Grouper Fishing In Virginia

Paul Gonzalez
• Saturday, 28 November, 2020
• 13 min read

By Ken Neill How to fish for Tile fish, Grouper and Sea Bass off Virginia Beach. The lack of fleshy protuberance behind the head distinguishes it from the commercially important tile fish, Lopholatilus chamaeleonticeps.

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(Source: mrc.virginia.gov)


The blue line tile fish is a bottom dweller found in water ranging from 240-780 feet deep, from Virginia to the Campeche Banks of Mexico. It is frequently found in the same habitat as groupers and snappers, preferring irregular bottom with sand, mud and she'll hash.

Blue line tile fish feed on bottom creatures, such as crabs, shrimp, snails, worms, sea urchins and small fish. Smaller fish are dark brown overall, punctuated with coin-size pearly white spots on the sides.

A distinctive black, saddle-shaped blotch occurs on the caudal peduncle and extends down below the lateral line. Larger snowy groupers usually lose the white spots and caudal saddle and become dark brown with a slight coppery tint.

Snowy groupers can be found in the outer continental shelf of the South Atlantic Bight, which is characterized by ridges, terraces and precipitous cliffs. The species is distributed in the western Atlantic from Massachusetts to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico, the Lesser Antilles and the northern coast of Cuba.

Snowy grouper are protogynous hermaphrodites, spawning from May to June more than 2 million eggs. Offshore bottom fishing out of Virginia has greatly increased in popularity in recent years.

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(Source: pilotonline.com)

Sea bass fishing has always been popular and the current world record sea bass, 10 pounds 4 ounces, was caught off of Virginia by Allan Paschal in 2000. In addition to sea bass, anglers began to learn how to fish for grouper, tile fish and wreck fish.

Six blue line tile fish and two snowy grouper IFA All-Tackle World Records have been set off the coast of Virginia over the past year. Due to the growing popularity of this fishery, Virginia has added snowy grouper, blue line tile fish and golden tile fish as eligible species for state records.

We also added blue line tile fish to the trophy fish citation program. The offshore waters off of Virginia are a good place to catch bottom fish.

They all provide a great service, you will catch fish and you will learn something to boot. Look for wrecks laying in twenty to fifty fathoms of water.

Off of Virginia, the 50 fathom curve seems to be the magic area for blue line tile fish. Watch your bottom machine while traveling in water 45 to 55 fathoms deep.

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(Source: healthygrinsportfishing.com)

We have caught tile fish all along the 50 fathom curve from east of the Cigar on up past the Norfolk Canyon. We have been catching the grouper in the same areas that we have found the tile fish, maybe just a little deeper.

Big and heavy offshore trolling tackle is not needed. If you are going to buy a new reel for this type of fishing, pick one that is not too heavy, has a large handle, and has a higher gear ratio.

Of course, if you would like to catch these bottom fish with less effort and you don’t care about records or citations, this is what electric reels are made for. When we are targeting grouper, we will beef things up a bit with 100 lb leader.

80-100 pound leader with a loop at each end to attach a sinker and your main line. Jeff Died, a 2-time world record holder, likes to add glow beads to this rig to spice things up.

Boston mackerel stays on the hook well and makes a good cut bait. That is what Bob Minus was doing out there with a spinning rod, he was catching tile fish with a diamond jig.

grouper wreckfish fishing virginia sport
(Source: healthygrinsportfishing.com)

The artificial “natural” baits like Gulp will also work but that brings us back to Bob again. He thought that a piece of natural sponge soaked in menhaden oil might make a good bait and stay on the hook well.

He put one on each hook, dipped them into the oil and started catching monster sea bass two at a time. On later trips, he tried the sponge without the oil and still caught fish just as fast as the rest of us using natural bait.

Sea bass, blue line tile fish and wreck fish all love the sponge. These fish are considered over-fished in areas to our south while we seem to have very healthy populations here.

We are not really supposed to have these fish off of Virginia, except for sea bass, we are totally unregulated at the time this is written. Right now the regional councils are looking at extending the southern regulations north to try and protect this fishery.

