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Beginner’s Guide to Grouper Fishing

Grouper are one of the tastiest fish, and grouper fishing takes place all along coastal waters from New England to Florida and Texas to Brazil. Everyone wants to land a gag or black grouper as these are the largest and can be in the 30-pound and above range. Other groupers are red, yellowfin, and Warsaw.

Grouper like to hang out on the bottom of the ocean under structures, such as rock formations, ledges, coral reefs, artificial reefs and wrecks. They lie in wait underneath a solid object and then shoot out to ambush unsuspecting fish. Fishermen use tackle for bottom fishing that is in the medium to the heavy-duty range. A boat rod with regular reel is the norm as is thirty to fifty pound line. It is one thing to get a big grouper on your hook and quite another to reel him in.

When grouper fishing, be prepared for lots of lost line, hooks and bait. Grouper love to sneak up and grab your bait, and then hightail it back underneath a structure, usually tangling and breaking your line in the process. Many times you may even have to cut off your line because regaining control of it is pretty much impossible. If you have a lot of patience, you might be able to wait out a grouper for a half-hour to hour until he decides to chase other prey and frees your line from underneath the rocks.

Epinephelus_malabaricusGrouper like to eat squid, other crustaceans, and small fish. There are several ways to catch grouper–the top three are a fish-finder rig, a live bait rig or by trolling. The fish-finder rig is the least likely to get hung up on the bottom. It uses a leader, hook, sinker and bait. You will need a heavy-duty sinker to keep your rig on the bottom. Tie a bank sinker or a pyramid sinker on the end of your leader. A foot and a half from the sinker a foot-long loop is tied in the leader, and then the hook is attached to the loop. Usually, squid is used as bait.

In the live bait rig, the leader is very long, sometimes five or six feet. An 8/0 or 9/0 circle hook is used. A sliding egg sinker is attached to the line above the leader. As live bait is used, the long leader lets it swim more naturally, so the grouper never suspects something is amiss. The fish also does not feel the pull of a weighted sinker. Still, no matter how inconspicuous you try to be, once the fish is hooked it is going to take all of your strength to bring him in.

Trolling with artificial bait is often used in the Gulf of Mexico to successfully land grouper. The water is often shallow there and they use magnum diving plugs which they troll around rocks and ledges. Another version that involves the use of wire leader and heavy tackle is sometimes used in South Florida in the winter to catch red and black grouper.

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