Groupers are delicious and sporty to catch. They come in different colors and variations and are most common in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida waters. If you want to catch a grouper, there are a few things you need to know. First, groupers have large mouths, so use a larger bait to catch them. There are different grouper species; you need to understand their habitats and the time they’re more active for a successful fishing trip. Remember, the type of grouper you catch depends on the location and time you’re fishing. The most popular fishing methods include jigging, trolling, using baits and lures, and spearfishing. Remember to check the regulations and restrictions for grouper fishing in your area before going to fish.
Groupers like hiding around the reefs and rocks, and you must bring a fishing tackle purposely made for grouper fishing. If you’re interested in Florida grouper fishing, here is a complete guide on different grouper species, the best spots to catch Florida grouper, and the techniques and tricks you can use.
Different Types of Groupers and Their Habitats
There are different grouper species you can find in Florida. They include:
1. Red Grouper
Red groupers are commonly known as “The Reds” in Florida. They are delicious, and you will mostly find them in your local restaurant. A red grouper prefers living around rocky bottoms of around 1000 feet deep. They are incredible fighters, and you need strong fishing gear to catch them.
2. Goliath Grouper
Goliath groupers are popular among anglers because they are gentle and grow big. A grown-up Goliath grouper can weigh up to 800 pounds. Unlike other groupers, Goliath grouper don’t live in extremely deeper waters, as you can find them in waters up to 160 feet deep.
Goliath groupers are restricted from fishing, and you can only fish for them if you have a valid fishing license and have to release them back into the water unharmed.
3. Black Grouper
Black groupers are huge and powerful. Like the red grouper, black groupers prefer living around rocky bottoms or the reefs’ edges. These species are delicious, but you need a lot of patience and effort to catch one.
4. Snowy Grouper
Snowy groupers are rare to find in most Florida waters. They live in deep waters with a depth of around 800 feet, but you can still spot them in waters within 600 feet range. If you get lucky and catch one, be ready to battle because they don’t give up easily.
5. Yellow Edge Grouper
This species like hanging out in deep flat bottoms, and you have to book an offshore charter to move to deep waters. Most people prefer eating Yellow edge grouper because their meat is succulent, moist, and sweet.
6. Gag Grouper
Although gag grouper doesn’t grow as big as black groupers, they are strong and great fighters. The Gag grouper are commonly found near wrecks, drop offs, and rocks in around 60+ feet of water. You can catch adult Gags in shallow waters if you’re lucky enough.
Other reef fish include the Nassau grouper and the Scamp grouper.
Best Time of Year and Location to Catch Grouper
Grouper fishing in Florida happens all year round. Groupers are commonly found in The Florida Keys, but you’ll also find them in other destinations like Panama City and Destin. However, during fall, you will rarely see groupers on the Atlantic side of the Keys because they are inactive during this season.
The first Florida grouper fishing season begins in May and ends in October. During this season, you can keep your catch for dinner, but this doesn’t apply to the Goliaths as they’re not supposed to be kept at any time.
The next season starts in January and ends in May. It is at this season that mature groupers spawns.
The best place to catch a grouper this season is in the Hawk Channel, located on the western side of Florida Keys. Here, you can catch plenty of smaller groupers at shallower waters since they are overly active at this period.
However, this is a catch-and-release season, so you’re not supposed to keep the grouper you catch. The best time to go for grouper fishing in Florida is early morning and late afternoon.
Techniques for Catching Grouper
There are different techniques you can use to catch groupers. The most popular techniques include:
- Bottom Fishing
Most grouper live on the sea bottom, and you can reach them using the bottom fishing technique. This method involves using a sinker, rod, and reel with an extra-long line, weighted hook, or lure. Bottom fishing mostly targets all fish types. You can use a boat if you want to cover large offshore waters.
This technique involves using boats equipped with lines and downriggers. You can use this method for both shallow and deeper waters. Most anglers use trip combos, diving plugs, or feathers to lure grouper to the surface.
This technique involves using a spear gun to catch a grouper. Although this method makes you feel like a real hunter, it’s advisable to follow all safety precautions to prevent accidents.
For example, ensure you use a shorter spear gun because you’ll be diving through rocky areas. Remember, you’re not allowed to use the technique on certain species, such as Nassau and Goliath Grouper.
Most anglers prefer fishing for grouper using this method because it’s versatile and easy to learn. You can catch almost all fish species using dead bait and lures.
To target species living in shallow water, consider using jerk baits or large live bait. On the other hand, metal jigs work best for species living in deep waters. When trolling in deep waters, use Millo-lure with orange or pink color.
To increase the chances of groupers using this method, start by identifying where their school is. You can use a FishFinder and drop your jig deep in the water. Then shake the rod to allow your jig to bounce up and down.
Regulations and Sustainable Practices
All grouper species are at risk of overharvesting, and that’s why they are regulated differently across the US. The Caribbean Fishery Management Council (CFMC), the United States Fishery Council, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have set regulations that help manage grouper fishing.
In Florida, US, you must have a valid Florida saltwater fishing license to fish for groupers.
The CFMC has put in place safety measures to observe when releasing groupers back into the water. Some of the safety measures include:
- Using safety devices to release groupers back into the water without harming them.
- Avoid putting your fingers in the gills to avoid injuring them.
- Refrain from handling groupers with dry hands.
- Using a barbless hook to avoid damaging the gullet.
- Always ensure the gills are submerged in water to prevent barotrauma.
- Using a rubberized net to maintain the grouper’s slimy coating.
You should maintain hygiene when cutting and storing groupers to prevent food poisoning. Remember to work in a clean environment and store safely in clean packages.
If you’re not planning to eat your grouper sooner, place their fillets in a clean container and put them in a freezer.
Groupers are common in the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Keys. They are available in different species, but the black and red grouper are the most popular ones.
The type of grouper you catch depends on the location and time of the year you go fishing. Most anglers use jigging, trolling, and spearfishing to catch groupers. However, it’s advisable to check with the local authorities on the most appropriate fishing method for different groupers.
Groupers are reef fish that like hiding in the reefs and rocks, and you need to bring along fishing tackle purposely made for grouper fishing. Before you start fishing, check the restrictions and regulations in that region.