Wreck fish are mostly a recreational catch here while in the southern region they are regulated as a commercial only species. Virginia is looking at enacting its own regulations to sustain this fantastic fishery which we have off of our coast.

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(Source: www.fishheadquarters.com)

I expect Virginia may have some regulations for tile fish, grouper, and wreck fish in place before the end of the year. The few captains, like David Wright and Joe Decamp, who knew about this fishery kept it very quiet.

Each of them has caught grouper and other offshore bottom fish like tile fish and black belly rose fish weighing more than the current world records but nobody knew about it. It wasn’t that they wanted the fish to themselves, they just cared more about the fishery than they did about records.

The pattern has been for a new wreck or good bottom area to be found, a lot of big groupers are caught, and then the fishery is depressed. From North Carolina on south, grouper are tightly regulated to try to protect the remaining stock.

Listening to the concerns of these captains and to a strong appeal by commercial fisherman, Harry Done among others, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission has enacted a one grouper per person recreational bag limit and a 175 pound per vessel commercial limit. To find Virginia ’s grouper, look for broken, rocky bottom along edge of the continental shelf in fifty to one hundred fathoms of water.

They are structure oriented fish and you will often find them stacked up along a ledge or drop off. The walls of the Norfolk Canyon are custom-made for grouper and any wreck lying out past the fifty-fathom curve is a good place to try.

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(Source: rebelsportfishing.com)

Its thin diameter allows us to put a lot of line on relatively small reels. The latest record snowy grouper, a 49 pound 9 ounce fish captured by Roger Burley, was caught using a Penn 320.

We also have had good luck with the Shaman Thorium reels. Reels with larger handles and a higher rate of retrieval can make things easier on you.

Using 50-60 pound braided line and medium tackle, we have had good luck bringing 50-pound fish up from the depths. Off of one arm of the swivel is about 5 feet of 100-150 pound leader material which is tied to a 9/0 size hook.

Off of the last arm of the swivel is 1-2 foot drop to your sinker. While fishing for grouper, you will also encounter sea bass, blue line tile fish, Blackwell rose fish, golden tile fish and who knows what other surprises you may bring up from the deep.

More than once, we have taken our catch to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to find out what it was that we had caught. With 70 mile runs to the fishing grounds and strict recreational and commercial limits, Virginia ’s grouper fishery will mostly be a by-catch fishery, something to try on occasion while you are out there after something else.

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(Source: www.pointclickfish.com)

This should be good for the long-term health of the stock and it also means that if you do give it a try, you will have a chance at the next world record. The hard spines on the dorsal fin of a Warsaw will be 10 in number.

VIRGINIA MARINE RESOURCES COMMISSION“PERTAINING TO Tigerish AND GROUPERS” CHAPTER 4VAC20-1120-10 ET SEQ PREAMBLE This chapter establishes recreational and commercial limitations on the harvest and landings of Tile fish and Groupers in Virginia.

This chapter is promulgated pursuant to authority contained in §28.2-201 of the Code of Virginia. The purpose of this chapter is to provide for the conservation of tile fish and grouper and to reduce the potential for overfishing by establishing limits on the harvest and landing of these fish.

It shall be unlawful for any person fishing recreationally to possess or land more than eight golden tile fish in Virginia tidal waters. The recreational harvest, landing and possession limit for blue line tile fish for any person fishing from a for-hire vessel that has been issued a valid Tile fish Charter/Party Permit, but does not have a current U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection shall be five blue line tile fish per person per trip.

The recreational harvest, landing and possession limit for blue line tile fish for any person fishing from for-hire vessels that have both a valid Tile fish Charter/Party Permit and a current U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection shall be seven blue line tile fish per person per trip. C. The recreational harvest, landing and possession limit for grouper, as described in 4 VAC 20-1120-20, shall be one fish.

fishing grouper beach boat
(Source: rebelsportfishing.com)

It shall be unlawful for any person to recreationally harvest, land or possess more than one grouper within or without Virginia tidal waters. D. When fishing recreationally from any boat or vessel, where the entire catch is held in a common hold or container, the boat or vessel possession limit for any species described in subsections A or B of this section shall be equal to the sum of the personal possession limits, as described in subsections A or B of this section, of those persons on board legally eligible to fish.

