The system is mimicked to how a penguin moves through the water, and two people doing it together is easy, smooth, steady and comfortable.” Stevens’ gag grouper trips range from eight get of water on flats edges all the way to the middle of the bay.
If the wind is going predominately one direction, he’ll arrange a start and pickup going all the way across the bay. During the trip he’s fishing channel edges and hard bottom with heavy tackle.
Heavy spinning gear is Stevens’ preferred grouper tackle, with 40-60 pound rated rods and 8500 or bigger series reels that he trolls big lipped diving plugs on with heavy braided line. These fish are big and mean and pull hard so you better hold on tight.
This past week Stevens was able to put fellow kayak enthusiast Pamela With on four gag grouper, including one keeper sized fish, in just 45 minutes of fishing. The biggest fish we hooked was eaten to his head by a shark.
The grouper season in South Florida closes for four months on January 1, so time is running short to catch one of the hard-fighting, great-tasting fish. Bouncer Smith, who does “Bouncer’s Tackle Tips” every Saturday at 6:45 a.m. on The Nautical Ventures Weekly Fisherman radio show on Win 940-AM, which is live-streamed from 6-8 a.m. on the Nautical Ventures Facebook page.
“As soon as you catch a baby bonito, you hook it through the upper lip and you drop it down on the upstream side of the wreck. “We’ve already had very good black grouper fishing this fall,” Smith added.
The grouper season closure, which runs through April 30 in Atlantic waters, was implemented in 2010 to allow the populations of black, gag and red grouper to increase in number and in size, as well as protect the fish during their spawning seasons. Bouncer’s advice and you’ll be able to enjoy several delicious meals of fresh grouper for the holiday season.
Photo: Screen Gabon unofficial world records exist for kayak fishing, and there are two sites that we’re familiar with that keep them. But to give an idea about the size of this Goliath grouper, the all-tackle world record is 680 pounds caught off Florida in May 1961, before they became protected in 1990.
These beasts of the deep hit like no other fish in the world and will strain even the strongest fisherman. There is a reason that many people in South Florida seem to give up on all other species and target grouper specifically.
While some people describe the fight as “like a large catfish,” this is like saying that a monster truck is “like a car.” The initial hit will bury the butt of your rod in your gut and leave you breathless. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man made reef or natural, this is the preferred habitat.
Their strength combined with their massive mouth makes them an outstanding ambush predator. Normal foods are mostly baitfish, but they have been known to feed on crustaceans, squid, and just about anything else that gets too close.
These makes bait selection for grouper quite easy as they will eat most anything if it gets close enough. In the cooler months, grouper are likely to move closer to shore but there is no season that you can’t land one.
Even a 50-pound grouper is very capable of tearing apart a rig used for other similarly weighted fish. The reel needs to be heavy and capable of holding 80 to 100-pound test line.
You will need the strength of this setup to get the bests off the bottom or out of the holes they often run to when hooked. You can successfully fish groper with a spinning reel as long as its heavy duty and can hold the right line.
I’m pretty sure that even the largest wire hook would be straightened by a large grouper. Either braided or mono main line works as long as it’s strong enough and you have a good leader.
Being more abrasion resistant is a bonus when your quarry lives in rocky holes. The following three are general purpose rigs that will work well for Grouper or any other bottom feeding species.
This simple setup uses a three-way swivel with one loop attached to your mainline, one sinker, and one to your leader. A heavier leader is preferred but the line to the sinker should be relatively light so it can be broken off if need be.
Your swivel and line weights should be the same as the above rig and your leader should be less than 10 feet. This takes any slack out of the leader and gives you a shot at setting the hook before the fish darts back to cover.
This rig offers any live bait more room to move and works well to draw out reluctant feeders. In this case, the sinker is attached to the mainline above the swivel, usually by simply looping the line through.
The main downside of this rig is that it gives a grouper plenty of time to get back home before you get the hook set. Sardines are probably the most successful live bait, especially if caught fresh with a net or bait fish rig.
Due to the noise they make, many fishermen swear by using live grunts as an at tractor for grouper. Blue Runners are another popular fish if you are after larger grouper species.
