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How To Catch Gulf Grouper

author
Bob Roberts
• Saturday, 26 December, 2020
• 9 min read

Whether red, gag, black, yellow fin, or Warsaw, a good grouper in the ice chest means a successful day for lots of folks. Some species of grouper range from New England to southern Brazil and Texas.

grouper gulf mexico catch
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Contents

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.

grouper gulf mexico catch
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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.

The water in the Gulf of Mexico is comparatively shallow, and this method works well there. 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.

grouper gulf mexico catch bite
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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.

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.

grouper gulf
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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.

gulf mexico grouper catch trout
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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.

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.

beach orange grouper catch gulf shores annie fishing charter want know
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The FCC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) manages the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean differently, and it’s important to know what’s in season and what you can harvest from each shoreline. The Gulf of Mexico is a unique body of water that provides commercial and recreational anglers plenty of fishing opportunities.

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.

gulf mexico grouper catch
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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. While federal waters have a season from May 1 until August 31 and there is a bag limit of one per vessel per day.

The Gag Grouper, Mycteroperca microbes Gray or light brown with wavy markings on the side that generally do not form boxes or circles.

Color deepens to dark brown shortly after removal from water. SIZE: Can reach 50 pounds on deep offshore wrecks and ledges, and has been recorded to 80 pounds, but 20-30 is the usual maximum range, and most catches now fall between 2 and 12 pounds.

Many juveniles are caught from inshore grass flats. World record 80 pounds, 6 ounces; Florida record 80 pounds, 6 ounces.

fishing bottom grouper snapper
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FOOD VALUE: Excellent; firm white flesh; little red. GAME QUALITIES: An aggressive striker and hard fighter at all depths.

Offshore bottom fishermen tend toward stout rods with 50- and 80-pound-test lines, but such grouper digging” rigs are strictly necessary only in very deep water. Up to about 50 feet, lines in the 20-30-pound range are adequate and allow much more sport.

Many anglers catch lots of Gags on spinning and plug tackle. This is also the best of the Groupers for fly fishermen, since they are frequently found in fairly shallow water and will eagerly take a large streamer fly. Hard- lure casters use Deadhead jigs, mostly, while rollers rely on large deep-diving plugs.

RANGE: Found throughout Florida and Bahamas. HABITAT: Both juveniles and adults frequent inshore holes and ledges, often on deeper grass flats.

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Sources
1 www.farmersalmanac.com - https://www.farmersalmanac.com/calendar/fishing
2 www.floridagofishing.com - https://www.floridagofishing.com/species/species-seasonal-calendar.html
3 www.takemefishing.org - https://www.takemefishing.org/how-to-fish/when-to-fish/fishing-almanac/
4 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater/fishing-tips/seasons/