Do you want to see how that last big catch stands up to the state records, or do you just need a good dose of humility to help your fishing karma? North Carolina's fishing records are impressive, and they can make even a seasoned angler read the weight twice.
“Adult gag grouper live in nearshore waters from coastal North Carolina south to Brazil and as well as in the Gulf of Mexico. Smaller gag are a lot of lighter in coloring, and have numerous dark brown, or charcoal, kiss-like marks along their sides.
“Young gag grouper will live in oyster reefs, estuaries and seagrass beds from Massachusetts to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The coloration of red grouper helps to distinguish this species from gag with its head and body being dark reddish brown, shading pink or reddish or even pale pink along the lower part of its body,” Nash said.
“In North Carolina, gag will typically spawn in February and have clear larvae, which then make their way into estuaries. As water temperatures start to go down in the fall, juvenile gag will migrate from estuaries to offshore hard bottom habitat and larger members of their species,” said Seward.
Seward noted that all grouper are considered protogynous intersex, “that is they start their lives as females, and a part of the population will morph, or make the change, to males as they get older. Females start to reach sexual maturity when they are about 24 inches in total length and about 3 years old.
They are voracious predators, and will feed on whatever they can capture including scad, snapper, grunt, sardines, crabs, porgies, shrimp and squid, said Seward. Red grouper sitting on sand habitat 45 degrees to camera full body view mouth open.
In addition to their color, red grouper can be distinguished from gag by the sloped, straight line of their spiny dorsal fin. “The red grouper is also a protogynous intersex and females are sexually mature by the time they reach 4 years old,” Seward said.
Females typically will let go an average of 1.5 million pelagic eggs that stay at the surface for between 30-40 days before finally settling down to the bottom. “Red grouper may live to be as old as 25 years of age, with older specimens reaching a size of 32.5 inches and up to 25 pounds.
They will feed on lobster, shrimp, octopus, crabs and fish that are found close to their preferred reef habitat,” Seward said. Bottom fishing is the best way to catch gag grouper, using live bait, including squid and cigar minnows.
Use a depth finder to find deep-water rock ledges, artificial reefs and shipwrecks, a gag grouper ’s favorite hiding place. An annual shallow-water grouper spawning season closure runs Jan. 1-April 30 in federal waters off the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, except red grouper, for which the season remains closed until June 1.
Recreational and commercial fishermen are required to use hooking tools when fishing for the snapper grouper species. “This prohibition does not apply to fish harvested, landed and sold before the annual catch limit is reached and held in cold storage by a dealer,” said North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries Executive Assistant to Councils Steve Poland, who is also a representative with the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
A stock assessment update, Sedan 53, for red grouper was completed in February 2017 using data through 2015. Therefore, on Sept. 27, 2017, NFS sent a letter to the council stating that the South Atlantic red grouper stock was not making adequate progress toward rebuilding.
“For red grouper, this final rule extends the closure season formerly from January to April, to January through May of each year for the next ten years for the commercial and recreational portions off North and South Carolina, and establishes a commercial trip limit,” said Poland. This final rule establishes a commercial trip limit for red grouper harvested in the South Atlantic EEA of 200 pounds, gutted weight.
The trip limit is expected to help rebuild the red grouper stock by discouraging directed commercial fishing for the species, although it is not likely to substantially reduce the current level of commercial harvest of red grouper, according to the National Register. “The council selected a commercial trip limit that in combination with extending the spawning season cloture for red grouper off North Carolina and South Carolina would help keep down harvest numbers to help rebuild the stock,” Poland said.
With an official weight of 106.3 pounds, the black grouper Thurman hauled in was 56 inches long. The catch of a lifetime happened Sept. 3 when Thurman and some friends launched out of Port Fourth with Down the Bayou Charters.
After a morning of catching fish left and right, Thurman said Bubble helped him get a Shaman Tiara 50 reel with 300-pound monofilament and a custom, 5-foot-5 extra-heavy action rod situated with live bait and lots of sinkers. “All of a sudden, that rod just doubles over, and I knew right from the moment I set the hook it was something huge,” Thurman said, adding he initially suspected the catch was a shark or amber jack.
Ian Bubble with Down the Bayou Charters lifting the giant grouper. Buzbee said the catch came in the middle of the trip. Thurman said during the fight, he had a rush of adrenaline, but he still almost gave the rod to someone else to finish the job until he looked down again.
“About 15 feet from the boat it rolled over, and I knew it was a grouper because of the large mouth and huge paddle tail. As soon as the grouper was brought aboard the boat, Thurman said Bubble radioed another captain and crew a few miles away and told them a state record had been broken.
