How to Go Grouper Fishing: An Angler’s Guide for 2024

Apr 23, 2024 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Fishing for Grouper is a fun, challenging experience that has endless opportunities and meals to bring to the table. There are tons of Grouper species that exist in various countries and oceans, so you can get in on battling these bottom-dwelling creatures pretty much wherever you are!

A man in a baseball cap and sunglasses holding a large Grouper across his chest on a bright day, with the water visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Salty Fishing Charters

But, as with any species, there are certain techniques that will up your chances of catching one. And that’s why I’m here today! I’ll introduce you to some popular Grouper species. I’ll share some hotspots where they like to hang out. And, most importantly, I’ll run through the best ways to go Grouper fishing. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Common Grouper Species

There are over 234 species of Grouper across the globe. That’s far too many to list in this article! So I’ll name a few of the most common species you can expect to see on your fishing journeys around the US.

Red Grouper

A man in a baseball cap on a fishing charter holding a large Red Grouper with dark blue waters visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Salty Fishing Charters

Red Grouper are probably the most common Grouper species you’ll come across when reef fishing. These guys popularly inhabit offshore wrecks and reefs, and can bring a very delicious meal to the table.

Black Grouper

Despite looking similar to Red Grouper, Black Grouper grow much, much bigger. Reaching 100 pounds isn’t anything crazy for these guys. They love to be around deep waters and are fans of structure. You can create another tasty dinner with these guys too.

Goliath Grouper

A man in a baseball cap and sunglasses sitting on the bow of a fishing boat with a large Goliath Grouper on his lap on a clooudy day with calm waters visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Hold Tight Charters

This species is not only the largest Grouper species, but it’s one of the largest fish species in the ocean! Goliath Groupers can grow to over 800 pounds and can reach great lengths. These powerhouses also feed aggressively and have been known to follow humans around and even bite some!

Even hooking up to a small one poses a tiring fight. Their toughness attracts many anglers looking for a tough fight, which means they’re very popular in angling circles.  

Gag Grouper

These fish enjoy the best of both worlds, as they start their life off in the inshore mangroves and estuaries before making their way to deeper waters. I’ve caught a Gag Grouper when fishing in shallow backwater mangrove islands, while many anglers swear by going to deeper reefs offshore. 

Snowy Grouper

You’ll need to travel a way offshore to locate some Snowy Grouper, as this Grouper species likes waters as deep as 800 feet! Their eyes or stomach pop out when they’re lifted out of the water  due to barotrauma. Basically, this means that their bodies can’t handle being above a certain depth! 

Nassau Grouper

An underwater closeup image of a large Nassau Grouper, with its eye almost as if it's looking towards the camera

There’s no prize for guessing where this Grouper species is popular. Naturally, the Nassau Grouper strolls around rocky bottoms in the clear water of the Bahamas. But that’s not all. They love many tropical locations. While they aren’t the largest Grouper species, they still can reach big lengths and weights.

However, these fish are on the endangered species list. Conservation efforts are underway to keep them thriving, such as a ban on harvesting in the US, with limits in other countries, too. 

Where to Go Grouper Fishing

You can try your hand at Grouper fishing in a number of locations around the world. Generally, any offshore area with wrecks, reefs, pilings, and structure attracts them. Inshore areas like estuaries, mangroves, and occasional oyster bars provide shelter for smaller ones, too. 

An aerial view of small islands in the crystal clear waters of the Bahamas on a sunny day

Here are just a few key areas you can travel to if you want to try our hand at fishing for some of the most impressive Groupers out there…

  • The Florida Keys have a huge, diverse marine life where tons of popular game fish hang around. Various Grouper species are available both offshore and close to shore. The wrecks and reefs have plenty and some inshore points and bridges have smaller ones.
  • Madeira Beach, FL. Also known as the “Grouper fishing capital of the world,” this is a major hotspot for Grouper. So popular, in fact, that there are numerous Grouper tournaments held here, as well as an annual “Grouper Fest”.
  • Venice, LA. Deep wrecks and reefs provide anglers with opportunities to hook up to some large Grouper here. There are quite a few species present here, with some of the most popular ones being Black and Gag Grouper.
  • Nassau, The Bahamas. Groupers are very abundant in The Bahamas, providing an important source of food. The Nassau Grouper is just one example of the plenty of species present.
  • Abreojos, Mexico, is a hotspot in that provides plenty of Grouper fishing fun. Some very large Grouper can be caught here. Some that are larger than a tall man!

When to Go Grouper Fishing

Deciding when to go Grouper fishing will vary depending on the exact species you want to target as well as your location. But, generally, the best time to get out there is in spring. Most Grouper species spawn during the winter, so spring becomes the perfect time to find large quantities of hungry fish.

As for time of the day, mornings offer the best opportunities to find active Grouper. Bait fish are more active in the morning too, so Grouper are on the prowl for breakfast. You can fish for Grouper in the evening, too, when the sun isn’t too high up. But you’ll have a long, dark drive back to the ramp afterwards.

When it comes to tide, fishing a strong incoming or outgoing tides will up your chances. When the current is strong, it kicks up nutrients and smaller prey, and pushes bigger numbers of bait around.

