Grouper Fishing Basics

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Grouper are found mostly offshore on the reefs and wrecks in deeper water.  Some species of grouper can be found inshore like the gag grouper and goliath grouper.  Inshore, grouper can be found along deep water docks, mangrove-lined shorelines, near bridges and smaller fish can often be found on grass flats and shoals.

How to Catch Grouper

Grouper are caught mostly by bottom fishing with live bait.  Trolling for grouper with large, deep-diving crankbaits is another popular method for catching grouper on the nearshore reefs.  Some anglers will also fish with jigs and soft plastics.  Free lining a live bait works well when grouper are in the shallows near the mangroves and bridges.  Heavy tackle is needed to pull these strong fish out of their deep water hideouts.

Recommended Tackle

You are usually going to need medium heavy to very heavy tackle.  Grouper can often be found around all types of bottom structure, so it’s very easy to lose fish due to the snags if you don’t go heavy enough.  For some of the smaller grouper, you may be fine with 20 pound test line and a medium to medium heavy rod, however, for bigger grouper, you will need to go bigger according to the species of fish.  You can easily be using fishing line well over 100 pound test line depending on the size of the fish.

Eating Grouper

Grouper taste delicious.  Their mild taste usually wins over people that typically don’t even like to eat fish.  There are tons of recipes out there for serving grouper.  Baking, grilling and frying are all great methods for preparing grouper for the dinner table.

How the Tides Affect Grouper Fishing

Inshore, the tides play a huge role in where and how grouper will be feeding.  Gag grouperand goliath grouper can be found near the mangroves, around bridges and docks.  Some of the shallow water hangouts are much more productive during the high tide.  Fishing on either side of the high tide will usually lead to some good fishing.  The bite slows down during the slack tide.

During the low tide, some of these shallow water spots that are good for grouper will not be as effective.  As water levels drop, some areas will not hold enough water along the docks or mangrove-lined shorelines, but some of the deeper water that is found in the nearby channels and holes will still be productive.  Some other areas to fish are the deep water docks and bridges.  There is plenty of water in these areas to hold good numbers of grouper during the low tide.  Fishing while there is some moving water on either side of the low tide will be effective.  The slack tide is usually a tough time to catch grouper inshore.

Offshore, the tides don’t play as big of a role on the fishing.  Some charter captains report that the tides don’t have any effect on the fishing, while others believe that some moving water is good, but faster currents make it harder to position baits on the underwater structure and chumming becomes more difficult.  It is much more important to have some good reefs and wrecks on your gps than to be worried about the tides when fishing the offshore waters.  If you can find the reefs and wrecks, there is a good chance that you will catch some grouper.

Inshore Fishing for Grouper

Gag grouper can be found inshore and offshore.  The smaller gag grouper, often in the 5 to 10 pound range are found inshore along deep water docks, mangrove-lined shorelines, near bridges and smaller fish can often be found on grass flats and shoals.  Anglers usually target these fish inshore by trolling deep-diving crankbaits, jigging over some type of structure or with live bait near the bottom.  Some of the better live baits are pinfish and cigar minnows.

goliath grouper

Goliath Grouper are becoming a favorite among anglers that are looking to target big saltwater fish.  The fact that you can catch goliath grouper inshore means you can target a huge saltwater fish without the long boat rides and large waves that you will have to deal with in offshore waters.  Fishing for goliath grouper offshore can still be very exciting, but catching them inshore is much more appealing to most anglers.

Inshore, you can find these huge fish near bridge pilings, deep water docks, in deep holes and along ledges.  Some of these smaller goliath grouper can be found along mangrove-lined shorelines and oyster bars.  The best times to catch these fish is during the tidal changes.  Incoming tides and outgoing tides will both offer good fishing opportunities, while slack tides are typically the worst times to fish for them.

Offshore Fishing for Grouper

When someone mentions offshore bottom fishing, most anglers think of grouper.  You will find grouper all over the many offshore reefs and wrecks, so you’re going to need a good chart that shows where these spots are located.  If you don’t want to do it on your own, most of the popular fishing destinations that offer grouper fishing will also have many offshore fishing charters that know where the best fishing spots are located.  Grouper can often be found in offshore waters as shallow as 25 feet or down as deep as 500 feet.

There are a variety of different grouper that you may end up catching, but gag grouper are the most abundant.  Anglers that fish for grouper will typically be targeting gag grouper and if they catch another type of grouper, it’s a bonus.  The giant goliath grouper are also very popular to catch.  Even though you may find goliath grouper in many of the same spots as other grouper, the way you fish for them will be completely different if you are targeting this species specifically.  Anglers that target goliath grouper will be using much larger baits such as small jack crevalle, stingrays, big mullet and large pogies.  The bigger, livelier baits tend to be much more productive, although, you can catch goliath grouper on smaller baits and with cut bait.  You are also going to need much heavier tackle.  Huge rods, large reels, 150 to 600 pound test line and sinkers in the 1 to 4 pound range are common when fishing for huge goliath grouper.

Spawning Grouper

Because there are so many different species of grouper, you can find grouper spawning at many different times of the year.  Some grouper, like the goliath grouper, spawn during the summer months in large schools offshore.  You can find grouper spawning during the winter, spring, summer and fall months depending on the species.  Grouper spawn in offshore waters in large schools.


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