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.
Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle. 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. 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.
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. Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for shook or redfish.
Are tough as heck fighters Can be found in most regions/depths Grouper provide some of the most popular fish-eating meat in America… Makes them a very popular fish to both offshore and inshore anglers (and tourists looking for a good Grouper sandwich).
Max limit for 2 from 17 ft skiff using the leader rig shown below. But a problem with grouper fishing (and targeting other species when bottom fishing) is that many anglers don’t put much thought into making their leaders… They simply get a weight, a hook, some line, and perhaps a swivel or two and start tying their favorite knot for all the connections.
And a majority of the time, that lack of thinking about all aspects of what they’re targeting leaves the following two problems: The weakest point in the overall system (most often at the knot that connects the lighter main line to the top of the heavier leader assembly) is up above the weight.
And since grouper are structure oriented, the odds of them getting stuck to the bottom due to the weight getting snagged are high which will make them easy targets to the next shark that cruises by. Knowing that grouper and most other bottom fish seek comfort in structure when the feel threatened, we need to account for the fact that there will be break-offs in our decision for how we make our leader assemblies.
When targeting strong fish that live in and around heavy cover, the likelihood of getting snagged on the bottom is high. So my preference is to set up the overall line system to have the weakest point be the knot that goes directly to the hook while also beefing up the line most exposed to getting weakened from bumping rough patches on the bottom (directly above the weight).
The Orris knot is my preferred choice to tie to the Perfection loop because it’s extremely fast to tie and is very strong (not quite as strong as the Palomar, but it’s stronger than any Loop knot I’ve tested so it’ll not be the weakest link). Note: Different line brands/types of course have different breaking points, so these values are just to serve as a rough estimate.
Grouper fishing is a fantastic way for a group of friends or a family to get out on the water and enjoy nature together… And given their popularity, we need to pay extra attention to take the best possible care of them so our future generations can continue to enjoy this great game fish as well as other structure oriented species that also be harmed by poorly designed leader rigs.
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Red Snapper, in particular, are not necessarily picky, but if you are targeting the larger fish there are definitely better baits to use than others. Red Snapper tends to be wary, and they don't bite if they notice anything suspicious.
Regardless of what you're hoping to catch, tailoring the bait to the type of fish is common sense. Live bait is King when fishing Red Snapper and Grouper, and they do have their favorites.
Grouper also prefer large live bait fish, but they tend to be less picky than Red Snapper. You can opt for either frozen or fresh fish purchased from your local bait shop.
These fish flit through the water quickly, easily attracting a predator's attention, plus they're shiny and oily, making them even more visible. Other options include squid, blue runner, mullet, pinkish, and grunts.
Drop your baits (ideally cigar minnows or pilchards for red snappers or sardines for groupers) down deep into the water column. Many of the trophy sized fish are in holes and covered areas where they tend to rest and stay safe from other predators.
The more robust currents demand larger tackle in order to get down to the bottom. Red Snapper love this and tend to strike the bait before it even hits the bottom.
Simply cut a strip of Bonito (we leave the skin on), attach with both hooks on your double Snell rig and slowly drop the bait to the bottom. When the fish strikes it is important to quickly reel in the line to set the hook.
When fishing for Red Snapper, many anglers have great success using artificial lures. Vertical jigs, in particular, can trick the fish, which confuse the shiny objects with an easy bite.
Diving plugs are ideal for groupers if you're fishing in reef areas, allowing for deep trolling at depths of 20 to 40 feet. Finally, you can try a butterfly jig, a thin but heavy lure that moves erratically in the water.
This movement mimics a real fish as the lure free falls through the water. Jigging requires you to snap or pop the rod tip as you move the lure up and down in the water column.
Opt for cigar minnows or pilchards for red snapper, and sardines for grouper. Note that the state and federal legislation may govern when fishing is permitted.
Generally, Southern California, the Gulf of Mexico and around Florida are great places to fish for grouper and red snapper. Isolated areas are also preferable and the Florida Gulf Coast is a great location.
