The gulf coast of Florida offers some of the best grouper fishing around. The Gulf has fairly calm water most of the year (except for our new 11 month recent hurricane season). 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. I use 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.

Grouper bait

After gear, guests, and boat are ready we need to catch some bait. I like to use the “junk” 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 day with a piece of a large squid, about the size of you open hand is usually enough. I like to use large squid because it is tougher and stays on the hook better. Check you local fish market for availability.

We head out and stop around the 45’ area 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 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 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 fishing area. Ours is around the 100 foot mark and is a series of GPS marks in a 3-5 mile square area. If we don’t get a bite in 20-30 minutes or so we will move on to another GPS mark in the area.

Grouper Rig

Ok, we have caught our bait and are now at or near the 100’ deep area and are ready to see if any grouper are going to cooperate.
Our 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 one end and a 8/0 hook on the other.

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 into the snap also. 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 won’t even hit the bottom before something nasty grabs it.

 

Technique

At the beginning of this 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 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 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 will catch more fish…..Try it!

Most people who grouper fish 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 hot spot if you are lucky enough to drift over one.
Well this should help you get started catching more grouper. Please practice catch and release whenever possible and remember the large fish don’t taste any better than an average medium one. Take a picture and let the hog’s go back to catch again later.

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Grouper Tackle
Rods

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Reels

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Lines

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Weight

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Hooks

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Bait

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Accessories

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