For many, May 1st is just the start of Spring, but for avid fishermen in the Keys, May 1st means Grouper season is open! Once the season opens, most Grouper species can be speared or caught on hook and line, as long as they are the allowable species and the correct length. Before you harvest a Grouper, make sure you have done your homework and checked the wildlife and game regulations as the FWC enforce fish regulations quite actively.
The most common Grouper we catch in the keys are Black Grouper, Red Grouper, Gag Grouper and Snowy grouper (which are found in the deep water). Sometimes we also happen to catch a Goliath Grouper, but they are protected and it is unlawful to harvest this species.
The Snowy Grouper can be found in depths such as a few hundred feet, and we use an electric reel with what we call a “chicken rig” to catch them. It’s basically a line with multiple hooks often between 3 and 6 and a large heavy lead. Snowy Grouper eat a variety of bait but we find a strong fragrant bait like squid can be helpful in attracting them in the dark deep waters. For this reason, we also attach a flashing strobe to the line to attract the Grouper out of their holes to eat. If you have ever caught a Snowy Grouper, you might have noticed its skin is coated with slime. Most fish that live in deep depths have this slime coating for added protection. Snowy Grouper have white spots on their skin that look like snowflakes, hence the name. While there is no minimum size limit on this species, we tend to catch them between 20 – 50lbs, sometimes even bigger!
Black grouper are the most common that we catch on the reefs and sometimes on Wrecks. If you have been following our social media lately, you may have seen Captain Steve on the Reel Attraction at his Grouper honey hole. He has been catching them quite often and we are very excited to see what he brings in on May 1st. He’s been using 40-50 pound leader and a lead to get the line to the bottom. Depending on how the Grouper are acting, he either uses live or dead bait. Remember as soon as you get a bite, to wind lightning fast to get the Grouper off the bottom and avoid the rocks. Good luck to everyone on May 1st!
Grouper are very popular because they are extremely tasty to eat. There is nothing better than a fried or grilled grouper sandwich smothered in tartar sauce. Here is our recipe for that sandwich!