Red grouper are beautiful fish that can weight very heavy on the hook, even when caught in smaller sizes. They’re tough predators, can put quite a fight and can provide the angler with a lot of thrill.
Red grouper fishing has its own particularities. Therefore, if you want to target these fish, here are a few that you should know about the tackle to use, baits and places to find them.
Red Grouper – Habitat and Habits
Red grouper’s habitat is limited to the eastern coast of the Americas, ranging from North Carolina (US) down to the coast of Brazil. They’re pretty common in Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. They prefer muddy and rocky bottoms, but can be caught in a variety of habitats such as open seas, shallow seas, subtidal aquatic beds, coral reefs, rocky shores, sandy shores, estuarine waters, intertidal flats, intertidal marshes, coastal saline lagoons, coastal freshwater lagoons, and karsts.
Although they can live at depths over 1000 feet, most of them are caught in waters between 10 – 100 ft. Younger red grouper typically keep closer to grassy beds and shallow waters, until they gain up size, and only then move to deeper waters, to rocky and reef habitats.
In general, as the water temperature rises during the summer months, especially the bigger grouper move off shore, in search for cooler waters. So, in this case it’s best to look for them 15-20 miles away from the shores. In colder months they move back inshore, and sometimes you can get big ones in water as shallow as 20 ft.
Like most predator fish that feed close to the bottom, when a red grouper grabs the bait and feels resistance, it will try to run to the nearest hiding place. Don’t let them do that, and the first thing to do after hooking one is crank the reel and lift the rod up as much as you can.
Fishing Methods To Catch Red Grouper
Down dropping, drifting or trolling, using chunky live or dead bait, are the best fishing methods for bigger grouper. However, they are also interested in lures, and catching them with jigs and jerkbaits in shallower water can be very entertaining.
Bait and Lures for Red Grouper
Red grouper’s diet consists of different marine invertebrates such as shrimp, crab, octopi and of course, small fish. A red grouper will basically gulp any fish passing by, if it looks appetizing and it can fit in its mouth. So, when it comes to live bait, the best call is small fish, whatever is available, but live pinfish or squirrelfish are best. Make sure though that you hook them by the dorsal fin or their lower jaw, to live longer. Also, you can use live shrimp, crabs, mussels or squid, if they’re available and permitted.
When it comes to dead bait, frozen squid, sardines, or pretty much other white bait should work. Cutting bigger bait fish in half at a 45° angle seems to have quite a great effect on the presentation, resulting in more bites. Fish strips or chunks work as well, though.
If you want to catch red grouper with lures, best jerkbaits and jigs are always a good call. Crankbaits, especially those that imitate shrimp, can bring you nice results as well. Some of the lures to try out are Yo-Zuri Minnows, MirrOLure Deep Divers (red, orange and black silver), Salas Jigs in Green / Blue Sardine, or squid imitating jigs such as the ones from CharkBait.
Red Grouper Tackle
Although many anglers catch red grouper on light tackle, with lures or live / cut bait, it’s best to think medium-heavy or heavy tackle, when it comes to these fish. So, here are a few suggestions.
Rods. To make sure everything goes smoothly, it’s best to opt for a medium-heavy or heavy power and medium (or even heavy) action casting rod, 7′-8′ long. Shakespeare makes quite a few Ugly Stiks for this purpose, with an OK price / quality ratio. You can also get a Penn, Abu Garcia or Daiwa rod with these specs, but if you really want super quality, you might want to give a look the to the available G. Loomis rods.
Reels. You can catch groupers with spinning gear, but it’s better and safer to work with baitcasting gear. So, equip your rod with a 4/0 Penn Senator or Abu Garcia Seascape baitcasting reel.
Line. It’s always best to go with braided line for groupers, because it gives you a better control of the fish right away, as it doesn’t stretch. Plus, if you’re going with lures, on a considerable depth, you’ll have a better feel and control of the lure. Depending on the bait used, depth and fish size targeted, your line can be between 40-60lb. pound test.
Rigs. Double drop or single drop rigs are good choices. Make sure though, to use 70-80lb. test fluorocarbon for your terminal tackle.
Hooks. Since groupers in general, have a big mouth, sizeable circle hooks are the best for these fish. 8/0 – 10/0 size hooks, from Owner or Gamakatsu should do the job well.