They prefer to be able to seek shelter and hide, and although their name implies that they stay together, they can also be very solitary fish. Their coloration and ability to change hues and shades to identify with their surroundings give them that ambush capability.
Anglers find that medium heavy bottom fishing tackle is the best way to approach the grouper. Conventional reels in the thirty- to fifty-pound class teamed with a medium heavy boat rod will do the trick.
Grouper feed on other small fish, crustaceans like crabs or crawfish, and squid. When an easy opportunity swims buy they rush out, inhale their prey, and quickly return to their lair.
A good rod and reel, with fifty-pound test monofilament line, can handle almost all the grouper you may encounter. The terminal tackle consists of a sinker, leader, and hook arranged one of two ways.
Even when the rig is dropped right into the bottom structure, it seldom hangs up, something charter captains love. More serious grouper anglers will opt for the second approach, called a live bait rig.
Advertised as virtually invisible to fish, it does seem to draw more strikes than regular monofilament. Grouper run out, grab a bait, and head back for cover.
Serious grouper anglers will crank the drag down on their reel as hard as they can, often using a pair of pliers to lock it down. The idea is to stop the grouper from taking the line and returning to his structure home.
When a grouper strikes, anglers will lay their rod on the rail and start winding as hard as they can. When a grouper makes it into a rock or reef, many anglers will simply break off the line and try again.
In the Gulf of Mexico, grouper anglers use magnum diving plugs that will go as deep as thirty feet or more. Strip baits are cut and attached to a double hooked trolling feather.
The wire line method is popular in and around south Florida in the winter when big black grouper move into the shallower reefs. Sometimes thirty yards in diameter, they are an ideal habitat for black grouper.
When one occurs, the boat moves directly away from the reef to drag the fish away from its hole. A head boat that provides the bait and tackle is an ideal way to bring some home to eat.
The most often asked question when it comes to deep drop fishing is, “what size hooks do I need?” While the answer varies wildly depending on what you are targeting, this article will help point you in the right direction.
Before we begin, it is important to know that hook sizes change from one model to another even if they are the same brand! Black belly Rose fish: These fish have an unusually large mouth for their size and are very aggressive.
Even small black belly rose fish will not have an issue getting hooked with a 12/0 or 13/0 circle. This hook size will work fine for the smaller 5-10lb tile fish as well as larger ones if they are in the area.
You will want to move up to a 16/0 hook if you are putting on big slabs of bait. While you don't need a rig for every size hook, it would be wise to cover your bases when it comes to deep drop fishing.
If the hook is too small it will not be able to set itself correctly in the corner of the mouth. As always, if you have any specific questions feel free to contact me and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.
Some bait shops may have pinkish you can buy, but we recommend going out a day before your grouper trip and catching some above bait fish to store in your live well. If you’re targeting a rock pile or wreck, anchor your boat up current and throw some old cut bait in the water.
A regular bottom fishing tackle setup is a great place to start. We like using a 6 to 7-foot long heavy action rod paired with a bottom-fishing reel and 50 lb test braided line.
Like we mentioned earlier, we usually fish for grouper off the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, so these are the species you’ll most likely encounter there. They are gray and brown and love living close to coastal rock piles and underwater wreckage.
Gag groupers will even hang in water only a few feet deep if there are structure and bait fish nearby. Their massive size means you need to fish with an extra heavy-duty set up in order to stand a chance.
One of the first mistakes amateur grouper fishermen make is keeping their drag at a normal level. This is a big mistake when fishing for grouper due to their tendency to retreat back to rocky holes and tunnels after they take your bait.
IF your drag is set high, it will be much harder for them to make it back to their rocky hideouts before you can reel them away. Drifting allows you to cover more water and get your bait in front of more fish than if you anchor your boat.
Since oftentimes the difference between catching a grouper and not is just finding them, drifting allows you to maximize your chances enticing them to bite. As long as the current isn’t too strong and your lures aren’t down too deep, you should still be able to keep your live/dead bait right where you want it.
Since they live at deeper depths than other sports fish, they still enjoy feeding when the surface bite is off. This is why it’s always a good idea to have a bottom fishing reel and rod ready for off days.
Now that you know what the proper grouper bait is and how to fish it, you’ll be prepared next time you get out on the water. Now that you have your rod, reel, braided line and leader material it's time to put it all together.
This involves terminal tackle: swivels, snaps, weights (sinkers) and hooks, as well as spooling the reel. Over the years I have settled on three types of knots and a configuration that allows me to change weights and hooks on the fly.
Snap swivels have an additional feature allowing them to be opened and closed. Purchase swivels that are salt water rated and have a breaking strength in the 90-125lb range.
Circle hooks are designed to lodge in the corner of the jaw as opposed to gut-hooking a fish. The non-offset circle hook complies with both federal and state regulations so get those to be safe.
It is debatable whether this is needed for most grouper fishing but the little advantage it brings won't hurt. For grouper fishing I recommend using 80-150 lb test monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders.
