How To Find Grouper Holes

Maria Garcia
• Friday, 09 October, 2020
• 8 min read

Unlike pelagic such as king fish, tuna and dolphin, grouper generally remain in one area except seasonal migrations into deeper or shallower water. Examples of likely grouper spots include rock formations, structure such as a wreck or sharp channel edge, rocky ledges with washouts and deepwater springs offering cover and a temperature change.

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As for conditions, during hot summer months, most grouper move to deeper, cooler water. By far, the best way to find good grouper bottom is through charts with the GPS and Loan coordinates.

In very clear water, with good sunlight and polarized glasses, you can often see the hard bottom structures. Sea turtles, especially big loggerheads, usually live around rocky bottom, so spotting one that has come up for air is a lucky break.

Search the area with your depth recorder and you’ll probably find a new grouper spot. Trolling large plugs such as Mirror, Mann’s Stretch 30, Rebel Jawbreakers and Magnum Rap alas on planers or down riggers will help you locate grouper concentrations.

On a strike, throw a marker buoy, return and search the spot with your bottom recorder. If you don’t immediately catch fish, drift near the buoy and search for peripheral structure.

Always save good spots in the memory of your GPS or Loan, as well as in a computer program if one’s available to you. Electronic memory is vulnerable to accidental erasure, so keep your data in multiple forms in two or three different places in case you lose one.

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At faster speeds there is pressure on your down rigger cable creating blow back and raising your lures off the bottom. Diving planes with a big plug or large spoon attached to a rod and reel or heavy stainless cable work well because you can troll them faster and cover more ground.

Soft model wire on a rod and reel with a lead or diving plane gets down deep and it can be trolled at faster speeds. What Lures- Big diving plugs like the Mirror, Mann’s Stretch 30, Rebel and Papal work good.

This video provides a step-by-step description of a grouper fishing trip. Starting from loading the boat with the right equipment and supplies to detailed instructions on drifting a grouper hole, tips and techniques are provided in detail.

After a lot of experimentation I developed a tangle-free, flexible grouper fishing rig. This video describes everything you need to know to make up this rig.

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.

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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.

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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.

The more things you can do before the trip to identify potential productive areas the better your chances of putting fish in the cooler. Numbers are the GPS locations for grouper hot spots.

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Some captains put a towel over their GPS screens to prevent their charters from seeing where they are. In the Gulf, the grouper are found on relatively small patches of reef or rock piles.

These areas don't hold many fish and are easily cleaned out after a few trips. Grouper take years to grow to legal size so once an area is depleted it won't be productive again for a long time.

Eventually you will find areas to focus on where grouper holes can be found after a limited amount of searching. There are many reefs and wrecks documented in fishing charts and on the internet.

If you don't know how to enter them, it is worth the time to dig out the manual and figure it out. A dedicated grouper digger will amass hundreds of numbers.

Fished (y/n) date index number (1,2,3...) distance (range) from home (i.e. Stump Pass, Venice Inlet.) heading from home (bearing) GPS coordinates description (type and number of fish caught, depth, bottom notes (reef, rocks, hole...)) If you don't use spreadsheets (Excel, Microsoft works...), at least use a program where you can COLOR code the data.

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I use two text colors for the dates: red for summer and blue for winter. The result is a table you can eyeball and quickly see where you have been catching fish and what time of the year.

The latter is important because grouper migrate seasonally to different depths as the water temperature changes. The weather for tomorrow looks great (seas 2' or less), no rain, no moon tonight, tide high in the morning.......perfect.

You will have time to stop and get some live bait before heading out to deeper water. So you sit down and sort the spreadsheet for range and look at your red and yellow highlighted fishing spots.

After 50 or so grouper fishing trips I decided to put all the productive GPS coordinates on a chart. That area was in the vicinity of a large wreck called the Toronto.

Some good fishing spots can be found within a mile of the Toronto. May 1 marked the official opening of recreational grouper season along the Atlantic coast, which means hard-core bottom fishermen from North Carolina to Key West, Florida, will be gearing up and heading offshore to chase these tasty critters.

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Other good baits include sardines, scads, cigar minnows, spots, craters, grunts, thread fins and ponies or menhaden. Either way, bring plenty of frisky live bait and make sure they are on the large side.

The biggest reason is the over-abundance of the “overfished” (per fishery managers) American red snapper. These snapper are big (many between 12 and 25 pounds), extremely aggressive and will eat you out of bait and boat.

They will swim right to the transom and wait like a Labrador retriever for you to throw something in the water. The second reason I recommend using larger baits is that grouper are inherently lazy and like to eat the biggest, easiest meal they can find.

A gag grouper will routinely eat a bait that is roughly 10 percent of its body weight. Sometimes grouper will fall victim to whole, dead fish such as Spanish sardines or cigar minnows.

The problem with these are the red snapper and the thousands of sea bass, grunts and trigger fish that will peck the dead stuff off the hook. Ideally, you can entice the grouper to feed away from the structure, so you can stop the fish from going back in the hole after he’s hooked.

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Let that fish get back into its home, and be prepared for your buddies to start yelling “gone!” or “fail!” as you tie on a new rig. In this case, try to drop ahead of the spot to land the baits in the strike zone.

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1 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/license/recreational/do-i-need-one/
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3 www.frvta.org - https://www.frvta.org/visitors-need-license-fish-florida/
4 www.eregulations.com - http://www.eregulations.com/florida/fishing/saltwater/licenses-permits/