broom-like tails and muscular shoulders, the large profile of a hefty gag grouper alone spells trouble.

These dominant bottom feeders thrive in forage-rich habitats ranging from relatively shallow rock piles to ledges and peaks sitting under hundreds of feet of water. Stout tackle suitable for the task is an absolute must if you want to head back to port with a big fish in the box.

Heavy-duty outfits are required not only for slamming the breaks on determined adversaries, but also for dealing with heavy sinkers, big baits and deep water habitats. Cranking Power While no one reel is ideal for all gag grouper applications, large fish and heavy terminal gear require high-quality conventional.

The 6/0 isn’t the fastest reel, nor is it the prettiest or lightest for its size, but it is tough as nails with plenty of line capacity and substantial cranking power. Modern two-speed lever drag reels are also a solid choice, with the Died Saliva SALD60 and Shaman Tyros TYR20II at the top of the list.

gag wrap around grouper unisex
(Source: reeltimegear.com)

However, while these modern winches are much lighter than a Penn Senator, they do require a chunky investment and may not be the ideal choice for relatively inexperienced anglers unfamiliar with lever drag systems or the benefits of two-speed reels. The Benefits of Beef When selecting the perfect grouper stick, you’ll want to look for something that’s strong and designed for maximum leverage.

While I believe in custom rods built for the way you fish, Cousins Tackle manufactures an excellent off the shelf graphite grouper stick, the Lb 8050. If you’re looking for gags on near-shore rock piles and ledges of the Atlantic Coast, or fishing the Middle Grounds deep in the Gulf of Mexico, 80 to 130 lb.

Grouper will easily exploit the weakest link in your terminal connections and its critical line and leader are free of abrasions. Remember that proper rigging is all about balance, so if you’re specifically targeting jumbo gags with beefed up gear, then upgrade your hook to ensure it can withstand the extreme stress associated with fishing heavier line and leader.

If you can stop a big gag before it enters a cave or ducks under a sharp ledge, then you may get a chance to enjoy fresh grouper for dinner. 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.

grouper gag performance sleeve tail neon
(Source: chasintail.com)

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 using conventional tackle for grouper fishing can choose a reel with a level wind or one without. Level winds are nice in that the line is spooled up evenly as it is retrieved.

Many old school grouper fishing reels such as the venerable Penn 4/0 do not have a level wind. Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle.

grouper gag fishing tips catching
(Source: www.thoughtco.com)

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.

grouper gag performance sleeve stripe tail chasin fishing
(Source: chasintail.com)

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. Many anglers fishing in deep water use a very long leader, up to 20 feet and even longer.

Anglers grouper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico are required to use circle hooks. The hook may look huge, but the important part is the distance between the tip and the shank.

Standard short shank live bait hooks are also popular for grouper fishing as well. 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. However, there is another rig that works very well for grouper fishing, particularly in water shallower than 100 feet.

grouper gag
(Source: www.louisianasportsman.com)

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.

(Source: floridasportfishing.com)

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.

grouper gag fishing
(Source: gotonecharters.com)

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. Like many fish species in the wrasse family, young gag grouper are predominantly female, transforming into males as they grow larger.

The coloration of this species is extremely variable but generally brownish gray overall with a pattern of dark, worm-like or kiss-shaped markings along the sides. Gags can be distinguished from black grouper, Mycteroperca Monaco, that often occur in the same habitat by the distinctive color pattern and the shape of the properly (the middle bone of the gill cover).

Wrecks and oil rigs in shallow shelf waters of the Gulf also attract many gag grouper. Trolling lipped diving plugs in shallower areas of rocky bottom or reef is also a very effective method to catch these fish.

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gag grouper fishing
(Source: gotonecharters.com)

You can find them along the East Coast of the Americas from Brazil through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to as far north as New England. Juvenile fish take shelter on the inshore glass flats and shoals until they mature.

During most of the year, mature gag grouper like to hide around any type of structure that can give them shelter. They can be found in ledges and holes and love to populate offshore reefs and shipwrecks.

As winter approaches, a massive migration of gags head for the warmer protection of the inner shores, especially within the Gulf of Mexico, to spawn. During the late fall and early winter, they’ll show up a few miles off the shoreline along with Spanish mackerel, king fish, speckled trout, blacktop and spinner sharks that are chasing the schools of bunker and herring close to the beaches.

