Other good baits include sardines, scads, cigar minnows, spots, craters, grunts, thread fins and ponies or menhaden. Either way, bring plenty of frisky live bait and make sure they are on the large side.
The biggest reason is the over-abundance of the “overfished” (per fishery managers) American red snapper. These snapper are big (many between 12 and 25 pounds), extremely aggressive and will eat you out of bait and boat.
The second reason I recommend using larger baits is that grouper are inherently lazy and like to eat the biggest, easiest meal they can find. A gag grouper will routinely eat a bait that is roughly 10 percent of its body weight.
Sometimes grouper will fall victim to whole, dead fish such as Spanish sardines or cigar minnows. The problem with these are the red snapper and the thousands of sea bass, grunts and trigger fish that will peck the dead stuff off the hook.
Ideally, you can entice the grouper to feed away from the structure, so you can stop the fish from going back in the hole after he’s hooked. Let that fish get back into its home, and be prepared for your buddies to start yelling “gone!” or “fail!” as you tie on a new rig.
In this case, try to drop ahead of the spot to land the baits in the strike zone. While coloration vary greatly, with the relatively oversized mouth, grouper fishing somewhat resembles large mouth bass fishing.
I’ve watched fishing shows where anglers share grouperfishingtips and use whole, live sting rays as bait and seen video of a big brute inhaling a 3-foot shark that an angler was trying to reel in near his boat. Again, like bass fishing that action of bottom bouncing, or jigging can trigger a reaction bite.
Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, small mouth bass, and steel head in Pennsylvania. Grouper are well known for putting up a good fight, while also being one of the better tasting fish you can catch.
Usually they have a large body and mouth and can come in a variety of different colors depending on the specific kind of grouper. In terms of size grouper can commonly be well over 3 feet in length and weigh upwards of 200lbs.
Grouper are a saltwater fish that are commonly targeted in the southern regions of the United States and parts of South America. If you’re fishing for grouper inshore or nearshore, look for them in shallow reef areas, bridges, or near docks.
Grouper commonly eat other fish, crustaceans, and octopuses. In the autumn grouper tend to stay in deeper waters until the weather starts to cool down in the late season.
When the weather cools they will move to waters ranging from 50 to 100 feet deep. In the winter months, grouper will move close inshore or just offshore.
In the summer grouper continue their migration into deeper cooler waters. The colder winter months are a good time to catch them because they are closer to shore, however, feeding activity can be high during spring, which makes that a good opportunity to catch them as well.
When the grouper are closer to shore, spinning rods are a good choice. Stick with a heavy fast action rod around 6 to 7 feet in length.
The best ones for catching grouper are made specifically for deep trolling over shallow reefs. These kinds of lures are versatile and can be fished in a wide variety of different settings.
Sardines are considered most effective by many anglers, but you can also use squid, pinkish, mullet, and other small fish. This is why you need to fish near coral ledges, rock piles, and other structure where they will likely be hiding in.
Trolling is becoming an increasingly popular way to catch grouper, and that’s because it is so effective. This is likely to get any grouper hiding in holes out and readily biting your baits.
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.
Even the small ones, at 20-30 pounds can put up a physically draining fight, being known for their short, high torque runs. That’s quite substantial, considering they’re some of the hardest fighting bottom fish in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
These guys tend to hang out around offshore wrecks, ledges, reefs, and other structure. If you’re looking for larger ones, you’ll want to head for areas not frequented by other anglers, leaving the fish pressured with a chance to grow.
They’re found on the bottom, but they don’t tend to be very finicky as to what depth to call home. They tend to prefer the deeper waters during the warmer summer months, but they can be found pretty shallow in the winter and spring.
They spawn in March and April over a reef bottom between 30-120 feet of water. Blue runners, cigar minnows, or any small grunts make good live bait choices.
These guys really pack a lot of punch, so anglers left unprepared will find themselves short a leader… or four. You’ll want to grab a shorter heavy action, stout rod rated for 50 to 80-pound test.
Larger circle hooks work well for these guys since they’re less likely to snag bottom. Dead bait fishing gets a little trickier, employing the use of a hi-lo dropper rig with a 230-pound barrel swivel and a four-foot section of 100-pound fluorocarbon leader, with three dropper loops tied at 16-inch intervals and a 16 to 32-ounce bank sinker looped on at the end by an overhand knot.
Your heavier line, coupled with tight drag are instrumental in making sure you can muscle these fighters away from the structure. Once they strike, they make a fast, mad dash back to the nearest hole, often before you even get a chance to react.
Suspend the bait about a leader length off the bottom with your rod in a holder. Give a couple of quick cranks to turn his head up and prevent him from dogging back down into the structure.
The drift of the boat adds to the power of your tackle and may give you just enough momentum to help drag the fish far enough from his hole that he can’t get back. You’ll either sense that he’s left his hole, forgetting about you, or you can try to gently reel him in.
With so many types of grouper out there, homing in on a certain species can be tough, so when you’re bottom fishing for these beasts, be prepared for other reef dwellers to pull back as well! In the past I’ve had sponsorships from Died, Bull buster, Eagle Claw, and I’m currently helping promote Mons ta fishing apparel.