Thurman said the entire experience proved to be memorable, including the trip to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries office in Borg to certify the catch. In the back of my truck I have this fish in a hundred-gallon tub and it’s covered in cardboard.
North Carolina State Saltwater Fishing Records | Fortune Hunter Fishing Charters* World All Tackle Record FishWeightLocation CaughtYearAngler Albacore (False) Little Tunny 26 lbs.
0 oz. Off Oregon Inlet1971Harry Lee Way, Jr. Amber jack 125 lbs 0 off Cape Lookout1973Paul Bailey, Jr. Barracuda 67 lbs 7 escape Lookout1985Buddy D. Garden Bass, Black Sea 8 lbs 12 off Oregon Inlet1979Joe Michelle Bass, Striped 60 lb. 8 oz. Off Topsail Beach1972Jackie Blanchard Grouper, Warsaw 245 lbs 0 ozWrightsville Beach1967Cora Keen Grunt, White 4 lb.
8 oz. Off Cape Lookout1969Vernon Councilman Hog Snapper 13 lb. 8 oz. Atlantic Ocean1992Larry Bell Pompano, Florida 7 lbs 13 one River Inlet1981Arthur Rice Porgy, Jolt head 11 lb.
8 oz. South Hatteras Inlet1978Norman C. Morse Porgy, Saucer eye 13 lbs 2 off cape Lookout1987Glenn D. Greer Sailfish 100 lbs 0 off Ocean Isle1987John P. Grooms, Jr. Shark, Blue 478 lb. 0 oz. Off Oregon Inlet1983Russell J. Lang ford Shark, Scalloped Hammerhead 234 lb.
0 oz. Off Cape Lookout1980Jack Cable Shark, Tiger 1,150 lbs 0 ozYaupon Beach Pier1966Walter Maxwell Sleepyhead 19 lbs 4 off Oregon Inlet1999Chris Robbins Snapper, Red 40 lbs 0 escape Lookout1970Ben Grant Spade fish, Atlantic 8 lb. No one has ventured a guess as to why there are so many huge gag grouper being caught this summer, but everyone is glad to hear the stories and see the pictures.
In addition, several huge gags have been caught that weren’t eligible for state records because the anglers used electric reels to wrestle them from the depths. The barrage of big gags began on May 1 when Jim Lasher of Isle of Palms, S.C. headed offshore with some coworkers and Capt.
Floyd kept an eye on his fish finder on the way in and pulled back the throttle on a piece of structure in 160 feet of water. Lasher dropped a 6 ounce Pro Buck tail Jig, sweetened with a small piece of cut bait, to the bottom and the deal was on.
Lasher first weighed it at Isle of Palms Marina and then at Harrell’s Point Tackle to confirm the weight. Lasher called the South Carolina DNR office, but it was after hours and no one was available to check the fish until the next morning.
A pair of brothers from N.C. caught their gag grouper of a lifetime several weeks apart in June. However, both recorded their largest gag groupers ever this year and the fish were approximately three weeks and three miles apart.
He was fishing in 180 feet of water approximately 40 miles out of Beaufort Inlet when the big gag hit. He had the drag tightened down all the way and the fish took line easily enough he thought it might be a shark or big amber jack.
Neither he, nor his fishing buddy Bradley Brown were prepared to see the big grouper that rolled up beside the boat. It was hours later when they opened the fish box to take it to the certified scales at Chain’ Tails Outdoors and NG said it looked larger than he remembered.
Several weeks later Alex NG headed offshore on a grouper trip with his brother Anthony. They couldn’t help but talk about Alex’s big fish as they headed to another structure a few miles away from where it had been caught.
Anthony NG said they had a couple of nice grouper in the fish box when a big dolphin swam by. Alex had just rebated, but not dropped over, so he grabbed a spinning rod and cast a bait towards the dolphin.
Anthony said it ran so far he was just waiting for that telltale twitch as the line rubs a rock and breaks, but it never came. His main purpose on this trip was to introduce his kids, Summer and Sawyer, to dolphin fishing, hoping they would like catching them as much as he had as a youngster.
After trolling for a while, he realized he was near a ledge that had produced several nice grouper in the past, so he stopped to make a couple of drops and see if there was anyone home this time. NOTE: The current N.C. gag grouper record is 47 pounds, 4 ounces and is held by Greece Gaul with a fish caught off Wrightsville Beach last year.
A spokesman with the NC Division of Marine Fisheries confirmed that at least one state record application has been received and is being vetted.