Here is a step-by-step process resulting in a full spool of braid backed by mono. Tie the end of the braid to a spool of mono (15-30 lb test) using a double uni knot Continue winding until the reel is full.
Finally, tie the end of the mono from the last step on to the reel you want to fill and wind it on. The result is a reel backed by mono and filled to the max with braid.
Finally, we will tie the snap swivel to the end of the leader, make up some interchangeable weight connections and tie some hooks to separate sections of leader. SINKER Attachments: I find it convenient to be able to switch out weights while fishing without having to retie anything.
To accomplish this, thread a sinker on to a 6" section of leader and tie a regular swivel on one end and a snap swivel on the other end using an improved clinch knot. Tie this knot so that the line is going through the hook eye in the direction of the point (the opposite of the demo link).
These beasts of the deep hit like no other fish in the world and will strain even the strongest fisherman. There is a reason that many people in South Florida seem to give up on all other species and target grouper specifically.
While some people describe the fight as “like a large catfish,” this is like saying that a monster truck is “like a car.” The initial hit will bury the butt of your rod in your gut and leave you breathless. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man made reef or natural, this is the preferred habitat.
You can also find them near drop-offs, rock structure, and the steeper sides of shipping channels. No matter the size, the grouper is a stout fish with a lot of strength.
Their strength combined with their massive mouth makes them an outstanding ambush predator. Normal foods are mostly baitfish, but they have been known to feed on crustaceans, squid, and just about anything else that gets too close.
These makes bait selection for grouper quite easy as they will eat most anything if it gets close enough. In the cooler months, grouper are likely to move closer to shore but there is no season that you can’t land one.
Even a 50-pound grouper is very capable of tearing apart a rig used for other similarly weighted fish. The reel needs to be heavy and capable of holding 80 to 100-pound test line.
You will need the strength of this setup to get the bests off the bottom or out of the holes they often run to when hooked. You can successfully fish groper with a spinning reel as long as its heavy duty and can hold the right line.
I’m pretty sure that even the largest wire hook would be straightened by a large grouper. Either braided or mono main line works as long as it’s strong enough and you have a good leader.
Being more abrasion resistant is a bonus when your quarry lives in rocky holes. The following three are general purpose rigs that will work well for Grouper or any other bottom feeding species.
This simple setup uses a three-way swivel with one loop attached to your mainline, one sinker, and one to your leader. A heavier leader is preferred but the line to the sinker should be relatively light so it can be broken off if need be.
The sinker will slide closer to the swivel as the bait settles. This takes any slack out of the leader and gives you a shot at setting the hook before the fish darts back to cover.
This rig offers any live bait more room to move and works well to draw out reluctant feeders. In this case, the sinker is attached to the mainline above the swivel, usually by simply looping the line through.
The main downside of this rig is that it gives a grouper plenty of time to get back home before you get the hook set. Sardines are probably the most successful live bait, especially if caught fresh with a net or bait fish rig.
Due to the noise they make, many fishermen swear by using live grunts as an at tractor for grouper. Blue Runners are another popular fish if you are after larger grouper species.
Grouper are not a picky species and will most anything including lady fish, menhaden, squirrel fish, and thread fin just to name a few. Crab is a less popular bait for grouper but can work well of a bottom rig, especially for shallower water species.
One of the biggest problems with using lures is getting down deep enough without getting hopelessly caught on the structure they call home. While they are effective, you may need to add a piece of shrimp or other bait to the jig.
Buck tails fished the same way can produce some good hits, especially with juvenile or smaller grouper. Alternatively, butterfly jigs can be a great way of pulling reclusive grouper out into the open.
Any soft plastic that mimics the usual food for grouper can be effective. Patterns that imitate sardine, mullet, and pinkish are probably the most popular and successful options.
I will admit that I am a big fan of fishing spoons in general, I think they are an underrated lure option. Getting hung up is a real concern with spoons but if you drag one in front of a grouper, there is a good chance he is going to take it.
Grouper are not a fast fish and may ignore lures that move by too quickly. Moderate your speed and pauses, you can expect more hits when the bait is left idle for a second.
Though normally associated with open water fish, trolling is an excellent tactic to cover a lot of ground in your search for grouper. You will have to factor in fuel cost but you may find it worthwhile to spend the extra money for a more likely catch.
Off the coast of Miami, trolling for grouper has become a big part of the local fishing scene. The idea is to get a large lipped diving plug and send it down to skim the sand in 20 to 30 feet of water.
Your trolling speed should be slow and your lure should be running less than 20 feet from the abundant rock structure in the area. If you pass your lure close by a waiting grouper, it is more than likely that he will rush out to grab it the moment he sees it.
The Tampa fishermen will run the sides of shipping channels with a live bait suspend just along the steep edge. Controlling your depth to keep it in range of the channel wall without getting it hung up requires some skill.
