Printer icon
Looking For Something Florida Keys Related?
Search here for what you want (ads also appear)

 Grouper Have The Bulk, Build
And Temperament Of An Ox

Grouper may be an excellent eating Florida fish, but they're also monster fighters that makes bringing them to the dinner table a true sport fishing challenge.

The goliath can average over 8 feet in length and can exceed 800 pounds in weight.

Due to it's tremendous size, this species of saltwater fish has became over fished, and like the nassau is now protected through catch and release only.

Others, like the black, gag, red, snowy, and scamp are plentiful.

Two species that are all time Florida Keys sport fishing favorites are the gag weighing in around 30 pounds, and the black which can top the scales at over 100 pounds.

However, no matter which species you target, or what their size, you'll find they're great challengers worth squaring off against.

Grouper Hiding out by Rock

Grouper Hiding Out Near It's Lair
Florida Keys Public Libraries, Don DeMaria Collection, Flickr

When Florida Keys fishing you'll find that you can basically fish almost everywhere for grouper. The trick is knowing where to go, and what type of grouper you're fishing for.

Some are found in shallower waters, but the biggest brutes are at the deepest levels. Finding them and being able to reel them in is an awesome challenge.

Typically, the most successful Florida Keys fishing trips for grouper are with an experienced fishing guide.

Here's a short video of my husband and myself on a Florida Keys fishing charter trip where 2 snowy grouper were caught deep drop fishing.

We were fishing at about 800 feet, and the task of drifting over the hole where the snowy grouper were lurking, combined with the need to keep the hook off the ocean floor was an awesome challenge.

40 Pound Snowy Grouper Caught On
Marathon Fishing Charters Trip
Dan Sheehan, Todd Render, Captain Aldridge

The level of skill needed when deep sea fishing is immense, and the fishing gear required is far greater than the normal person owns.

Due to these facts, this is why fishing charter trips for grouper are so popular with people planning a fishing vacation.

As A FishingBooker Affiliate I Can Earn Small Booking Commissions At No Extra Cost To You

Want To Go Grouper Fishing?

Best Florida Keys
Grouper Fishing Charters!

Grouper Fishing Tips

Fishing for grouper is like stepping into the ring with a heavy weight champion. These Florida fish ambush their prey, so they have very hard, powerful strikes.

Once you've hooked one, you have one job and one job only. Keep that fish from getting back down into it's rocky lair. This means you have to fight, drag and pull this unwilling heavy weight up from it's dark depths. The problem is, they're not particularly cooperative, and they'll fight you every inch of the way up.

Once hooked, these fish will usually head straight down to their lair - fast. If you're not at the top of your sport fishing game, this fish will be back in his cave and will have broken your line before your reflexes have kicked in.

To prevent this from happening, immediately crank down hard on your drag so the fish can't take more of your line. Then begin to reel the fish in as quickly as possible so it can't get back into it's hiding spot.

This of course is easier said than done. Hoisting one of these fish up can feel like raising the Titanic, or at least a cement truck. It all comes down to their brute strength vs yours.

Another problem you'll likely encounter is that a goliath will notice your hooked grouper. The hooked fish is not moving as fast as normal because it's attached to you and your line. The goliaths have learned that this is the perfect opportunistic moment for a quick and easy meal, and will often attack and eat your fish before you reel it in.

Two Hooked Black Grouper

Two Large Hooked Black Grouper
Florida Keys Public Libraries, Don DeMaria Collection, Flickr

Many Florida sport fishermen consider the goliaths to be an extreme nuisance. Not only are they not afraid of you due to their size, they're smart enough to figure out a good deal when they see one. You catch the fish - they get to eat it. It's a simple formula that works perfectly for these monster saltwater fish.

Grouper Fishing Tackle

To succeed in your mission, you need to be properly rigged. You'll need to have a 6' or 7' heavy duty rod with a 30 - 50 lb. class reel and heavy monofilament line or braided line.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases such as these items above and further below.

Heavy Duty Rods and Reels Are Critical For Florida Keys Deep Sea Fishing

Heavy Duty Rods, Reels and Deep Drop Reels
Are Critical Deep Sea Fishing Equipment

Braided fishing line is stronger than standard monofilament and moves through the water better. It also makes it possible to go deeper without using the heavier weights. Instead of adding on as much as 1 pound in weight, a braided line can you get deep with about 1/4 of that weight.

You'll also need to have an 80 lb. 4' - 6' leader, plus circle hooks that range from 8/0 to 10/0. Circle hooks are very sharp and they catch in the corner of the mouth making it easy to hook the fish. If you're using heavy standard shaped hooks then you'll want to opt for ones ranging from about 5/0 to 8/0.

