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. Grouper will chase a bait occasionally, but by far they prefer to ambush their prey.
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.
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.
During the fall and spring seasons in the clear shallows anglers who fish in the Gulf of Mexico realize just how many grouper can be caught. It’s because they hide in the deep surrounding rock formations down in the holes of the porous gulf floors.
When Gulf water temperatures dip in late fall, gag grouper move up onto the flats in good numbers. “They’ll nail a top water plug or a fly (with a 12-weight, minimum), and even jerk baits rigged for trout,” says Captain Gregg.
Captain Gregg says serious grouper -fishing enthusiasts watch their GPS/depth sounders for the right surrounding habitat and structure where they’ll drop live baits using heavy lead sinkers or lead feathers with squid to the bottom and slowly drift in the rock formations. Captain Gregg says, “I guard these spots with my life!” and avoids excessive exploitation.
His anglers release many grouper,which may be undersized in or out of season, but also larger ones for conservation reasons (though he acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with keeping a few legal fish for dinner). While finding gags in the shallow rock piles and hidden springs that target this coastline isn’t always easy, for those who know where to look, it can be a remarkable way to catch grouper.
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. A struggling bait fish bouncing up and down at the bottom of a shipwreck is irresistible to an opportunistic grouper.
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.
With the arrival of our first few mild cold fronts, Red and Gag Grouper have begun their fall migration into nearshore shallow water haunts. This seasonal migration offers bay boat anglers the opportunity to target keeper sized grouper well within sight of land.
Arguably the most popular GulfGrouper species, these brown bulldogs venture well inshore as the Gulf water temps drop. The most common methods for targeting gags is trolling lipped plugs near the bottom, or anchoring up on rock piles, ledges and wrecks.
These depths generally produce Gag Grouper, so I’m looking to troll near hard bottom areas with small breaks and ledges. Make sure to mark your GPS when a fish is hooked for a second round of trolling or jigging.
Heavy action spinning outfits are preferred for jigging, they offer a lighter weight package that’s more comfortable to fish for extended periods of time. Casting and Jigging Soft Baits, like the Holy Pro Tail Series is excellent for covering bottom while drifting and on anchor.
Owner of The Intrepid Angler, Captain Ross hails from the historic waters along the Caloosahatchee River. He has a a fishing guide and outdoor professional working the waters of Florida and Alaska over his career.
He now permanently resides in Cape Coral offering anglers exciting opportunities to target trophy game fish around Southwest Florida on a custom Pathfinder 2500 Hybrid Bay Boat. The mouth of the Steinhatchee River, called Deadpan’s Bay since the 1830s, was the home to thousands of Native Americans.
For thousands of years the Suwanee, Alissa, Confine, Steinhatchee, Holloway and St. Marks rivers have deposited soils rich in minerals and foodstuffs into Apalachee Bay. Most anglers choose saltwater species but area rivers and countless creeks provide an abundant supply of freshwater fishing.
As the water warms on the grass flats of Deadpan’s Bay, fish such as spotted sea trout, redfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, lady fish, and jack crevasse, can easily be caught in shallow beach, inshore, brackish river, or backcountry waters. Anyone with a small boat can reach prime fish country easily and safely from the Steinhatchee River.
Live baits such as shrimp and pinkish will readily seduce these fish as will a wide array of artificial including top water plugs, crank baits, spoons, spinner baits, jigs, and a variety of soft plastic grubs. On the Steinhatchee Reef (29° 39.90’N 83° 37.59’W) follow the jumping schools of bait fish as well as the seagulls to locate Spanish mackerel, bluefish, trout, and other aggressive fish.
Grouper, black sea bass, and red and Florida snapper can be caught on the bottom in about 35-foot to 55 feet of water. Every spring and fall the king fish travel through Steinhatchee on their quest to stay in the perfect water temperature, approximately 72° F. Trolling rigged baits or large flashy lures will often bring a sizable hit.
Some rigged baits include a tinsel duster on a blue back or ballyhoo or you can try trolling a chrome-colored Stretch 25+ lure. In fact, Steinhatchee is the top places in the United States for catching bay scallops.
Once a few scallops are seen lying on top of the sea grasses, drop the anchor, put up a dive flag and start collecting. As the water temperature grows cold around October and November, the large spotted (gator) sea trout will flood the Steinhatchee River.
Optimally, trolling several Mann’s Stretch 30+ lures covers the most area and tends to land the largest of groupers. The Steinhatchee Reef also becomes the home for Sleepyhead, a tasty little fighter that can measure up to ten pounds.