May offers lot of fish catching opportunities. The spring mahi run is in full swing, kingfish will be starting to show in good numbers, the snapper bite will still be on and the big thing will be that grouper season is now open. Grouper are a highly sought-after game fish that can be found around any structure in our Treasure Coast waters. Offshore they can be found in the 10 feet depths on the reefs that run the beach out to the deep-water canyons in the 1,000 feet depths.
For a day of fun grouper fishing, there are many natural and artificial reefs out to 150 feet of water that hold these fish. You can find structures on charts from your local tackle shops and also by watching your bottom machine while running to find new areas of structure.
Grouper are a magnificent fighting fish and they know where their home is and they don’t like to leave. When they do leave, grouper usually don’t go far from their home; they will usually travel 10 to 20 feet to find food. When they feel the hook, they will head directly back to their home and if they can get into their home they will usually rock you. If this happens, gently release your reel to allow the line to slack and wait a bit. Sometimes you can trick the grouper into coming back out by doing this, giving you another chance to reel it up.
Grouper will eat a variety of different baits, both live and artificial will work well. For live bait fishing, a big greenie will work well, but a bigger blue runner that is lively, will work even better. Drop the blue runner (or greenie) down to the bottom near the edge of the structure with enough weight to hold bottom. Artificial lures work just as well. A butterfly jig bounced off the bottom is a good way to entice a grouper to eat. Bouncing the butterfly jig off of the bottom makes noise and pushes puffs of sand causing a reaction strike from the grouper when it comes to check things out.
When fishing for grouper, you will want to have some heavier gear for the fight. A good set-up is a 6-to-7-foot rod matched with 6/0 reel or 8,000 size spinning reel with a lot of drag tightened down, with 50-to-80-pound braid for the sensitivity and it doesn’t stretch like mono. This will keep the grouper from getting back to its hole after eating and getting hooked up. The short rod will give you more leverage and if you use short pumps it will tire the fish out quicker. If you do get “rocked” up, leave the rod alone for a few minutes, sometimes the grouper will come out of its hole and then you can try to reel it up.
There are many species of grouper, so it is a good idea to know the species and to know the characteristics of each. There are many apps available that can be downloaded to a cell phone and used to compare to your catch to help you confirm your grouper’s identity. While fishing for grouper, don’t forget to keep a pitch rod ready, you might get a visit from a cobia or a mahi.
Get out on the water and enjoy the springtime bite and be safe.