What's particularly challenging is that these bottom dwellers have a tendency to get quite heavy. Warsaw grouper can reach 500 pounds or more. The sheer prospect of lifting that amount of weight through that much water, is a recipe for pure exhaustion. This is why deep drop fishing is the only way to go.

Deep drop fishing is where you use a heavy duty deep drop electric reels loaded with lots of heavyweight line. You also set up multiple hooks at different lengths with strobe lights attached to attract the fish.

You then attach live or freshly cut bait to the hooks and set the line so it's vertical in the water. The best choice for bait is squid because this is the most common food source for fish living at these greater depths.

Of course this rapidly catching on technique means evolving into an additional fishing tackle line which is necessary if you want to have productive results grouper fishing in Florida.

Traditionally, deep drop fishing tackle has been quite expensive, but it has begun to come down in price making it more affordable. This has increased the number of people who are now actively pursuing this exciting, productive, and challenging form of fishing.

The electric reels and rods that you can use run the gambit in terms of usability and price. You also won't want to forget employing some of the critical components that pull this all together such as the strobe lighting.

How To Catch Grouper

When grouper fishing Florida Keys deep waters, it would seem that your objectives would be obvious. Your first primary goal is to land the fish.

However, the second objective is equally important and may not be taken seriously enough or worse, even overlooked. That is maintaining your safety. It's quite possible for even a strong, heavy man, to be pulled overboard by one of these powerhouse fish.

Make sure you've taken precautions to maintain your balance, and that you're strapped in or held down, so you can't be jerked or pulled overboard by one of these brutes.

Goliath Grouper Are Massive Beasts

Goliaths are Massive Beasts
Florida Keys Public Libraries, Don DeMaria Collection, Flickr

Since this species of Florida fish is a bottom dweller, you'll typically fish deep for them. Warsaw, snowy, and goliath aka jewfish grouper often live as deep as 500' - 600'+.

Gag and black will often hang out in 50' - 150' of water, where wrecks, reefs and mini-ledges are located. A fishing for grouper strategy that works well is to anchor your boat over a structure, as opposed to drifting.

Hook up using live bait such as pinfish or squid and remember the golden rule of bait fish. Large attracts large, small attracts small. Even more important, don't have sunscreen on your hands when handling the bait fish.

Once you're rigged up, let your line out, making sure it goes straight down. The key to this method is to drop your line vertically and keep it tight. Once it hits bottom, reel in once or twice and wait.

Once you feel that first bite, give it a good solid jerk, and immediately begin to try and retrieve the fish. "Try" of course is the operative word, because at the other end, you have a very ornery, heavyweight fish.

Trolling For Grouper Can be Very Productive

Trolling Can Be A Very Productive Florida Fishing Technique Photo Derke Snodgrass, NOAA/NMFS/SEFSC/SFD

Trolling for gag, black and other grouper species is another popular technique when fishing in 15' to 25' of water. This is when you slowly work over an area that has structure, keeping your downrigger line stretched out with hooks rigged up with pinfish or cut up squid.

In the winter months, when bait fish aren't as plentiful, you can have very productive Florida Keys fishing results using lures such as plugs and feathers.

Another fun technique to try when trolling is to throw out some chum to bring these Florida fish to the surface. You can also chum when in the shallow grassy water, anywhere there's some sort of cover.

Once they surface you can sight fish and fly fish to them, upping the challenge even more by using lighter weight tackle to reel them in.

These fish can be found anywhere there's even minimal cover. You can fish for them successfully in water as shallow as 6' or as deep as 600'.

All the different species basically act the same when it comes to food. They hide in their lair and wait to ambush their prey. Striking hard, they then make a quick retreat back to their den.

Boat Load of Goliath Grouper

Jewfish Fishing Before the Ban
Florida Keys Public Libraries, Don DeMaria Collection, Flickr

Knowing this, anyone sport fishing Florida Keys can expect the same kind of action whether targeting gag, snowy, black or even warsaw.

It all starts with the easy part - hooking one on. However, once that mission is accomplished it may feel more like a spiraling, downhill, roller coaster ride, rather than a Florida fishing trip.

When the day is done, it'll come down to these two questions. Did you have enough stamina to beat this ox-like brute? Or did the fish beat you?

Looking For Something Florida Keys Related?
Search here for what you want (ads also appear)


Do you have anything to add? We look forward to feedback on what you've just read so leave me a comment in the box below.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

You May See Ads Here

You May See Ads Here


Local Weather Zip Codes

Key Largo - 33037
Marathon - 33050
Key West - 33040