How To Fish: Grouper
Thanks to their mild flavor and many health benefits, grouper are one of the most sought-after fish. If you're planning a fishing trip to Florida, you can find grouper in plentiful supply along the Atlantic Coast.
It's always grouper season in Florida, and this species is often found hanging out around reef ledges on the bottom of the sea floor. There are various types of grouper found in Florida, from red to gag, black, and even yellow edge grouper, some of which weigh more than 500 pounds.
Wondering how to fish grouper in Florida? You've come to the right place. Here, we'll cover exactly what you need plus some expert tips and tricks to make your next grouper fishing excursion a successful one.
What You'll Need to Reel in a Great Catch
Aside from a boat and the right type of rod, there are various other supplies that you'll want to have on hand when angling for grouper, including:
- Weights or sinkers. Grouper is a bottom-feeding fish, so fixing weights and sinkers to your line will help bring your bait down to the seafloor where you’re more likely to score a bite.
- Bait. Grouper tend to like frozen squid, octopus, or crab as bait. Live bait, such as a pinfish or bait fish and chum blocks will help attract grouper.
- Hooks. Wondering what size hook for grouper fishing? We suggest circle hooks at sizes from 4/0 to 10/0.
- Reel. You'll need a reel that can hold lines up to 100 pounds.
- Rules and regulations. You'll also want to know what the current rules and regulations are for grouper fishing. Size limits are often enforced and certain subspecies of grouper open and close to harvest at various points throughout the year.
Tips, Tricks, and Recommendations for Grouper Fishing
Master Bottom Fishing
Since groupers are bottom-feeding fish, they tend to lie and wait for food along the ocean floor. In other words, they're not actively swimming like some species of fish. Grouper tend to swim around the reef edges and wait for an opportunity to feed. Noting this, it's important to know how to bottom fish for grouper, which is the most popular technique used to angle grouper.
Try to locate an area with rocks, ledges, or reefs. Usually, you'll have to travel a distance offshore to find these spots, sometimes even up to 80 miles. Then bait your hook, put a weight or sinker on the line, and drop it to the sea floor. Wait until you feel a tug on the line, which could indicate a bite.
Chum the Water
One thing you can do to increase your chances of catching grouper is to chum the area you plan to fish. You can either purchase a chum block or create your own chum mix by grinding up fish in a mesh bag. Grouper tend to like sardines and menhaden oil. If you plan to chum the water, do it before casting your line down to the sea floor.
Keep Your Line Tight and Reel Fast
When bottom fishing for grouper, you'll want to keep your line tight. This will help you feel any bites. Groupers tend to feed in an ambush-style. That is, they wait for their prey, then attack it by opening their mouths and inhaling it. Grouper will then try to take off with the bait and retreat to their hiding place in the reef or rocks on the sea floor. Once you feel a tug on the line, it's important not to yank the rod. Instead, you'll want to reel fast and raise the rod. This will set the hook in the fish's mouth. Do this over and over again until you fully reel in your catch.
Know Where to Fish Based on the Season
Grouper are always in season in Florida, but you should be aware of the best spots to catch grouper based on the time of the year. During the winter months, they're more likely to be found inshore and nearshore. Moving inland to where the water is warmer is common behavior of most deepwater fish in the wintertime. Summer tends to be the best time of the year to catch grouper offshore as the fish returns to the deeper waters.
Bottom fishing isn't the only technique that can be used to angle grouper. Another technique is trolling. Once you find your fishing location, set your boat to about two knots and canvass the area. Trolling helps you cover a larger area of water and can lead to a more overall successful catch. Just be sure you're trolling on the edge of any rocks or reefs so your line doesn't get caught.
Pack Your Patience
Finally, you'll want to be patient when fishing for grouper (let alone any type of deep-water fish). Fish behavior can be unpredictable. One day, you might catch multiple grouper and another day you may not get any bites. It's just the way fishing goes sometimes. The best you can do is know the right techniques, bait, and locations.