Stuart Deep Sea: May 2022

Big mutton snapper will make their appearance this month, like this trophy caught aboard the Safari 1. Photo credit: Photo credit: Safari 1.

The offshore limelight will shine on grouper fishing this month, as the “catch & keep” season opens May 1 for many species of shallow water grouper.

Gag, black, red, and scamp grouper will all be in the crosshairs this month, as these tasty, bottom dwelling brawlers will be sought after by rod and reel fishermen in depths from 50 to 180 feet of water. The Eight Mile Reef zone of 120 feet to 160 feet of water will inevitably become one of the focal points when targeting grouper, although trophy fish can also regularly be caught in 65 to 85 feet of water. The common thread that runs through all successful grouper fishing is to fish around structure, for it is the reefs that set the foundation for the ocean food chain. These reefs harbor baitfish and provide shelter in the form of “holes” or voids in the reef, that grouper like to occupy. Find structure, and you will find fish.

Like many species of fish, grouper are comfortable being opportunistic feeders and will eat a wide array of dead and live baits. Huge diameter mouths, packing an intense suction mechanism allow groupers to eat just about anything smaller than them. Preferred live baits will include greenies (threadfin herring), sardines, cigar minnows, grunts, and pinfish. Dead or cut baits of almost any flavor will work, just keep in mind to match the size of your cut bait to a general size of fish you are targeting. Matching tackle is also important, and the tackle needs to be heavy—4/0 to 6/0 class reels spooled with braid from 80- to 200-pound strength is recommended or a reel with mono from 80- to 100-pound will result in the best chance for success. Similarly, strong monofilament leaders from 100- to 150-pound test will be necessary to resist chaffing during the hook up and subsequent battle as the fish initially will swim the tackle through the reef in an effort to escape. Solid, single hooks of 7/0 to 10/0 are crucial, and of course a sufficient amount of lead sinker to find and hold the bottom as grouper typically live very near or on the bottom of the ocean floor around the structure. (For current recreational fishing regulations for grouper, checkout and download the FishRulesApp at

While the opening of grouper season will be a highlight for this month, May is also characteristically an excellent month for catching all species of snapper, including large muttons. Big (15 to 25-pound) mutton snapper will begin to move up the reef line from points south and east and find reef haunts relatively close to our inlet in depths of 60 to 80 feet.

May can prove to be a bottom fisherman`s meat hunting dream, come true.

FORECAST BY: Capt. Rocky Carbia
Safari I
Pirates Cove Resort and Marina
4307 SE Bayview St. Port Salerno, Florida
Reservations: (772) 334-4411

Grouper fishing will be the go-to strategy in May. Photo credit: Safari 1.