A nice big grouper to start this page off the right way! Grouper are often targeted because their flesh has an amazing texture and consistency that people love on sandwiches, blackened on a plate, or in a salad.
If you haven’t had a grouper sandwich, you’re missing one of life’s true pleasures. Grouper are heavy and strong fish that immediately try to wrap your line around structure or sharp stuff, so they’re fun to catch because you’ll need to use all your strength to get a big one up to the boat or pier.
Most anglers don’t realize it, but there are actually 17 different species of Grouper swimming in the waters of Florida. Only three species cannot be caught and eaten, you can see in the black cells in the chart below.
And stay at the bottom (3 to 230 feet deep) eating crustaceans and smaller fish. Coney Grouper have color variations including hues of red, brown, and yellow.
These massive fish can eat anything smaller than themselves including sharks, turtles, fish, crabs, octopus, squid, and attempts to have been made to munch on divers too! Identification isn’t difficult when the Goliath Grouper is mature at 400 to 800 lbs.
Goliath Grouper Identifying Features Can grow to 8 feet in length and over 800 lbs. Brownish yellow, gray or green hued body color.
Head and dorsal part of body and fins with small black spots. Grays by Groupers are best identified with series of spots below dorsal fin.
A slow growing and delicious fish that has been overfished and taken by spears, decimating the population. Strict regulations are in place to attempt to bring back a healthy Florida population of these fish.
This grouper eats fish, crabs, and squid and can grow to around 5 feet in length and over 200 lbs. Misty Grouper Identifying Features Easily recognizable by 8-11 dark bands, similar to Sleepyhead fish.
These Red Grouper spawn more than twenty times between February and June each year. Red grouper are opportunistic feeders and will eat just about anything smaller including crabs, shrimp, fish, octopus, and squid.
Rock Hind Grouper Identifying Features Coloration varies, but overall tan color with large oval/circular spots of reddish brown, red, and dark gray and black that get larger toward the ventral side (belly). Scamp grouper have almost decorative fins, which can make them easy to identify.
Scamp Grouper Identifying Features Scamp Grouper have a brown or reddish body, sometimes it is light gray Lateral (sides) are covered with dark spots, sometimes in small groups. Upper and lower caudal fin rays are long in a spot, giving appearance of an oriental style fish.
These Grouper reach 4 feet in length and yet the maximum recorded weight for one is only less than 70 lbs. Sub-adults are dark brown and have white spots in vertical rows on head and body.
These are beautiful fish to see in real life, the illustration isn’t bad either. Yellow fin Grouper Identifying Features The outer one-third of the pectoral fins are bright yellow.
IUCN Realist Status: The Goliath Grouper is listed as Vulnerable and populations declining. Other Grouper species in Florida State waters are plentiful and not in danger of being overfished.
Appearance: Grouper have a thicker body than some other fish with respect to length. Some Grouper are found in the Caribbean, Cuba, Portugal, Trinidad, Brazil, and the West Indies.
Young grouper spend their early years near submerged rocks and other structure close to the beach, so they don’t become prey for Shook, Jacks, Redfish, other Grouper, Tarpon, and Sharks. Diet: Pinkish, mullet, other bait fish, crabs, squid, octopus, lobster.
This section was easy to write because all three grouper world records were caught in Florida, so they’re the same. The Biggest Gag Grouper was caught in 1993 in the waters off Destiny, Florida and the big fish was 80 pounds, 6 ounces.
With the average adult Goliath Grouper weighing in at around 400 lbs., you know the biggest one recorded is going to be huge right? The Biggest Goliath Grouper was caught on hook and line in 1961 at Fernanda Beach, Florida.
I remember talking to some people who’d seen a massive Goliath Grouper at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that they named Hitler. The Biggest Red Grouper was 42 pounds, 4 ounce fish that was caught on hook and line off St. Augustine, in the Atlantic side of Florida in 1997.
Grouper is one of the most often targeted species of fish by anglers all over the USA for a couple of reasons. If you’ve never had a blackened grouper sandwich at a restaurant along the coast in Florida, you’re missing an incredible experience.
