Where to Fish
From Florida to Texas, anglers from Naples around to Brownsville sharpen the treble hooks on their Mann +30 magnum diving lures, and set GPS numbers in their new GPS units when the cooler weather begins to arrive. They know how to catch grouper, and they are ready for the fun to begin.
Trips from places like Steinhatchee, Florida, can be made with relative ease in a comparatively small boat. This time of year it is not uncommon to find good quantities of gags in water less than thirty feet deep. That means you are less than ten miles out and still in sight of the shore.
As water temperatures moderate, gag and red grouper venture in from deep water to the relatively shallow areas from five to thirty miles offshore. Ledges, wrecks and artificial reefs will all become havens for these bucket mouths.
How to Fish
- Some anglers like to bottom fish with live bait, and pinfish are preferred over most other baits. Grunts will work, and cigar minnows or Spanish sardines will also work. But pinfish just seem to have that big grouper look to them.
- Grouper fishing on the bottom is pretty standard fare. Live bait on an 8/0 hook sent to the bottom. Anchoring is key in that you dont want to end up directly over a rock pile. Fish to one side or the other. Be prepared to crank the drag down as tight as it will go to keep the fish from taking you into the rocks.
- Trolling with deep diving lures becomes an exercise in following a ledge or rock pile. A very good GPS with mapping capability will allow you to traverse the same territory over and over. Some ledges are a few feet long. Others, apparently like a fault line, can run for a half-mile or more. Natural rock outcroppings dot the seabed along the Nature Coast, and the grouper love them. Red and white along with chartreuse fire tiger are good colors for these diving lures.
Gulf grouper can, at twenty inches, legally be two inches shorter than Atlantic grouper. I think that may be because the population is more stable in the Gulf. Whatever the reason, a limit of grouper on every trip is not only possible; it is the norm this time of year.
Fifty-pound tackle, heavy monofilament leaders and a strong back can be the ticket to some good eating. Try marinas and guides in places like Galveston, New Orleans, Biloxi, and Orange Beach. In Florida try the Steinhatchee, Horseshoe Beach, Suwanee or Cedar Key areas for some great grouper fishing. These areas are smaller and the shore waters receive less fishing pressure. You success rate is more likely to be higher from these locations.
Make sure you release undersized fish. A nineteen-inch grouper looks awfully big and, yes, it will feed about four people. But maintaining the resource for future generations is key to all of us being able to fish a lifetime.
Write me when you get back and Ill give you some grouper recipes that will knock your socks off!