Top Grouper Fishing Techniques

Moving on to the most important section of the article, I’ll now dive into how to go Grouper fishing. It can be a challenge to successfully bring one of these guys to the boat, but I’m here to give you all the tips!

A teenage boy fishing over the side of a charter boat in deep waters, with his rod bent on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Simon Says Charters

When fishing for Grouper, the most common technique involves freelining live, dead, or cut bait. After adding a sinker to your line, drop your bait down towards the bottom. Have it sit right in front of some structure, and the Grouper will come out and lunge on your bait.

It’s essential to have your drag very tight because as soon as they latch on, the fish will immediately swim to structure. If you’ve fought one before, then you know how quickly they swim and how strongly they can pull the line. Not to mention that, once they’re in a hole, you have a very slim chance of getting them out.

Ideally, you’ll keep the drag locked down and, as soon as the hook is set, try to keep the rod up and reel as much as you can. If the fish is pulling the line, don’t reel hard at the same time because you can break the line. You can cup the spool and pull up to try and prevent them from running in.

If you don’t have access to bait, you can try jigging. With flashy and moving jigs, you bounce them on or close to the bottom or structure. The movement and sound will attract a Grouper. You’ll also want to keep your drag tight in this method too, so once they grab on you can get straight to pulling them in.

Trolling isn’t amongst the most popular methods of Grouper fishing, but some anglers do it. By trolling live, dead, or artificial lures behind the boat, curious Grouper will come up and take a bite if they’re hungry.

Best Bait for Grouper Fishing

Now let’s talk bait. There are numerous bait options that will get hungry Grouper to bite. Sometimes they’ll bite just about anything. Other times, they’re more picky. Live, dead and cut, and artificial bait are used on a daily basis by tons of anglers ripping up Grouper. Here are a few favorites:

  • Live bait options that Grouper enjoy include shrimp, crabs, ladyfish, mullet, threadfin, needlefish, squid, pinfish, and plenty more. They have no trouble demolishing them once they enter the water.
  • Dead/Cut. The above-mentioned are perfect for dead and cut bait. Add a sinker to your line and let it drop to the bottom.
  • Artificials. Grouper will bite artificial lures that look appetizing to them. They have been known to hit jig heads and soft plastics, jigs, and jerk baits, for example.

Whichever type of bait you use, if you come across a bunch of hungry Grouper, you’ll discover that they’re eager to eat.

Best Gear for Grouper Fishing

As stated earlier in the article, some species of Grouper can weigh over 800 pounds, so you need extra sturdy gear. Because some species of Grouper are on the smaller side, I’ll break this down into a couple of different sections.

A man in a sleeveless top, a baseball cap, and sunglasses, leaning over the side of a fishing charter in deep waters and holding a sturdy offshore sportfishing trolling rod

Smaller Setups

A good setup for targeting smaller – yet still strong – Grouper contains a medium or medium-heavy action rod, a 4000 spinning reel, at least a 40 lb braid, 50+ lb leader, and then a 4/0+ hook. You can always up the leader if the fish are decent sized and you’re in an area with a lot of structure.

Larger Setups

If you’re targeting monster Grouper species, such as the Goliath, you’ll want a heavy action rod and an extra reliable, heavy reel. Anglers recommend having around 300 pounds for both braid and leader. Circle hooks around 10/0 are also recommended for fighting these huge fish. Barrel swivels are popular with a lot of anglers, which helps prevent lines from tangling and reduces risk of losing the fish.

Whether you prefer spinning, conventional, or electric reels, you just need to ensure it can fight against really tough fish.

Grouper Fishing Regulations

Grouper fishing regulations vary quite a bit because of their large distribution and different species. The best method is to check the regulations for the region you’re fishing in and have an understanding of each species’ rules. A good amount of Grouper species can be harvested, but some have specific seasons and others are strictly banned from harvesting.

The main thing you’ll need when Grouper fishing is a valid fishing license. They can last for a couple of days, a week, a year, or even a lifetime. You can easily purchase them online or in person at a budget-friendly cost. Here’s a breakdown of most US states, for example.

Go Grouper Fishing Wherever You Are: You Won’t Regret It!

Three men on a fishing charter holding a large Grouper across their laps with the open waters of the ocean visible behind them on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Blind Date Charters

By now, you should be able to see the excitement that Grouper fishing provides. With a tough fight that leaves anglers feeling accomplished when they get them to the boat, as well as a delicious meal on the dinner table, they’re among the most targeted saltwater species. Now it’s your turn to get out there and have some fun! 

If you’re in need of someone to get you on the water, take a look at FishingBooker to find a dedicated, licensed captain who can start your newest hobby! 

Are you an avid Grouper fisher? Maybe you’re thinking of trying it out for the first time? Either way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below! 

Author profile picture

Hi! My name is Caitlyn Gatrell and I'm an outdoor writer and inshore saltwater angler based in Naples, Florida. My fishing is typically done in the Ten Thousand Islands region, as well as the Estero, Naples, and Marco Island areas, along with some Florida Keys trips here and there. I typically target game fish such as Tarpon, Snook, and Redfish, as well as some Jack Crevalle, Seatrout, Goliath Grouper, and Sharks. I have been involved in the fishing field since I was a little girl, and my passion has only grown since I’ve gotten older.

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