Grouper is thick and juicy and has an odd texture that most fish don’t possess. Besides being great for a meal, Grouper takes your bait and immediately pulls hard when it realizes it is attached to your line.
It’s a real fight to get a grouper up off the bottom of the sea, especially if it’s down 100 feet or more. They’re heavy, strong, and tough fighting fish that will give you a workout.
Small grouper can be found generally inshore, and in water 15 feet deep or more usually. I’ve caught small black, red, and gag grouper in shallow areas near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in south Pinellas County.
To find adult grouper you’ll need to take a charter off the coast and ride out for a while to reach deeper water. Around 60 feet deep is a good starting point, and any structure, wrecks, or rocks will probably hold at least a grouper or two, but bigger areas will hold dozens, possibly hundreds.
Don’t get me wrong, you CAN find grouper in shallower water when it’s cooler, and I’ve seen them pull 12 lb. Gag Grouper out of 10 feet of water off the Gulf Coast.
If you’re fishing with artificial, you can get some larger Your Minnows with 2 treble hooks and try those retrieved at a fast (but not blinding) rate. Hit the piers, wrecks, rocks, and fallen trees to try to find some Grouper in the shallows if you are in a Kayak fishing or other small boat.
Every year there are some good size Grouper pulled in at most of the big piers in Florida. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas is prime time for Grouper in Florida.
Of course if you get in the middle of huge fish, you should increase the size of your hook. The easiest way to set up a Grouper Rig is to use a simple egg sinker, swivel, and leader on the end of your braided line.
Mono with an 8/0 Circle Hook holding live bait like a Pinkish, Pilchard, or other similarly sized fish. You don’t set a circle hook, you’ll likely just pull it free of the mouth before it has a chance to work itself into the jaw of the fish.
You can Troll for Grouper in the Gulf, and that works well for people who feel like they have to be on the move and want to fish shallow water. Hook and line, and spearfishing are legal options for harvesting most Grouper Species.
Grouper species are regulated differently, and it’s quite daunting to try to comb through the official website and figure out what you can and can’t catch, when and where. We’ve combined all Grouper Laws into this graphic to make it easier, but to be honest, it’s a bit easier, but you still need to read a lot to understand how to take Grouper legally in Florida and in International Waters.
If fishing from 3 to 200 nautical miles off the coast of Florida, Georgia, South or North Carolina, you can use this mobile application to stay up to date on the fishing rules on the Atlantic Coast. Grouper are farm raised in some areas of the world, primarily Asia.
Here’s an interesting and informative article about some challenges Grouper farmers faced in Thailand. The best way to cook Grouper is to blacken it with some Cajun spices or something that adds some spiciness or other flavor to it.
I always bleed the grouper immediately after catching by cutting the gills with scissors or a knife after I’ve put him out of his misery. Trying to bleed a fish after icing, is an exercise in futility as not all the blood comes out easily.
I also coat each side in some finely ground black pepper because I love the taste. Put the Grouper Fillets in the pan and cover, leaving room for the steam to gather, and escape.
Cut your Italian bread into sandwich-sized portions and smear butter and minced garlic pieces on them. Put in oven on top shelf on Broil until lightly brown, remove quickly.
Even thick Grouper should cook through in 3-4 minutes per side. Throw your fillets on your sandwich, cover with guacamole, tomatoes, chili water, onions, and smash it all together with another piece of garlic bread on top.
Allowing the use of other types of non-stainless steel hooks south of 28 degrees north latitude accommodates for regionally important south Florida fisheries, such as yellowtail snapper, in which the use of J hooks allows for greater efficiency and reduces discard mortality. Catching a big grouper is every fisherman's dream.
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The best way to catch Tuna, bonito, Atlantic mackerel, Atlantic bonito, or just classic big mackerel in Mediterranean Sea is trolling. Every angler who lives around Mediterranean Sea dreams to catch a giant dented or big snappers.