Possess aboard any vessel in Virginia waters any amount of tile fish species in excess of 500 pounds whole weight or 455 pounds gutted weight, except as described in 4 VAC 20-1120-40 A.2. Possess aboard any vessel in Virginia waters any amount of blue line tile fish in excess of 300 pounds whole weight or 273 pounds gutted weight.

Possess aboard any vessel any amount of golden tile fish during any in-season closure announced by the National Marine Fisheries Service. It shall be unlawful for any vessel to land in Virginia more than 175 pounds of grouper, as described in 4 VAC 20-1120-20, per day when commercial fishing.

As set forth in §28.2-903 of the Code of Virginia, any person violating any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor, and a second or subsequent violation of any provision of this chapter committed by the same person within 12 months of a prior violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This is to certify that the foregoing is a true and accurate copy of the chapter passed by the Marine Resources Commission, pursuant to authority vested in the Commission by § 28.2-201 of the Code of Virginia, duly advertised according to statute, and recorded in the Commission's minute book, at meeting held in Hampton, Virginia, on March 26, 2019.

Viktor Reuben of LandSharkFishing a Bull buster Ambassador with a Grouper. We wrote this article for those who are interested in targeting grouper and want to know what fishing line they need.

virginia grouper
(Source: healthygrinsportfishing.com)

If you are fishing reef, the lighter end of that range should work, if you are fishing near wrecks, we recommend going to the heavier end of that spectrum. If you are targeting blacks there is no reason to scale down under 100Lb leader.

Took a visitor with me from up north, and he was impressed with the amount of fish we caught. They were only Grunts, but they put up a good fight even the small ones which we threw back.

Spring Hill, Florida, United States32 contributions16 helpful votes The first time they called us back a few days before the trip and cancelled because they got a private party.

This time they didn't even bother to call to say they decided to change locations for today. Drive 45 minutes to their Port Richey location to find a note that they decided to go out of Tarpon Springs today.

Of course there is not enough time to make it from Port Richey to Tarpon Springs before they leave. A simple phone call would have been nice to notify us of the change.

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(Source: healthygrinsportfishing.com)

As usual on any trip, some caught and some didn’t catch any fish. The Captain and crew were very friendly and well as the staff when I initially called to make reservations.

The crew cleaned our fish at the end of the day for a very low fee. I didn't know what to expect, recently widowed female, alone, first time fishing.

From fly-fishing to shore casting, here are some of the best spots to try your luck. Please note, that these aren’t ranked in any particular order, but we have mentioned some of the fish you’re most likely to catch.

We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date.

If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here: onlyinyourstate.com/nominate What to catch: Brown Trout (Considered one of the most famous fly-fishing spots in Virginia.

(Source: www.virginiafishing.com)

What to catch: Striped Bass, Crappie and White Perch Even though Anna has lived other places, somehow Virginia is where she always seems to land.

Black grouper are perhaps the largest species of the Mycteroperca genus found in the Atlantic Ocean. The black grouper has olive or gray body coloration along with small hexagonal bronze spots on its head and lower side.

Juveniles feed mainly on crustaceans, while adult fish prefer smaller bait fish. The preopercule is rounded without the presence of a notch, which distinguishes it from the gag grouper (Mycteroperca microbes).

Black groupers can reach up to 52 inches (133 cm) in length and can weigh up to 179 pounds (81 kg). These teeth are not used to tear flesh as with the barracudas and sharks, but rather to prevent small fish from escaping. Black grouper are also protogynous hermaphrodites.

They can be found on offshore wrecks and reefs from North Carolina south to Florida and are also common in the Gulf of Mexico. The meat is considered very good quality which adds to its reputation as a popular game fish.

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(Source: www.tidalfish.com)

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1 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_black_groper
2 www.doc.govt.nz - https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/marine-fish-and-reptiles/spotted-black-grouper/
3 safmc.net - https://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species/black-grouper/
4 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epinephelus_fasciatus