By BRENT GASKILL
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 2000
Grouper seem to be the target lately and, now that they have moved closer to shore, are accessible to almost any size boat. Rocky ledges and hard broken bottom anywhere from 1 to 10 miles out are holding fish. Depths of 30 to 40 feet are a good place to start, then work in or out as the weather or other conditions dictate.
Grouper tackle can vary. For my style of fishing, light is right. A 6-foot rod with a fast taper and a conventional level-wind reel loaded with 30-pound test gets the job done. This size outfit keeps the fishing fun for all the other bottom species like triggers, porgies, sea bass, snapper and grunts, while having enough backbone to winch up a big grouper at the same time.
Of course, a fish bigger than 15 pounds will probably pack your lunch on this size gear, but most of the fish we are catching are 5 to 10 pounders. Traditional grouper tackle consists of an 8-foot rod and a 4/0 reel loaded with at least 50-pound test. I find this size gear is too heavy to hold all day and will wear you out.
Boat position becomes more critical as the water temperature falls. Grouper will not move far from their rock in the cold. Baits must be presented at their doorstep to be noticed. This means just on the bottom edge of a ledge. Baits placed on the topside of the structure may get pecked by grunts, but the grouper may never know it was there.
The use of fluorocarbon leaders is another trick to improve catches in the clear water of winter. Most importantly, maintain your fishing hole by leaving them biting. Don't clean every grouper off a rock. Leaving a few residents will help attract other fish.
- Brent Gaskill charters the Summer Vacation. Call (727) 867-1751.