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Florida Fishing

Florida Grouper Fishing

By November 3, 2020March 19th, 2024No Comments
a picture of a grouper caught in Crystal river

Last Updated on March 19, 2024 by Eric Bonneman

Crystal River, a standout spot in Florida’s Nature Coast known for its top-notch inshore fishing. Among the variety of fish you can catch here, one that stands out is the gag grouper. This fish, known for its strength and size, draws anglers from all over.

Fishing in Crystal River is unique because of its diverse underwater landscapes. Here, underwater rock piles create the perfect habitat for gag grouper. These rock piles not only provide a home for these fish but also make for an exciting fishing experience.

Gag grouper in Crystal River are not your usual catch. They’re strong, put up a good fight, and are quite the prize for any angler. Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or just starting out, catching a gag grouper is something to remember.

But what makes Crystal River extra special for gag grouper fishing? It’s the fact that these fish, typically found in deeper offshore waters, are accessible right here in relatively shallow waters. It’s an opportunity for inshore fishermen to experience something that’s usually reserved for deep-sea fishing.

Grouper In Florida

There are some 159 species of grouper globally, with Florida housing many of the most popular. These include:

  • Goliath Grouper
  • Nassau Grouper
  • Black Grouper
  • Gag Grouper
  • Red Grouper
  • Scamp Grouper
  • Yellowfin Grouper
  • Yellowmouth Grouper
  • Rock Hind Grouper
  • Coney Grouper
  • Misty Grouper
  • Warsaw Grouper
  • Snowy Grouper

Each of these species falls under different regulations and season dates. For example, while they put up an epic battle, Goliath and Nassau Grouper are illegal to harvest at any time. Florida grouper fishing for species such as Red Grouper and Scamp Grouper is open year round for harvest in state waters, federal waters have separate season dates. To best understand these regulations it is best to visit the FWC Grouper Regulations page.

two fisherman Florida Grouper Fishing in Crystal River showing their catch.

Florida Inshore Grouper Fishing

With epic battles and general year-round availability, Florida Grouper fishing is without a doubt one of the most popular activities for fishermen in the state. One of the greatest aspects is that you can target these offshore quality fish within the state coastal (shallower inshore waters) with ease. Area’s such as ours here in Crystal River makes for a great launch point.

Gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis), are present throughout the year in Crystal River, but the cooler months bring about an increase in their activity near the shore. This shift is what makes fall and early winter particularly appealing for those targeting this species. Our season dates for targeting inshore grouper generally run from June 1st to December 31st. That’s 6 straight months of amazing inshore Grouper action. Weather conditions during these months are generally more conducive to fishing. Cooler temperatures make for a comfortable day out on the water, and the clearer waters can enhance the fishing experience. While gag grouper can be caught at any time, the odds of a successful catch increase significantly during this period.

While many inshore fishermen see very skinny water flats as the prime place for sight fishing inshore species, targeting grouper generally happens in depths of 8-35ft. This shallow water targeting is a unique aspect of the Crystal River area.

Grouper Baits

Grouper can be targeted on a wide variety of both natural and artificial baits. One of the most popular methods is bottom fishing with either live or cut bait. These baits include:

  • Pinfish
  • Goggle Eyes
  • Pilchards
  • Grunts

At the same time, an action-packed day of Grouper fishing in Florida can be had with artificial baits. There are many types of jigs and hard plastics that work, we tend to see a focus on shallow diving plugs and casting plugs.

Where To target Florida Grouper

Florida Grouper fishing, whether on the bottom or in the shallows, all involve fishing structure. For bottom fishing, this mainly includes reefs and wrecks. In shallower water, casting plugs at rocks and ledges make for an exciting time as these Grouper smash these plugs then try to deep dive back into the rocks – this is where the battle is. For shallow water bottom fishing, you would look to focus on holes, springs, and reef formations. Almost any underwater structure, regardless of depth, will hold these fish.

These rock piles are more than just a bunch of stones on the seabed. They’re a thriving hub for gag grouper. Think of them like a neighborhood where these fish hang out. The way it works is simple – these rocks offer grouper a place to hide and hunt, making them ideal spots for us to target.

A picture of Crystal River Florida Fishing Adventures Florida Grouper Fishing

Fighting A Grouper

To catch gag grouper in Crystal River, anglers can employ various effective methods, each offering a unique experience based on personal preference and water conditions.

  • Bottom Fishing: A traditional approach targeting grouper habitats near the seabed, especially around rock structures. It’s a patient waiting game, rewarding anglers with a strong bite when successful.
  • Trolling: Ideal for covering larger areas, this method involves dragging lures behind a moving boat to entice grouper from their rocky shelters. It’s effective for luring out grouper that chase moving targets.
  • Casting: This active technique requires casting and retrieving lures, offering a hands-on fishing experience with the thrill of feeling a grouper strike.

Grouper are known to “dig”. What this means is that once they hit your choice of bait, they turn right around for a powerful deep dive back to cover. This reaction is the basis of what makes catching them so much fun. Due to the strength and size of some species, heavier tackle is definitely recommended. Here in Crystal River for instance we utilize 6000-8000 size spinning reels loaded with 60-80lb braided line. These are mounted to heavy action rods with a final leader composed of 80 to 130lb fluorocarbon.

Your reaction to the hookup will be your greatest asset when attempting to land this species. Florida Grouper fishing can involve hooking up with some powerful giants. In this, a strong reaction is necessary to keep this species from making it back to its rocky cover- and possibly snap the line across a sharp edge.

Our Gag Grouper Fishing Charters

Florida Fishing Adventures offers tailored gag grouper fishing charters in Crystal River, led by the experienced Captain Louie Argiro. These charters focus on prime grouper habitats, using specialized techniques for a high chance of success. Beyond targeting gag grouper, the charters explore Crystal River’s rich diversity of species, ensuring a varied fishing experience for all skill levels.

Our charters stand out for their strategic approach to fishing, including shallow water sight fishing, leveraging Crystal River’s clear conditions. The right gear, such as heavy tackle and braided line, is emphasized for effectively landing these strong fish. Joining a charter with us promises an immersive experience in Crystal River’s unique aquatic environment, guided by professional insight into the local fishery.

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Eric Bonneman

Just a guy who fishes and writes about his experiences.

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