The gulf coast of Florida offers some of the best grouper fishing around. The Gulf has fairly calm water most of the year (except for our new 11 month recent hurricane season). The gear is pretty simple: a fairly stout rod, I say fairly stout because you don’t want your rod too stiff because this will effect the action it has on the bait…more on this later. I use 40lb line on the reel with a 100lb shock leader, and about an 8/0 hook. I like to use live bait for grouper fishing but some prefer jigs, spoons, and even heavy grade trolling lures.
After gear, guests, and boat are ready we need to catch some bait. I like to use the “junk” fish that you catch when bottom fishing with smaller rigs. Blue runners, sand perch, lizard fish, etc… Grouper are not real picky eaters when it comes to live bait. Yes, they do have favorites like anything else that eats, but the fish mentioned above will work great. I start my day with a piece of a large squid, about the size of you open hand is usually enough. I like to use large squid because it is tougher and stays on the hook better. Check you local fish market for availability.
We head out and stop around the 45’ area and start looking for our bait. Most of the time there are no clear signs of where the bait is, you just have to keep trying till you have some luck. The bait we are looking for is holding on the bottom most of the time unless you can find some sardines in the area, then try a Sabaki rig or something similar. Cut your squid into small strips and send it to the bottom and see if any small bait fish are going cooperate with your plans. Unless you have a favorite area to catch bait, you might have to move around till you start getting bites. We usually move about 300-500 feet each move till the bait starts biting.
After you get a couple dozen baitfish in the livewell head on out to your fishing area. Ours is around the 100 foot mark and is a series of GPS marks in a 3-5 mile square area. If we don’t get a bite in 20-30 minutes or so we will move on to another GPS mark in the area, (and no, I can’t give you my GPS #’s)…sorry!
This article is continued in part II.