Also, head for rocky ledges and patch reefs in 15-30 feet of water. Many anglers catch lots of gags on spinning and plug tackle, but live bait tends to be the best option.

By law, you’re required to use a circle hook when bottom fishing in much of Florida’s cost, including the Gulf of Mexico. When hooked, these are very powerful fish that want nothing more than to run back into a hole or ledge and take you with them.

grouper gag
(Source: keyesmarina.com)

You’ll need to have heavy gear with you to prevent the fish from taking your line. Most anglers crank the drag on their reel down all the way to prevent the fish from reaching a hole.

This is where the grouper will run into a hole or under a ledge and spread its gills locking itself in place. To prevent that, keep the drag tightened so it’s almost impossible to pull line off of the spool.

Keep your rod held low so you can immediately lift it as soon as the fish strikes, turning it away from the rocks. Start to cautiously reel in all slack to the point that your rod is low to the water and tight to the fish.

In the past I’ve had sponsorships from Died, Bull buster, Eagle Claw, and I’m currently helping promote Mons ta fishing apparel. 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.

grouper gag catch pursuing prepared fight
(Source: anglr.com)

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. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would like to gain a better understanding of what’s happening on the water.

All anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida who intend to fish for or harvest certain reef fish from a private vessel are required to obtain the State Reef Fish Angler designation. Those with a Gulf Reef Fish Angler designation will meet the statewide requirement until the Gulf designation expires, even if you are fishing on the Atlantic coast.

State: Must have heads and fins intact through landing Gear rules require circle hooks and hooking tools in Gulf waters reef fish fisheries.

Note: In the Atlantic reef fish fishery, gear rules require hooking tools, and as of Jan. 1, 2021, non-stainless steel hooks in all state waters, and non-offset circle hooks N. of 28 ° N. latitude. Several species of Gulf grouper (red, black, scamp, yellow fin and yellow mouth) are closed Feb. 1-March 31 seaward of the 20-fathom break.

grouper gag fishing
(Source: gotonecharters.com)

Recreational anglers are encouraged to use electronic charting equipment to plot the 20-fathom break by entering the established coordinates listed on the map below into a route. Monroe County: Several species of Atlantic grouper (red, black, yellow fin, yellow mouth, scamp, rock hind, red hind, Coney and grays by) are closed Jan. 1 – April 30 in all state and federal waters of the Atlantic including all state waters off Monroe County (Atlantic and Gulf sides).

During this closure, anglers can harvest grouper in open federal waters of the Gulf and return to port in Monroe County by traveling through closed state waters of the Atlantic as long as the vessel proceeds directly to port without stopping to fish. Western boundary of the 4-county gag grouper recreational harvest region.

Check out this great video on how to fillet a Grouper posted by “Old Salt Fishing” featuring Tim Nathan showing us all how to fillet a gag grouper and do it fast! Grouper With A Parmesan Crust This video posted by “cooking guide” shows you how to make Grouper W/ A Parmesan Crust.

How To Make Thai Style Grouper : This is a great recipe posted by “LearnToCook”. ½ tsp Thai red curry paste mixed with 1-2 Tbsp.

Pour 1 T coconut milk/curry paste mixture over fish and add minced ginger and garlic. Fold over edges of foil to from package, starting with the top of the ‘heart’ to create an airtight seal.

gag grouper
(Source: keyesmarina.com)

Check out this video posted by “Franklin TDC” on how to make some Fried Grouper ! Check out this video posted by a small Orlando, Fl restaurant on how to make some gag grouper cheeks.

We hope you enjoyed our article recipes for Grouper ! This article was part of a series of articles on how to cook your catch, and part of a bigger goal that Bull buster has to help you spend more time fishing.

We have posted recipes in this article series that have been around in a fishing family for over three generations, we hope that we can keep these traditions alive as part of our mission to help you spend more time fishing. Learn how to fillet your shook and make some awesome food with it.

And when you do go, these 7 tips will help you know where to go, what gear to bring, and the know-how to catch big grouper. Grouper are found in abundance in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Atlantic Coast, and throughout the Caribbean, providing anglers with a wealth of opportunities to catch one of the tastiest fish in the sea.