I am also an avid tournament angler in many kayak divisions as well as offshore species. While mystic grouper can be caught year-round in the Bahamas, the winter months are our favorite time of year.
Whenever a weather window presents itself, we point our bow east across the Florida Straights in search of these deep-water bottom dwellers. Mystics are one of the lesser-known grouper species, simply because anglers don’t fish deep enough to target them.
Like all grouper, they are excellent to eat and usually weigh from 15 to 50 pounds, although they can grow much larger. Armed with Shaman Tiara 80 Was and Shaman Tiara 50 Was equipped with Hooker Electric Auto stop drives, we string up 65- to 100-pound Power Pro braid on Crafty One Custom’s Deep Drop Rods.
We begin by paying close attention to our Hummingbird Solid sonar with CHIRP HD digital technology to locate bottom structure. Once viable structure is located, we position the boat above it with engines out of gear to judge how wind and current will manipulate our drift.
When the rod tip bumps and shakes, resist the urge to lock up the drag and retrieve line. Big mystic grouper put up quite a fight at first, and you might even think you’ve hung bottom.
Red grouper are beautiful fish that can weight very heavy on the hook, even when caught in smaller sizes. They’re tough predators, can put quite a fight and can provide the angler with a lot of thrills.
In colder months they move back inshore, and sometimes you can get big ones in water as shallow as 20 ft. Like most predator fish that feed close to the bottom, when a red grouper grabs the bait and feels resistance, it will try to run to the nearest hiding place.
However, they are also interested in lures, and catching them with jigs and jerk baits in shallower water can be very entertaining. A red grouper will basically gulp any fish passing by, if it looks appetizing and it can fit in its mouth.
Make sure though that you hook them by the dorsal fin or their lower jaw, to live longer. Cutting bigger bait fish in half at a 45° angle seems to have quite a great effect on the presentation, resulting in more bites.
If you want to catch red grouper with lures, best jerk baits and jigs are always a good call. Some lures to try out are Your Minnows, Mirror Deep Divers (red, orange and black silver), Salas Jigs in Green / Blue Sardine, or squid imitating jigs such as the ones from Charities.
Shakespeare makes quite a few Ugly Sticks for this purpose, with an OK price / quality ratio. So, equip your rod with a 4/0 Penn Senator or Abu Garcia Seascape bait casting reel.
It’s always best to go with braided line for groupers, because it gives you a better control of the fish right away, as it doesn’t stretch. Since groupers in general, have a big mouth, sizeable circle hooks are the best for these fish.
During late fall, large schools of thread fin herring will gather relatively close to the beaches. Initially, this activity draws in the Spanish mackerel, king fish, Bonita, blacktop and spinner sharks.
As the water continues to cool, keeper sized gag grouper may become part of the mix, showing up just a few miles off the sand. Although pinkish seem to be literally everywhere inshore, Tampa fishing guides take note when their numbers decrease as inland waters cool.
All of a sudden, traps placed in canals and near shore locations that were producing 20 – 30 pinkish a drop are now coming up with just 2 – 3 baits. Tampa fishing charters target rocky ledges and patch reefs in 15 to 30 feet of water so the trick is to identify these locations.
First, on sunny days when the water is clear, which it is often this time of year, simply drive to an area of dark bottom. Once in the area, drive around and use a bottom machine to look for the largest rocks or most pronounced part of a ledge.
Another age-old trick for finding hard bottom is to locate clusters of stone crab traps. Any area holding several colored crabbers' traps is highly likely to have some good grouper structure.
Grouper are aggressive this time of year and will often charge out from under their rock to torpedo a plug. Once found, Tampa fishing guides will drop a live bait down to confirm if there are other grouper there.
Dropping a weighted block of chum to within a few feet of the bottom will bring fish directly into the area where baits are. Additionally, grouper tend to be aggressive at this time of year and will pounce on almost any live bait.
Add a four ounce egg sinker, 2 1/2 feet of 80 lbs fluorocarbon leader and a 6/0 circle hook and the rig is complete. Lower the bait to the bottom and then reel up a crank or two so that the sinker is elevated and the pinkish is swimming just off the structure.
On numerous occasions, divers have observed grouper shying away from baits dropped with heavy sinkers...instead sitting back in a chum slick eating free floating, naturally sinking pieces of bait and chum. There is another approach used by some Tampa fishing guides to entice these shallow water grouper to eat.
Attach a long 4 – 5 foot leader of 40 to 60 lbs test fluorocarbon with a strong 4/0 circle hook. Take cut bait chunks made from thread fin herring or larger pinkish and throw them up-tide of the rock or ledge that is being fished.
This is critically important as the take is indicated by the line appearing to stop or slightly tighten...the result of a grouper coming up and eating the drifting cut bait. The fish will not make a hard run as it has not felt the hook yet so the angler must be alert for this subtle tightening of the line.
Once this is seen, all slack should be eliminated (reeled up) and, rest assured, when coming tight to the fish, the grouper will head for the rocks. Transitioning to this method when a known, productive spot appears to be dead will occasionally result in two to three additional hookups on keeper fish.