The gulf coast of Florida offers some of the best grouper fishing around. The Gulf has fairly calm water most of the year. The gear is pretty simple: a fairly stout rod, I say fairly stout because you don’t want your rod too stiff because this will effect the action it has on the bait; more on this later.
Let’s dive right in.
Florida Gulf Coast Grouper Fishing
I use a 40lb line on the reel with a 100lb shock leader, and about an 8/0 hook. I like to use live bait for grouper fishing but some prefer jigs, spoons, and even heavy grade trolling lures.
After the gear, guests, and boat are ready we need to catch some bait. I like to use fish that you catch when bottom fishing with smaller rigs. Blue runners, sand perch, lizard fish, etc; Grouper are not real picky eaters when it comes to live bait.
Yes, they do have favorites like anything else that eats, but the fish mentioned above will work great. I start my grouper fishing day with a piece of a large squid, about the size of your open hand is usually enough.
Large Squid Bait
I like to use large squid when grouper fishing because it is tougher and stays on the hook better. Check you local fish market for availability.
We head out and start looking for our bait. Most of the time there are no clear signs of where the bait is, you just have to keep trying till you have some luck.
The grouper fishing bait we are looking for is holding on the bottom most of the time unless you can find some sardines in the area, then try a Sabaki rig or something similar.
Cut your squid into small strips and send it to the bottom and see if any small bait fish are going to cooperate with your plans. Unless you have a favorite area to catch bait, you might have to move around till you start getting bites.
We usually move about 300-500 feet each move till the bait starts biting.
After you get a couple dozen baitfish in the livewell head on out to your grouper fishing area. Ours is around the 100 foot mark and is a series of GPS marks in a 3-5 mile square area.
Bait for Grouper Fishing
If we don’t get a bite in 20-30 minutes or so we will move on to another GPS mark in the area. We have caught our bait and are now at or near the 100 ft deep area and are ready to see if any grouper are going to cooperate.
Our grouper fishing rig consists of a heavy snap-swivel tied directly to your main line. Make a 2-3 foot leader of 80 to 100lb mono leader and put a heavy swivel on one end and a 8/0 hook on the other.
On the Bottom
Slip enough lead on the snap to keep you on the bottom, usually 12 to 20 oz depending on the wind and tide, and then slip the swivel onto the snap also.
When grouper fishing I hook a baitfish up through the bottom lips out through the top, right next to the fish’s nostril. Sink him down to the bottom and hold on! Sometimes it wont even hit the bottom before something nasty grabs it.
Use a Fairly Stiff Rod for Grouper Fishing
At the beginning of this grouper fishing article I mentioned that you want a fairly stiff rod. Well, the reason you don’t really want a broom stick; is it will effect the presentation of your baitfish.
After you put on 16 to 20 oz of lead and get to the bottom, the rod tip should be moving up and down a little bit with the contour of the bottom. This in turn makes your bait move more instead of just dragging in a straight line.
I’m not saying that you should use a light weight rod when grouper fishing by any means; just don’t use the stiffest rod you can find.
Many times I have used a stiff rod on one side of the boat with a more flexible one on the other. Every time the flexible one will catch more fish. Try it!
Most people who go grouper fishing prefer to anchor up on a spot. Well, we like to drift for them. I guess it is just your personal preference.
I like covering more area by drifting and there is a better chance of finding a new grouper fishing hot spot if you are lucky enough to drift over one.
Well this should help you get started catching more grouper the next time you go grouper fishing.
Please practice catch and release whenever possible when grouper fishing. And remember the large fish don’t taste any better than an average medium one. Take a picture and then let the hogs go back to catch them again later on your next grouper fishing trip.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
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