For the last six months I have been sparsely targeting Gag Grouper in water from 5-30 feet, but with so many other species more accessible and just as much fun to catch I’ve often found myself overlooking many Grouper areas and techniques in order to catch more Redfish, SeaTrout, Spanish Mackerel and Sheephead. But with the cooling temperatures of late November and December many of the inshore species have left their summer and fall hiding areas in search of warmer water. When these inshore fish begin heading towards their winter hideouts, the fishing can be awesome one day and average another. The inshore and offshore Grouper fishing still remains the most consistent fishing for this time of year and typically is what I like to concentrate on.
By far and away the most consistent and heart pounding fishing action the Nature Coast has to offer is its Inshore and Offshore Grouper fishing. On a recent charter I took my clients Jay and Nancy Allen from Leesburg out to a wreck that I’d marked 6 years ago in 25 foot of water. To my amazement, the first pass we made over the wreck revealed tons of bait fish suspending 10-20 feet around the wreck. When we saw all of that bait hovering over the top of the wreck we all had one idea why they didn’t want to go down any further, Grouper! Our first few drops on this spot revealed plenty of healthy small Groupers and even a few mangrove Snapper. However, after we had drifted about 30-50 feet past the wreck all hell broke loose. Once away from the wreck immediately all 3 of us hooked up. Jay brought up a 21” small grouper, I brought up a keeper 25”, and Nancy brought up this beautiful 15 pounder.
Later on that same week my fishing buddy Dan Kramer and I went out to scout a few 8-12 foot shallow rocks for Mackerel on a fly and just for the HaHa’s we brought a pair of light BerkleyTactix and Shimano BaitRunner 3500 combos to throw for a few shallow water Grouper. After breaking off a few Clausers and landing a couple of Mackerel, Dan picked up his BaitRunner and threw a Bomber Long A down the same piece of bottom we’d previously been fly fishing on. His first couple of cast resulted in a couple of small grouper, but as soon as the tide began rising the bigger Grouper started to show themselves. After one big Grouper schooled my partner and his lure he quickly got back by landing a beautiful 15 pounder using 6lb SpiderWire. After landing one other keeper for dinner we played catch-and-release with over a dozen other Grouper before calling it a day.
Beautiful Weather and Awesome Fishing, “Life is Good!”
Capt Kyle Messier