Finally what we’ve all been waiting for, the gag grouper season is open.
The season runs from June 1st to December 31st and you are allowed to keep two per person in state and federal waters. Remember the size limit is 24 inches to the tail.
There are many different ways to catch these hard fighting bruisers. Bottom fishing is the most popular from 20 to 60 feet, find your spot and drop anchor.
The gear I use is a heavy Star Rod with a Shamino Toruim reel spooled with 50 to 80 pound mono line with about a 24 inch leader and a 7/0 circle hook (you must use a circle hook when reef fishing, its the law).
A quick tip on circle hooks, don’t set the hook or you will more than likely lose the fish, just reel and the fish will be hooked. You’re going to need a fairly strong setup because when they first hit, they will try to dig and hang you up on the nearest rock, you will need to get them up off the bottom as quick as you can.
We usually tighten the drag as tight as we can in order to not to let fish take any line. As for bait, you can use live pinfish, small grunts, sand perch, pigfish or any other lively bait.
Frozen baits like threadfins, sardines and mullet will also work great. I like to use fresh cut baits like grunts, bluefish, mullet or ladyfish, remember that big baits will catch big fish. Depending on the water clarity and temperature, trolling can produce big groupers as well.
Keep an eye out for cobia, if you see one come by, have a rig already set up so you can quickly cast to them. 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 your offerings moving as they like to chase and attack their prey.
These fish are solid fighters all the way to and into the boat. I recommend working the fish till you tire it out before bringing it onboard. If your not sure if it’s legal (33 inches to the fork) net it rather than gaffing.
On a recent charter, we were bottom fishing and to my surprise we hooked, fought and landed what I’ve guessed to be about a 300 pound goliath grouper. This is my biggest fish to date; you never know what you might catch here off Hernando Beach.
Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!
I’m always looking for reports and pictures. For more information or questions, you can email me or stop by my website and become a “FISHHEAD”.
Capt. Joel operates Fishdaddy Charters out of Hernando Beach; he knows the local waters like the back of his hand and works both inshore and offshore trips. You can reach him at (352) 279-1615 or visit his website, www.fishdaddycharter.com