Pro Insider – Grouper Fishing

Warm water temperatures made fishing for gag grouper less than desirable since the July opening. Some are still being caught in the 45- to 80-foot depths. Large live baits such as grass grunts or squirrelfish have been key in getting them to eat but don’t expect more than a few shots at these fish on each spot. Concentrate on ledges. Make sure you’re right on the spot, anchor a few yards from the break and you might now get bit. Unlike their cousins, red grouper don’t seem to mind the warmer water. Banner numbers of fish in the 8- to 12-pound class are nearly everywhere in depths of 50-120 feet. Look for areas of “crunchy” bottom that is holding bait in these depths. Many anglers like drifting these areas, but anchoring over them will make the difference in catching a few fish and catching a box full. Frozen sardines and live baits have been producing about the same. Amberjack is scheduled to close Sept. 28. Find them in depths of 150 feet or deeper over wrecks, springs and large ledges. Live bait is usually best but due to the sheer numbers of these fish in the deeper water, vertical jigs have been outproducing live in both bites and size of fish. Those baits activate something in amberjack that make the entire school chase them. Sometimes they are in such a frenzy that you will get two fish that eat the same bait. Remember, AJ’s produce a lot of meat for the table so take only what you can eat and release the rest. As temperatures start to fall, look for the migration of pelagic species such as blackfin tuna, king mackerel and cobia in our area. Areas for these species could vary greatly, but all of them have one thing in common: bait. Schools of Spanish sardines will be at the head of this push of fish, so inspecting these free-roaming schools when found can pay off big. …

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