Grouper Fishing with Scales N Tails
We have two basic kinds of grouper here in the Gulf of Mexico waters. Red grouper are our most common and the season for catching them is the longest, lasting from January to October with talk of keeping them open year round a possibility. These grouper are a great fish, have to be 20 inches long to keep and are the most common grouper served locally in the many local restaurants. We find them on what is termed “hard bottom” or a rocky bottom that contains crabs and other small fish that the grouper eat.
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They can be as shallow as 20 foot deep water and we fish as far out as 160 feet of water for them. We fish for them with dead bait fish such as sardines, mackerel, bonita and others. We use live bait such as pin fish, spanish sardines and crabs on occasion. We mostly use conventional reels, rods able to handle at least 50 pound mono-filament line and lead sinkers weighing as much as 8 ounces. Rules set by fish management agencies require us to use circle hooks and those vary in size depending on the boat captains preference but are generally at least 6/0 or bigger. Leader is usually 60 pound or stronger and about 2-4 feet below the sinker.
The drag on the leader is what we call ” locked down” as tight as it can be because these grouper will go into the rocks in an effort to get away. Once they get in the rocks, you generally won’t get the grouper out and must break off the line. One thing you have to avoid when fishing for grouper using circle hooks is “setting” the hook or jerking when the fish strikes. The circle hook is designed so that the fish basically hooks itself and all you do is reel for your life. When the water is cool, these fish will fight for every inch on their way to the top and quite often come off but many keepers are still put in the boat.
Gag Grouper are our second most common fish in the waters around Clearwater. They are brown with lighter colored spots and range from 10 ft of water to 200 ft. They must be at least 22 inches long to keep and if you’re lucky enough to get one off the bottom, you will have to earn it. They are one of the top fighting fish in the ocean and will give you all you can handle. They are fished for the same way as the Red Grouper but not necessarily in the same places. These grouper tend to hang around structure such as big rocks, wrecks and the many artificial reefs we have near Clearwater. Again, another great grouper to eat, they are prized by fisherman because of their fight.