Go Get Some Grouper!


Here’s fine example of a “fire truck” Red grouper from the Gulf. This one looks to weigh 15 to 20 pounds!

Here’s fine example of a “fire truck” Red grouper from the Gulf. This one looks to weigh 15 to 20 pounds!

Well, it’s that time of year again grouper fans. Red and Gag grouper, the two most common members of their genera along our coast, are both in sea- son right now and both can be caught using a variety of fishing methods, baits and lures. Both groupers may also be taken with spears.

Judging from the results of our most recent grouper trip, both species are abundant and hungry! In half a day of fishing four of us boated 14 keepers; 13 Gags and one Red, and all well over the minimum size limit. We also caught at least 20 undersized fish and all the fish we caught fought like demons from the deep! On this trip we fished in 80’ of water about 30 miles west of Hurricane Pass over an area of limestone hard bot- tom and small rocky ledges.

This is the first installment in a series of monthly articles we will publish about grouper fishing in the Gulf, so stay with us and make sure to pick up your copy of Coastal Angler Magazine every month!

In this issue we discuss grouper fishing regulations. In succeeding issues we’ll discuss where to find keeper fish; successful fishing methods and strate- gies; the best live, frozen and artificial baits to use; tackle and rigging; and we’ll even throw in a few favorite recipes so you can plan and execute your own suc- cessful offshore fishing trip, and enjoy a fine fresh seafood feast afterwards.

Fishing regulations are often confusing, usually unnecessarily complex, and often differ between State waters (up to nine miles offshore) and Federal waters (from nine to 200 miles off- shore), so it pays to pay attention lest you run afoul of the law. Occasionally the State and Federal rules coincide, which is (fortunately) the case for grouper regulations right now.

Although sometimes it seems like you have to be a maritime lawyer to make sense of all the regulations, if you keep these basics in mind you can enjoy a great offshore fishing trip and bring home a bunch of grouper filets for your table. Following is as comprehensive list of fishing regulations that must be followed when grouper and/or bottom fishing in both State and Federal waters:
Seasons: The Gulf of Mexico Red grouper season, for both State and Federal waters, opened April 1, 2013 and runs through January 31, 2014. Gag grouper season opened July 1, 2013 and runs through December 3, 2013. There are many other grouper species out there, so please visit www.myfwc.com for a complete guide to all grouper and other fishing regulations.

Size Limits: Measuring from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail Red grouper must be a minimum of 20-inches long and Gag grouper must be at least 22 inches long

Bag Limits: You can keep four Red grouper or two Gag grouper per licensed angler per day, but there is an aggregate (total) bag limit of four grou- per per angler per day, regardless of species, so don’t keep more than two Gags or four total grouper per person on any given day.

Hooks: When fishing for reef fish, including groupers, snappers, grunts, amberjack, triggerfish, sea bass, and others with natural (live or frozen) baits, non-stainless steel circle hooks must be used to minimize gut-hooking fish. Circle hooks are designed to hook fish in the corner of their jaw, greatly reducing the mortality rates of under- size fish that must be thrown back.

Venting device: Every vessel engaged in angling for reef fish must carry a venting device to vent the air from inflated swim bladders or stomachs of fish reeled up from deep water. Often, unvented fish are unable to dive back to their bottom habitat and die near the surface or get eaten by predators. There are good videos online on youtube showing the best methods of venting these fish. Note: Some scientists now say that venting fish isn’t good for them either, but whether you decide to vent your released fish or not, the law requires you to have a venting tool onboard.

Dehooking device: Every vessel engaged in angling for reef fish must carry a de-hooking device, such as needle nosed pliers or other commer- cially available devices, to safely remove hooks from the fishes mouths. Visit your local bait and tackle shop to find what you need.

Spearfishing: Is defined as, “the catching or taking of a fish through the instrumentality of a hand or mechani- cally propelled, single or multi-pronged spear or lance, barbed or barbless, oper- ated by a person swimming at or below the surface of the water.”

So there you have it. If you follow these rules you can safely take your limit of grouper on every trip offshore and never suffer tickets, steep fines and even jail time if you’re ever stopped by any of the law enforcement agencies that roam our waters in search of violators.

In our next installment we’ll discuss how and where to find keeper fish, and the importance of good electronics and other gear that will make catching your limit of these fine fish that much easier.

Tight lines and BIG FISH!

CAM Tampa Bay
Captain Joe Londot is the publisher of the Tampa Bay Edition of Coastal Angler Magazine, a Free Fishing Publication distributed throughout Southwest Florida, including the areas of St. Pete, Clearwater, Tampa, and more.
CAM Tampa Bay

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