Grouper Fishing in Florida: The Ultimate Guide
Oct 5, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Groupers are some of the most sought-after species not only along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico but all over the US and even Europe. You can find them in Pacific and Atlantic waters, and as far as the Mediterranean Sea. However, Grouper fishing in Florida is a truly unique experience. Why? 

A diver looking at a Goliath Grouper under water

Well, Groupers are so popular in Florida for many reasons. First of all, they’re really tasty! If you’ve ever been to the Sunshine State, chances are you’ve tried one of those Grouper sandwiches at a coastal restaurant. Secondly, Grouper are incredible fighters and will tire out even the most experienced angler. 

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the best spots for Grouper fishing in Florida, talk about the different kinds you can catch, and discuss the techniques that work best. Let’s dive right into it!

Types of Grouper in Florida

As we mentioned above, you’ll find various species of Grouper along all of Florida’s coasts. You can get your hands on anything from huge Goliaths and Blacks to rare Snowies and Yellowedge varieties. Below, we list a few of the most interesting Groupers, what sets them apart, and where you can find them, among more. But if you’re curious to learn more about the Florida Grouper types, take a look at this article.

Black Grouper

Three happy anglers on a fishing boat offshore holding a huge Black Grouper

Have you ever heard of anyone who doesn’t like Black Grouper? These powerful fish are huge stars in Florida. It takes a lot of effort to land one, and they’re absolutely delicious to boost. These monster fighters prefer to live around the edges of reefs and rocky bottoms up to the deepest drop-offs. 

Gag Grouper

A smiling angler on a fishing boat offshore holding a Gag Grouper

Gag Grouper are great fighters, no matter the depth. Even though they’re not as big as Black Grouper, they can easily tire you out. Gags – or “Grey Grouper,” “Gagger,” and “Charcoal Belly” – are usually found near rocks, wrecks, and drop-offs in 60+ feet of water. Meanwhile, you can find adult Gags in the shallows. 

Goliath Grouper

A happy angler on a fishing boat with a large Goliath Grouper in the water

Goliath Grouper are gentle creatures that are so big, it’s almost unbelievable. Adults can reach up to 800 pounds! They can be found in waters up to 160 feet deep, which isn’t as deep as you’d expect. Fishing for Goliath has been restricted for decades, so you can only enjoy these massive monsters if you let them swim away unharmed. 

Red Grouper

A smiling angler standing on a fishing boat offshore holding a Red Grouper

Everyone in Florida knows that “Reds” are incredibly tasty. Just like their Black brothers, Red Grouper live around the rocky bottom in water up to 1000 feet deep, so you’ll need to go offshore to find them. Reds are incredible fighters and once hooked, they rarely miss the opportunity to show anglers their strength. 

Snowy Grouper

Three anglers holding a large Snowy Grouper while on a fishing boat offshore

Snowy Grouper are not the most common catch in Florida, that’s for sure. They are pretty rare and can show up at depths of 800 feet and you can spot ’em at the 250–600 feet range as well. Snowies grow big, so if you’re lucky enough to hook one, get ready to battle 4 feet of fish!

Yellowedge Grouper

A smiling angler on a boat holding big Yellowedge Grouper

It’s almost universally acclaimed that Yellowedge is the best-tasting Grouper with more moisture in the meat than any other Grouper. To spot one, you’ll need to book an offshore charter and head to deeper waters. Unlike other Groupers in the family who hang out around the reef, wrecks, and structures, this one prefers flat bottoms.

And More!

Of course, Grouper fishing in Florida is a broad church that includes many other members of the family. There are top-level predators like Nassau Grouper, deepwater Yellowfin and Misty, great eating Scamp, small Coney, and super-sized Warsaw varieties. You may need more than just one season to be able to land at least half of them! 

Top Florida Grouper Fishing Spots

While you’ll find these bottom-dwellers pretty much anywhere along the Florida coast, there are some top spots worth mentioning. The general rule here is to choose which Grouper you’d like to concentrate on. As we mentioned above, even though they all belong to the same family, some Groupers live on flat bottoms, while others stick to rocky areas, reefs, and structures. 

Florida Keys fishing boats in a marina with the open sea in the background

Here are a few top spots for Grouper fishing in Florida:

  • Florida Keys. Thanks to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, the Keys are an amazing place to fish for Grouper when it comes to both numbers and size. Blacks, Gags, Reds, and Goliaths are available near the wrecks and reefs off Marathon, and if you go to Key West, you can add Scamp Grouper to the list. 
  • Miami. “The Magic City” Is arguably the best place to fish for Grouper in South Florida. There are hundreds of wrecks and reefs available for Grouper fishing, especially if you’re after rare ones like Snowies and Scamps. Of course, the regular Red, Black, Gag, and Goliath Grouper are also available.
  • Key Biscayne. If you go just a couple of miles offshore, you’ll have Liberty Ship Reef at your disposal, where you can get pretty impressive Grouper catches. Bache Shoal Reef is another common destination for Grouper lovers nearby. 
  • Pensacola. Pensacola’s reef collection is where you can find your bottom-dwellers – Red, Gag, Scamp, and Black Grouper. If you feel a little adventurous, head out to the beautiful Oriskany Memorial Reef. It’s the world’s largest artificial reef, which is often called “Great Carrier Reef” by the locals. Imagine how many Grouper you can find there!
  • Fort Lauderdale. It’s no secret that the waters are filled with structure here, so, naturally, there are a lot of Grouper around. What’s on the menu? The usual – Black, Gag, and Reds, which can be found in the reefs. 
  • Destin. There are so many fish species you can catch in “the Sportfishing Capital of the World,” and Grouper are no exception. There are Scamps and Reds, Goliath and Blacks. In fact, the state record Gag Grouper was caught out of Destin!
  • Crystal River. The waters of Crystal River make up for an amazing habitat for Gag Grouper. The best thing is, you can target these predators in shallow waters pretty close to shore here, which makes Crystal River Grouper fishing so special. 
  • Tampa. For Gag and Red Grouper, head to Tampa Bay’s waterways and channels. If you’re in the mood for some Scamp and Goliath Grouper fishing, Clearwater is the best spot. 

Top Florida Grouper Fishing Techniques

It’s time to find out how exactly you can land a tasty and feisty Grouper. What techniques work best? What tackle should you use to get a big one up to the boat? Let’s dive deeper, starting with the most obvious method to catch Florida Grouper. 

Bottom Fishing 

Fishing rods on a boat

Since Grouper live on the sea bed, it’s natural for anglers to go for bottom fishing – the go-to technique for fishing in deep waters. All you need to have is your rod, a reel with a very long line, lures, or a weighted hook, as well as live or dead bait. Of course, deeper waters require heavier sinkers. 

Bottom fishing for Florida Grouper works great in both nearshore and offshore waters around wrecks and reefs. You’ll normally either anchor the boat to take advantage of a productive spot or drift to cover larger areas of the structure. Bottom fishing is a productive technique to catch any type of Grouper, however, you’ll use a different term – deep dropping – when fishing for Grouper that live in the seriously deeper waters. You’ll read more on this later in the section. 

Trolling 

Trolling for Grouper is a popular technique if you want to fish anywhere where there’s minimal cover. This method works in waters as shallow as 6 feet and as deep as 600 feet. Anglers normally use shallow diving plugs, strip combos, or feathers, slowly working over a structure. Some boats are equipped with downriggers, with lines stretched out rigged with bait. 

If you want some fun, throw out some chum to lure Grouper to the surface, especially if you fish in the shallow grass. When they show up, you can sight or fly fish. Make these lazy bags move once in a while!

Spearfishing

A spearfisher pointing their speargun under water

Spearfishing for Grouper might make you feel like a real hunter. It’s a truly rewarding experience that will provide you with a worthy reward at the end of a hard day. That is, of course, if you take all the necessary safety precautions. Pick a shorter speargun, since you’ll be hunting through rocky areas, and a larger shaft – your targets are big, after all! 

The best part about it is that you can choose almost any place in Florida – from Destin and Miami to Pensacola, Panama City, Miami, and the Florida Keys – to go spearfishing for Grouper. Your adventure will be more fruitful and exciting if you dive with an experienced professional.

Note that some Grouper, such as Goliath and Nassau, are forbidden to spearfish. Take a look at Florida’s spearfishing regulations here

Deep Dropping

Deep dropping is essentially what you call bottom fishing in waters from 400 all the way up to 1,200 feet deep. This is where you’ll find large Warsaw, Yellowedge, and Snowy Grouper. To get down to the rocky bottom where these monsters live, you’ll want electric reels, although some anglers catch them manually, too.

Live bait, such as squid, white octopus, sardines, and bonito strips usually produce good bites. Since Grouper are big and strong, go for a heavy line and bigger hooks. Add the pressure of the water to the equation, and you’ll get yourself a heavy workout! 

Rules and Regulations

Florida Grouper regulations

All Grouper species are regulated differently throughout Florida, although one thing’s for sure – you won’t need a separate permit or tag, as long as you have your Florida Saltwater Fishing License. All saltwater charter operators cover the license for their anglers, though. You can find out more here

Rules differ depending on whether you’re fishing in the Gulf or the Atlantic, and in state or federal waters. There’s a minimum size limit and season governed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which you can learn more about on their website

Grouper Fishing in Florida – Looks Don’t Matter!

Florida Grouper fishing is very fun and not at all easy. Even though not everyone agrees that Grouper are pretty, they’re undoubtedly very tasty. They can never be overlooked since it’s hard to name a more common – and more popular – game fish of this size in all of Florida. They’re heavy fighters and real trophies that any angler is proud to catch. So why not try it out yourself?

Have you ever fished for Grouper in Florida? What’s your favorite type to catch? Which one is the most delicious? Share your experience with us in the comments below!

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