In the summer, as nearshore water temperatures rise, grouper relocate to deeper dwellings offshore. Shipwrecks, oil rigs, and offshore reefs are where you'll want to focus your efforts when fishing for grouper in the summer.

grouper fishing gag jigs ring snapper oz assist dacron sharp hook strong ultra solid short super
(Source: www.tormentertackle.com)

They are classic ambush predators, spending most of their time holed up in heavy structure waiting for smaller fish to swim by. To have the most success when fishing for grouper, your boat electronics need to be powerful enough to key into the structure you seek.

Shipwrecks are the most notorious grouper hideouts, and fishing these tangled-up messes of debris requires accurate depth readings, patience, and the understanding that you'll probably lose some tackle. To catch big, heavy, powerful fish, your gear better be up to the task.

There are times when artificial lures work great for catching grouper, but you'll have more success if you show up prepared with the freshest live bait you can find. Goggle-eyes, pilchards, blue runners, and grunts all make excellent live bait for grouper.

Try to bring as many varieties of bait as you can so you can zero in on what the grouper are biting that day. Grouper spend most of their time on the bottom, so that's where you'll want to send your baited hook.

Vertical jigging with live bait is a very popular technique for catching big grouper, simply because it works. A struggling bait fish bouncing up and down at the bottom of a shipwreck is irresistible to an opportunistic grouper.

gag grouper season fall fishing
(Source: blog.finandfield.com)

Slide the hook point underneath the twisted rubber band. No matter what kind of rig you're using to catch grouper, you'll have the most success with circle hooks.

How you handle the first few seconds of a grouper fight often determines whether you land the fish or get cut off by structure. When a grouper takes your bait, as soon as it feels the pressure of your line, it will run straight back to the safety of structure as fast as possible.

And if you hook into a huge fish, it'll do whatever it pleases unless you take charge of the fight. Load up your conventional reels with heavy line, bridle rig your live baits, and don't forget to use circle hooks.

Coloration is highly variable in gag and changes with the size of the fish. Smaller fish are much lighter and have numerous dark brown or charcoal kiss-like marks along the sides.

The scamp, M. final, and black grouper, M. Monaco, closely resemble the gag and often occur in the same habitat. Gag have deeply notched properties, distinguishing them from black grouper.

grouper gag fishing
(Source: gotonecharters.com)

The gag grouper is the most widely distributed grouper in the region, with adults present from North Carolina to Brazil over low- and high-profile hard bottom in waters 60-500 feet deep. Young gag inhabit estuaries from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral.

Spawning takes place in February off the coast of the Carolina's and in January through March in the Gulf of Mexico. 50% of females mature at 24" Total Length (TL) and 3 years of age.

Gag may live for 26 years and grow to be 58 inches in length and weigh up to 81 pounds. Gag often congregate around rocky ledges and swim in small groups.

They are predators of round scad, sardines, porgies, snappers, grunts, crabs, shrimp and squid. The caudal (tail) and anal fins of the gag have white margins, while the black grouper does not.

Open Season: May 1 – December 31 Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the recreational Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met. Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.

gag grouper season fishing opens font disqus increase email comments print
(Source: www.crystalriver-fishing.com)

At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.

Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing. The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper- grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.

All species must be landed with head and fins intact Recreational Bag Limit sales are prohibited Open Season: May 1 – December 31 Note: since this species is managed under an Annual Catch Limit, the fishery could close if the commercial Annual Catch Limit is met or projected to be met.

If an in-season closure were to be announced by NOAA Fisheries, all relevant information will be included here. Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for snapper grouper species.

At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.

grouper reel
(Source: livetofishblog.wordpress.com)

Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing. The use of non-stainless steel hooks when fishing for snapper- grouper species with hook-and-line gear and natural baits south of 28º north latitude.

This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed, and sold prior to the annual catch limit being reached and held in cold storage by a dealer.

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4 apps.apple.com - https://apps.apple.com/us/app/fish-rules/id597875361
5 fishrulesapp.com - https://fishrulesapp.com/
6 outdoorflorida.org - https://outdoorflorida.org/home.html
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