The boat will easily haul them out of range of their cover and all that’s left is the fight. If there are grouper, trolling is an effective tactic provided you can get a lure down deep enough.
Usually, you will see fishermen using either live bait or large lipped diving plugs when trolling. It may be worth a try just keep it slow so the scent of the bait has some time to spread.
Keep your speed low, your lure deep, and stay close to structure. If you get a hit from a large grouper, it may feel like you are hung up until it yanks hard on the line.
That critical moment of the bite is your only shot at a solid hooks set. After the shock of your first large grouper catch, the first order of business may be shaking some life back into your arms.
It will surprise you just how hard a 20-pound grouper can pull compared to any other fish you have ever hooked. Furthermore, the behavior of most of the sea fishes are more wild, and they pay less attention to the artificial hook.
Also, the hook's shank length can be any, and there is no world accepted classification exists for describing it. The large sea fishing hooks are numbered from 1/0 (“one aught”) to 20/0.
But, if you're buying fishing hooks online, it is crucial not only choose proper number, but also check the linear sizes of selected hooks, because the sizes can differ up to 50% for the same number. 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. 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.
To bridle a live bait for grouper, you'll need the following items that are relatively easy to come by. 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. I see many members are interested in grouper jigging recently.
I fish for red & gag grouper west of Tampa Bay, in water ranging from 30-80 deep. When I fished with Tommy Butler out of St Petersburg, FL, groupers were so thick that it took only a minute to get bites on bait, but I couldn't land a single grouper on jig except a few scampi.
I often fish grouper commercially in NC and it is usually tough to get them on jigs. Grouper in Dry Tortugas usually hit jigs very well.
It looks like in that picture you have you tied the leader directly to the jig and have no top assist hook, just a single bottom is that right? Grouper can chase fast moving jigs, but I always have more success by moving jig slowly close to the bottom.
I caught some grouper by squid ding (reeling steadily in slow speed) too. I experimented other jigs with same results in recent years.
But the choice of rod is depending on what sizes of grouper I am getting on a particular trip. I see so many groupers are lost on party boats because anglers use lighter line for them.
Grouper can chase fast moving jigs, but I always have more success by moving jig slowly close to the bottom. I caught some grouper by squid ding (reeling steadily in slow speed) too.
I experimented other jigs with same results in recent years. The brands and shapes of hammered diamond jigs are not critical as I caught grouper on many diamond jigs.
When you fish deep, you have to use bigger jigs to hold bottom. The Good Times are catching nice golden tile and snowy grouper.
Opinions on type of hooks (circle, J, Octopus) and sizes, using big Make. The heavy weight/tight line sets the hook automatically when they come tight.
I prefer a J hook when using a jig or sliding weight rig (don't know if you all bottom fish with those over there). Match hook size to your bait but groupers have huge mouths so keep that in mind.
When circle hooks were first gaining traction here years ago we were catching a lot of undersized red snapper with 12/0-16/0 eagle claw circles. I mean tiny snapper in the 15" range hung on pretty large hooks.
Since seeing that I don't worry about using too big of a hook bottom fishing, they will catch. One more thing, if you want the best chance to be the one pulling a grouper up on big boat have your bait on the bottom before anyone else.
Reactions: Bill W, sierraazuel, Squid Seismic and 1 other person I prefer to catch mine with a surface iron tied to fresh 40lb Izor-rope.
35# Start Studded Grouper caught near Cab San Lucas on the pacific side in 300' of water. 40# Gulf Grouper caught near Puerto Penance, Mexico in 80' of water.
The way we fish grouper your drag is hammered down tight from the git-go, rod on the rail... And here in the Gulf when we are fishing oil rigs for grouper we back the boat up close to the rig, engine idling, in neutral.... As soon as a fish is on the captain bumps it into gear and motors away from the rig helping to pull the fish from the structure. Again no luck involved, it's all carefully planned and choreographed.
Down deep, you don't stand a snowball's chance in hell IMO! Here is fairly typical grouper habitat from Roman Honduras.
This dive was Approximately 80'-100' on the top of the reef wall to 130' deep at the bottom of the wreck. You literally have less than two seconds to turn their heads in this environment, or they have you in a hole.
Down deep, you don't stand a snowball's chance in hell IMO! That looks more like a gulf grouper as it appears to be missing the frills on its caudal fin which should be 3-5" long on a Broom tail of that size.
Could be a pacific Goliath grouper too which are known for small eyes in relation to the head which your fish seems to have. When in doubt, error on the size of big--bait, hook, line, drag and hold on tight.
Agreed that the first 10 seconds of hooking one in the rocks will usually decide if you are going to land it, so be ready. I do lots of Grouper fishing here in Florida, as well as LR, and in Puerto Vallarta.
A bridled Skippy with a circle sure works on the big Grouper, and Cargo. Goliath's like Bat Rays, and Blacktop Sharks and a circle.