Grouper are not a picky species and will most anything including lady fish, menhaden, squirrel fish, and thread fin just to name a few. Crab is a less popular bait for grouper but can work well of a bottom rig, especially for shallower water species.
One of the biggest problems with using lures is getting down deep enough without getting hopelessly caught on the structure they call home. Buck tails fished the same way can produce some good hits, especially with juvenile or smaller grouper.
Patterns that imitate sardine, mullet, and pinkish are probably the most popular and successful options. I will admit that I am a big fan of fishing spoons in general, I think they are an underrated lure option.
Getting hung up is a real concern with spoons but if you drag one in front of a grouper, there is a good chance he is going to take it. Grouper are not a fast fish and may ignore lures that move by too quickly.
Moderate your speed and pauses, you can expect more hits when the bait is left idle for a second. Though normally associated with open water fish, trolling is an excellent tactic to cover a lot of ground in your search for grouper.
You will have to factor in fuel cost but you may find it worthwhile to spend the extra money for a more likely catch. Off the coast of Miami, trolling for grouper has become a big part of the local fishing scene.
The idea is to get a large lipped diving plug and send it down to skim the sand in 20 to 30 feet of water. Your trolling speed should be slow and your lure should be running less than 20 feet from the abundant rock structure in the area.
If you pass your lure close by a waiting grouper, it is more than likely that he will rush out to grab it the moment he sees it. The Tampa fishermen will run the sides of shipping channels with a live bait suspend just along the steep edge.
Controlling your depth to keep it in range of the channel wall without getting it hung up requires some skill. The boat will easily haul them out of range of their cover and all that’s left is the fight.
If there are grouper, trolling is an effective tactic provided you can get a lure down deep enough. Usually, you will see fishermen using either live bait or large lipped diving plugs when trolling.
You will have to get them down to the bottom and that can be rough on live bait but may be worth the trouble. Keep your speed low, your lure deep, and stay close to structure.
If you get a hit from a large grouper, it may feel like you are hung up until it yanks hard on the line. That critical moment of the bite is your only shot at a solid hooks set.
After the shock of your first large grouper catch, the first order of business may be shaking some life back into your arms. It will surprise you just how hard a 20-pound grouper can pull compared to any other fish you have ever hooked.
Unless you are a guide that depends on the gear for your livelihood, it may not be worth the money. These large fish are typically caught in the two to 12-pound range, though they can be found up to 20-30 pounds.
You can find them along the East Coast of the Americas from Brazil through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to as far north as New England. Juvenile fish take shelter on the inshore glass flats and shoals until they mature.
During most of the year, mature gag grouper like to hide around any type of structure that can give them shelter. They can be found in ledges and holes and love to populate offshore reefs and shipwrecks.
As winter approaches, a massive migration of gags head for the warmer protection of the inner shores, especially within the Gulf of Mexico, to spawn. During the late fall and early winter, they’ll show up a few miles off the shoreline along with Spanish mackerel, king fish, speckled trout, blacktop and spinner sharks that are chasing the schools of bunker and herring close to the beaches.
Many anglers catch lots of gags on spinning and plug tackle, but live bait tends to be the best option. By law, you’re required to use a circle hook when bottom fishing in much of Florida’s cost, including the Gulf of Mexico.
When hooked, these are very powerful fish that want nothing more than to run back into a hole or ledge and take you with them. You’ll need to have heavy gear with you to prevent the fish from taking your line.
Most anglers crank the drag on their reel down all the way to prevent the fish from reaching a hole. This is where the grouper will run into a hole or under a ledge and spread its gills locking itself in place.
To prevent that, keep the drag tightened so it’s almost impossible to pull line off of the spool. Keep your rod held low so you can immediately lift it as soon as the fish strikes, turning it away from the rocks.
Start to cautiously reel in all slack to the point that your rod is low to the water and tight to the fish. I am currently on the field staff team for Penn Reels from Pure Fishing.
In the past I’ve had sponsorships from Died, Bull buster, Eagle Claw, and I’m currently helping promote Mons ta fishing apparel.