Hernando County By Capt. Joel Gant

Grouper Grouper Grouper

Finally, it’s the time all you “fish heads” have been waiting for–gag grouper season is open. I believe that Hernando Beach is one of the best areas anywhere to catch grouper. These fish can be caught in 6 to 100 feet. The regulations allow you to keep two per person, and the size is 24 inches to the tail. Recreational season is June 1 through December 31. While fishing for the gags, you may also pick up some red grouper. Their legal size is 20 inches to the tail. As always, check the regulations before you go out–they can and do change frequently.

As far as catching gag grouper, I like to troll plugs or bottom drop either dead bait, cut bait or live bait like pinfish, sand perch or pig fish. When bottom fishing, use a heavy enough weight to hold your bait against the current on the bottom. Use a 7/0 or 8/0 circle hook (that’s also the law), 60 – 80-pound line and a very stout rod and reel. Just remember, with circle hooks, you do not set the hook–just reel. Let the fish do the hook setting.

When anchored and bottom fishing, put out a freelined bait for kingfish or even cobia. Both of these fish can be caught this time of year. I also like to start out my clients fishing with light tackle for white grunts, hog fish or snapper. Doing this will start a feeding frenzy, which will draw bigger fish to see what the commotion is all about.

Keep an eye out for cobia.  We have been getting them inshore and offshore. If you see one come by, have a rig already set up, so you can cast to them quickly. Cobia seem to be a curious fish.  They will swim by or come up from structure. They usually are not too picky about what they eat.  Keep the bait moving, because they like to chase and attack their prey. Again, have heavy tackle if you plan on landing a keeper.  These fish are solid fighters all the way to and into the boat. I recommend working the fish until you tire it out before bringing it onboard. If you’re not sure if its legal (33 inches up to nine miles offshore and 36 inches past nine miles offshore to the fork), net it rather than gaffing.

Just a reminder, it’s a law now to have the kill switch cord attached to you. This is for any boat under 26 foot. Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!