How To Deep Drop For Mystic Grouper

By Team Three Buoys. Photos by Michael Grant

While mystic grouper can be caught year-round in the Bahamas, the winter months are our favorite time of year. Whenever a weather window presents itself, we point our bow east across the Florida Straights in search of these deep-water bottom dwellers.

Mystics are one of the lesser-known grouper species, simply because anglers don’t fish deep enough to target them. Like all grouper, they are excellent to eat and usually weigh from 15 to 50 pounds, although they can grow much larger.

It takes special gear to fish the 800- to 1,200-foot depths where we find mystics. Armed with Shimano Tiagra 80 WAs and Shimano Tiagra 50 WAs equipped with Hooker Electric Autostop drives, we string up 65- to 100-pound Power Pro braid on Crafty One Custom’s Deep Drop Rods.

We begin by paying close attention to our Humminbird Solix sonar with CHIRP HD digital technology to locate bottom structure. We look for cones, holes, drop-offs, ledges and deep-water ridges. Once viable structure is located, we position the boat above it with engines out of gear to judge how wind and current will manipulate our drift. Then the boat is repositioned up-current from the structure and the deep-drop rigs are readied.

When targeting mystics, we use our grouper deep-drop rigs made with three 8/0 VMC 3x Circle Hooks on 100-pound branch lines off of 12 feet of 150-pound main line. For bait, we prefer fresh-cut 8-inch strips of dolphin, tuna, wahoo or barracuda.

Many deep-drop anglers claim, “no light, no bite,” but our experience has proven that, especially with mystics, we catch more and bigger fish without lights.

We deploy two rods on opposite sides of the boat. Lead weights in the 10-pound range are the rule of thumb, but weight can be adjusted to the current. After the weights hit bottom, the reels are left in freespool to lay the rigs straight down on the bottom. The engines should be used to decrease the boat’s drift to a standstill, if possible. If the boat drifts, let out line to keep the rigs on bottom.

When the rod tip bumps and shakes, resist the urge to lock up the drag and retrieve line. Wait a minute or two for additional fish to sense the commotion. They’ll often eat the remaining baits. When it’s time to strike, lift the reel’s drag to strike (pre-set to 20 pounds of drag) and slowly start your retrieve.

Big mystic grouper put up quite a fight at first, and you might even think you’ve hung bottom. Be patient and slowly gain as must line as possible. When fish are about halfway up, their air bladders expand and create lift. They will begin to float your rig up to the surface.

For more tips and tactics on deep-dropping and the tackle and rigs to get tight, see Also, keep up with all of the offshore action @ Team Three Buoys on Facebook and Instagram.

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