How To Hold Grouper

Paul Gonzalez
• Friday, 13 November, 2020
• 7 min read

Sure, it’s not really complex and you won’t impress strangers with your cosmic knot-tying skills. This is an ideal knot for terminal tackle connections.

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The Grouper Knot works great on anything with an eye; hooks and swivels are perfect candidates. The small profile and simple construction of this knot make it easy to tie anywhere, it’s a great one to keep in your arsenal for rough days offshore.

The Figure 8 knot is strong, easy to tie, and fast. Watch our quick how-to video below and learn how to tie a Grouper knot.

Oil spills, red tide, a gradually sloping seafloor and ill-considered fishing regulations make it increasingly difficult for fishermen across the region. Thankfully, the following months provide a much-needed reprieve, with the allowable harvest of gag grouper across most of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Red grouper have been on the menu for months and can be found in the same general areas, but you’ll have to alter your approach to the prevalent conditions, depths, current and bottom structure. DIG DEEP While running to and targeting specific structures is a good way to catch grouper, trolling offers an exciting alternative that provides several key benefits.

Perhaps the greatest asset is the ability to discover hidden bottom facets absent from local nautical charts. Thankfully, the following months provide a much-needed reprieve, with the allowable harvest of gag grouper across most of Florida's Gulf Coast.

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In the Gulf, many anglers drag Mann’s Stretch 25+ and Papal Countdown Magnum 22 plugs, but no matter what you choose it’s imperative your lures run close to the bottom. While even the smallest structures hold grouper, you’ll want to target large areas of live bottom because it will be difficult to make tight turns on the troll as you try to work a specific ledge or rock pile.

Pinkish are the top choice for many, with thread fin herring, cigar minnow, squirrel fish and pilchard also commonly employed. Many of the most productive spots in the Gulf are small ledges, rock piles and areas of limestone bottom that are so slight they barely emerge from the sand.

While you will encounter both red and gag grouper in the same general areas, they do prefer slightly different habitat. Gag grouper are more aggressive and prefer ledges and areas with greater relief and contour, compared to red grouper that scatter around large ledges and prefer areas with subtle relief that locals call “Swiss cheese” bottom.

When you detect the unmistakable thump of a hungry grouper inhaling your bait don’t swing back and set the hook. Chunk baits can also be effective, but the problem with these enticements is that juvenile sea bass, snapper and trigger fish will peck them to the bone.

MAGIC METALS Natural bait works wonders, but when you first pull up on a promising stretch of bottom you might want to start by deploying artificial jigs. While observing the current and checking the drift before setting the anchor, toss out a jig and make an exploratory drop to see if anyone comes out to play.

grouper holding
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With zero stretch and incredible sensitivity, braid will help you keep in touch with the bottom while also telegraphing the slightest action on the fall. Whatever you choose, free spool until you hit bottom and then give your rod a swift jigging action.

When the jig is on the fall be sure to follow the rod tip to avoid line coming tight until it hits bottom. Some swear by this approach, while others prefer to work the jig erratically through the bottom third of the water column.

Although the latest chart plotting systems and advanced sonar technologies paint a clear picture of what lies below, you really never have an exact idea of what’s on the bottom unless you get a personal look with your own eyes. As you would expect, grouper are apprehensive and skittish when approached by divers, so you want to distance yourself while hunting a trophy.

If you shoot a grouper and don’t kill it on impact you can expect all hell to break loose. If a grouper makes it back to its hole before you could fire off a shot you’ll have to evaluate the situation.

You’ll have to make an educated decision because a poor choice could result in lost fish and spear. These fish are generally not on many anglers lists prior to arrival as most come for the legendary cuber snapper and rooster fish.

grouper hold sick room40 rookie
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Grouper mainly stick to structure near the bottom, often sitting in holes, caves and under ledges. Many times it will get hit on the way down by other fish like rooster fish and giant Almach jacks.

Once it is on the bottom, slowly continue to let out line so it stays in one place. Keep the reel in free-spool and put your thumb on the spool to adjust the pressure on demand.

It is important to know you are dropping your bait off to the side of the structure and not directly on top of it. If there is lots of current, (2mph or more) only let it stay on the bottom for up to 5 minutes at a time.

(If there is lots of bow in the line, a fish can take the bait and get to his home in the rock before you are able to put enough pressure on it to slow him down.) Many times line will just start coming out of the reel after two strong jerks.

The first is the fish inhaling or tasting the bait, and the second is him making sure the whole Bonita is in his mouth or throat. Grouper have large mouths and almost always eat the bait head first.

grouper dix goliath haha clinton
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We like to give around 3 seconds before engaging the drag or just make sure you felt those two big thumps. Once you come tight you need to put as much drag as you can handle immediately and just start reeling.

If he is able to turn and get his head aimed straight down you are in trouble and chances are he is going to get into his rock and it is game over. This is where the low gear function on a two-speed reel comes in handy.

Grouper have big air bladders that will expand and lift them to the surface. We have even seen several times they come off the hook after a few minutes of fighting but then float to the surface because they don’t always have the strength to battle their own buoyancy and get back down to the bottom.

Book a trip and catch one of these monsters of the deep sea! The four stout rods set off the stern bend against the resistance offered by the thick-lipped plugs digging their way through the indigo-blue Gulf waters.

Blacks, reds and gags more or less hang around together, and the same area of structure may hold all three species. They also share an even more desirable feature: groupers are fabulous table fare, especially when prepared fresh from the water.

grouper gulf mexico
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Both gags and blacks eat mostly squid and small fishes, but are not above taking a lick at just about anything edible-looking that swims by. There are times of the year when grouper move quite close to shore, but to consistently take these critters, you really need to have a boat.

In those bygone days, a captain's ability to find his way back to his favorite glory hole was the stuff of legend and lore. GPS, Loan and incredibly accurate bottom sonars have made it relatively simple to find and return to a productive grouper hole miles from the nearest land-based reference point.

Bottom fishermen use 3 to 8 ounce sinkers and bait up with cut fish, squid or small bait fish. We're including the Nassau grouper and Jewish here for identification purposes, since they are two species that are now illegal to harvest in Florida.

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1 www.fisheries.noaa.gov - https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/black-grouper
2 myfwc.com - https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/saltwater/grouper/black-grouper/
3 www.kwseafood.com - https://www.kwseafood.com/seafood/fish/grouper-fillets/black-grouper
4 www.dreamstime.com - https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/black-grouper.html
5 www.seafoodshack.com - https://www.seafoodshack.com/grouper-black-better/
6 castandspear.com - https://castandspear.com/types-of-grouper/
7 www.starchefs.com - https://www.starchefs.com/pernod/html/black_grouper_i_stewart.shtml