Jigging For Grouper In Florida

Danielle Fletcher
• Wednesday, 22 September, 2021
• 7 min read

Randy fishes 8-ounce Mission Fishing jig heads with pink, chartreuse or glow curly tails. Randy targets “Swiss cheese” bottom, which is simply limestone rock formations with frequent sandy holes that give the appearance of a submerged dairy product.

jigging popping grouper lockwood kevin key west fishing locations
(Source: www.delphfishing.com)


Grouper take up residence in these holes and generally respond aggressively when a jig comes bouncing by their dwelling. Randy idles across the structure until he spots a show of fish on his bottom machine.

Randy advises dropping the jig/bait to the bottom and letting the boat’s drift move it along the structure. As the lure hops and drops into and out of the cheese holes, its buck tail skirt dances and pulsates to give the illusion of a living creature.

(When anglers go with the manual option, it’s wise to have at least one more rod in a holder to maximize your effort.) Swiss cheese bottom also attracts swarms of mangroves, lane and vermilion snapper.

Randy is Vance Time, owner of Tight Lines Tackle in Tampa and founder of Brother Jigs. Although specializing in Tampa Bay trolling, Vance is equally adept at offshore jigging.

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.

grouper jigging florida surftalk
(Source: www.stripersonline.com)

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. The following tips will help put more grouper in the boat no matter what port you call home.

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. 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. 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.

grouper snapper jigs cobia fishing
(Source: www.thehulltruth.com)

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.

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. In the presence of amber jack and other predators, center weighted jigs might never make it to the grouper zone.

Whatever you choose, free spool until you hit bottom and then give your rod a swift jigging action. You should only move the rod tip about five feet as you let the jig bounce bottom and stir up the substrate.

When the jig is on the fall be sure to follow the rod tip to avoid line coming tight until it hits bottom. 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.

grouper jigging florida ksong
(Source: www.thebassbarn.com)

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.

They are incredibly powerful fish who will snatch up a bait and run for cover without giving you an opportunity to react. When working large jigs and live baits near the grouper's typical haunts, anglers must prepare to muscle the fish out and away quickly.

Trolling ballyhoo and large deep diving plugs like Papal Magnums and X-Raps have managed to coerce the fish to leave the safety of their holes to track our baits. Using Penn 6/0 Senators filled with 40lb monofilament we can cover ground and pull the fish a safe distance away from their holes when they strike.

The size of this species is so large to the extent that you have to employ specialized techniques in order to catch them. However, whenever they sense danger, they tend to make power run to the bottom of the water.

If you have ever tried catching a Goliath Grouper, then you can bear witness on how it canton you around and how easily they can snap thick rods. They are roughly at the top of the food chain since they tend to eat all types of fish, whether they are rays, permits, and even smaller sharks.

grouper lures
(Source: vimeo.com)

Some anglers have also observed that Goliath Groupers have a habit of stealing fish that has been hooked by them. They are a bit rare, therefore before you begin looking for one, ensure that you have confirmed sightings of these fish in that particular water source.

However, these large members of the grouper family tend to like shallow waters that range from 5 to 15 meters. In other areas, they have been fished out, the odds of coming into contact with one are slightly thin.

At the beginning of this article, we did mention how you must use a specialized technique to catch a Goliath Grouper. Most anglers who go for Goliath Grouper fishing end up breaking several rods due to the energy used in catching one.

Fortunately, on the market, there are rods built and designed for Goliath Grouper fishing. It is highly recommended for you to invest in heavier gear both for your sake and that of the fish.

You will be surprised at the massive number of them which swim around with a hook in their mouths due to use of light gear. Ensure that you keep enough distance that gives you the chance to pull them away before they make a run for it.

jigging florida grouper surftalk
(Source: www.stripersonline.com)

If you observe that your bait isn’t being noticed byte grouper, then you can bounce it off the bottom and create some form of movement. The good news is that Goliath Groupers eat a variety of fish.

Rays are also excellent bait for catching Goliath Groupers mostly because they do give off a lot of scents that attractGroupers. Note that the peak season for catching this species is in between June to August and remember that it is illegal to keep.

Tackle specifically for these large fish can make catching it relatively less hectic. You should shop for Goliath Grouper fishing rods and lines prior.

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1 en.wikipedia.org - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyporthodus_niveatus
2 www.inlandseafood.com - https://www.inlandseafood.com/seapedia/grouper-snowy
3 www.fisheries.noaa.gov - https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/bulletin/commercial-closure-snowy-grouper-south-atlantic-federal-waters-december-12-2020
4 seafoods.com - https://seafoods.com/product/399-snowy-florida
5 txmarspecies.tamug.edu - https://txmarspecies.tamug.edu/fishdetails.cfm
6 www.allfishingbuy.com - http://www.allfishingbuy.com/Fish-Species/Snowy-Grouper.htm
7 deepseacoraldata.noaa.gov - https://deepseacoraldata.noaa.gov/library/abundance-and-habitat-of-deep-reef-fishes-off-south-carolina
8 safmc.net - https://safmc.net/regulations/regulations-by-species/snowy-grouper/
9 www.fws.gov - https://www.fws.gov/arcata/es/birds/WSP/plover.html