The Gulf covers most of Florida’s west coast, from Pensacola in the Panhandle to the start of the Everglades at the tip of the peninsula. This is important to keep in mind as there are different regulations for what’s in season and what you can harvest depending on if you’re in state or federal waters.
For Gag Grouper fishing in the Gulf, it’s important to note what county you’re embarking from. For counties of Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson (in the Panhandle area from Apalachicola to Steinhatchee) there is open season in state waters from April 1 to June 30, and again from September 1 to December 31.
Black, Red, Scamp, Yellow fin and Yellow mouth Grouper all have similar regulations in the Gulf. It’s open season in both state and federal waters for Rock Hind, Coney, Yellow edge and Snowy Groupers.
You can ask your charter captain if the size you have is a keeper or not; or refer to the FCC regulations to make sure you’re staying compliant. Now moving east to the beautiful Atlantic Ocean where there are excellent opportunities for grouper fishing.
Keep in mind, the FCC considers the Everglades and Florida Keys as part of the Atlantic Ocean waters, and all fishing done in these areas must stay within Atlantic-specific regulations. From the Florida Keys to Jacksonville, anglers have hundreds of cities to choose from to launch your grouper expedition.
The real question is, what subspecies of grouper you’ll find at the end of your line. East Coast anglers should mark your calendars for May 1, this is when Gag Grouper and Black Grouper season opens from the Keys to Duval County (Jacksonville area).
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. Gulf state waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles.
Atlantic state waters are from shore to 3 nautical miles. Participation mandatory to fish for grouper in Florida waters.
Expand All | Collapse All 1 gag or black within the 3 grouper aggregate 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. 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.
Anglers love groupers for two main reasons: They’re tough, strong fighters, and they’re delicious to eat. © Provided by Sport Fishing Now is the prime time to catch big black groupers in South Florida.
© Jim Hendricks Now is the prime time to catch big black groupers in South Florida. That closure, which runs through April 30 in Atlantic waters, started in 2010 to allow the populations of black, gag and red groupers to increase in number and in size, as well as to protect the fish during their spawning seasons.
© Provided by Sport Fishing Generally smaller than blacks and gags, red grouper need only be 20 inches to qualify as legal in Florida’s Atlantic waters. Most anglers prefer to live-bait around coral reefs and wrecks, either anchoring up current, drifting or trolling their baits.
“With that being said, especially from now until December, if you caught live ballyhoo and slow-trolled them in 15 to 50 feet of water, wherever you find a reef edge, they’re very, very effective.” © Scott Sayers Generally smaller than blacks and gags, red grouper need only be 20 inches to qualify as legal in Florida’s Atlantic waters.
“You’re trolling those little lures around all the wrecks out to 200 feet, and at some point you’ll catch baby bonitos,” he says. “As soon as you catch a baby bonito, you hook it through the upper lip and you drop it down on the upstream side of the wreck.
© Provided by Sport Fishing Pinkish make one of the most consistently productive baits for groupers. Once you hook a keeper grouper, the fish typically swims right back into the wreck or reef where it was sheltering.
Having the proper tackle makes the difference between losing the fish and pulling it away from its home, Smith says. “If you’re truly targeting big groupers, you’re better off with real heavy monofilament and the craziest, tightest drag you can imagine fishing,” he says.
© Steve Waters A single-hook ballyhoo rigged behind a Sea Witch beneath a planer tops the list of trolling baits for Capt. © Provided by Sport Fishing A single-hook ballyhoo rigged behind a Sea Witch beneath a planer tops the list of trolling baits for Capt.
Buddy Carey of the famed Pier 5 charter fleet in Miami perfected trolling for grouper more than 50 years ago. Smith trolls a Sea Witch with a ballyhoo rigged on a 7/0 triple-strength 3417 Mustard J hook at the end of a 100-foot length of 100-pound monofilament leader connected to a planer.
He uses a Penn International 50 spooled with 65-pound braided line to fish along coral reefs in 50 feet of water or shallower. “The groupers, on occasion, come up and hit it on top of the water, but basically you want the bait about 10 feet off the bottom,” he says.
In addition to trolling reefs, Smith works the edges of the ship channels at Port Everglades, Lake Worth, and Fort Pierce inlets as well as Government Cut. Sanding the top of the lure and painting it yellow makes it even more effective, he says, because black groupers eat yellowtail snapper.
This big gag was caught on a recent 39-hour trip aboard a party boat out of Hubbard’s Marina. The gag grouper recreational season in Gulf state waters off Franklin, Weibull, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open for harvest Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
Gag grouper will close to recreational harvest in Gulf state and federal waters Jan. 1, 2021. For gag grouper, state waters off Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson counties will reopen to harvest April 1 through June 30 and Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
In the Atlantic and state waters of Monroe County, the grouper closure ends April 30, and harvest will reopen May 1. Rebecca Barry She is thrilled to be in the River City where she can catch the JU Dolphin's games and study the diverse weather patterns.
: 0 EV Image Comment: Lens: 80-200 mm f/2.8-2.8 D Sensitivity: ISO 200 The gag grouper recreational season in the Gulf state waters off of Franklin, Weibull, Jefferson and Taylor counties will open for harvest on Sept. 1 through Dec. 31.
Monroe County state waters follow Atlantic regulations. It's May 1 already, thankfully, and that means recreational anglers can once again harvest the shallow water grouper species and dogfish, too.
Power drifting with big jigs tipped with cut grunt will be a good way to get a bite. Inshore: Trout fishing has been pretty steady on the flats around Vero Beach, south of Wabash Causeway and around the spoil islands near Sebastian.
Use cut grunts or large chunk baits on heavy sinkers, enough weight to get through the current. Red grouper are found in shallower water on the deep wrecks and artificial reefs.
A good spot to try would be the CCA Curtis Stick Artificial Reef in 100 feet of water 12 miles southeast of the Fort Pierce Inlet. Start off with top water lures for those early ambush strikes then switch to soft-sided jigs and jerk baits.
Jacks and lady fish are roaming the lagoon in schools for fast action on light fishing tackle. Offshore: The deep artificial reefs such as the Windstorm and Hailey Glared are prime spots to start the search for grouper.
Live bait boats at Manatee Pocket have been supplying pilchards and thread fins so grab a few. Bass anglers are still finding good fishing around Harvey Pond Canal, the Monkey Box, Horse Island and Observation Shoal.
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.
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. Body with many small blue spots unless in bright yellow phase coloration.
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.
Grays by Groupers are best identified with series of spots below dorsal fin. Operate with 3 flat spines (by anus) 4 dark or white spots at base of dorsal fin.
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.
Lives on rocky reefs and feeds on crabs mostly and fish secondarily. 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. Tail is also unique with top and bottom having lengthy spines.
Sub-adults are dark brown and have white spots in vertical rows on head and body. Speckled Hind Grouper Identifying Features Adults (15 inches +) are dark reddish brown and covered all over by small bright white spots.
Yellow mouth Grouper Identifying Features Inside of mouth is 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 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. You basically drop your pinkish down to the bottom and hold on for dear life.
It doesn’t really matter how much weight you used to get your bait down there, you’ll certainly feel it when the Grouper inhales your bait fish! 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. Big Grouper bait casting reels and strong rods are essential if targeting fish over 50 lbs.
Bait casting / Trolling Reels This PENN REEL (at Amazon) for Inshore Fishing (Grouper, Redfish, Cobra) Made in America (Philadelphia, PA.) 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 you also want to know about which fishing license and permits you need in Florida, we just created a new page for that HERE which easily explains it.
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.