Grouper Fishing in the Florida Keys: A Guide to the Best Catch
Grouper are usually large hard-hitting fish that are a lot of fun to reel in, and the Florida Keys is one of the best places worldwide to fish for this fun and delicious fish. They have one of the most delicious tastes of all fish in the sea and are among the most popular choices on restaurant menus throughout Florida and most of the Gulf Coast.
How and Where to Catch Grouper in the Florida Keys
There are so many places to fish for Grouper in the Florida Keys. But, a few of the most popular are Key West, Islamorada and Marathon.
Key West has many wrecks and reefs, which are great spots for catching various Florida fish and excellent fishing grounds for large-sized groupers. A few popular hotspots in Key West are the Key West Tournament Reef, The Adolphus Busch, The Hoyt S. Vandenberg and Joe’s Tug. These and more structures off the coast are excellent fish habitats for all four of these most sought-after Grouper.
Islamorada is known as the “sports fishing capital of the world,” with several wrecks creating artificial reefs where many sports fish species, including giant Grouper, call home. Eagle Wreck and The USS Spiegel Grove are two of the best of these wrecks. Here you will find large predator fish taking advantage of the many hiding places to gulp up the smaller fish roaming the wreckage. Another popular spot for all Sportfish Charters is The Islamorada Hump, which is a large underwater mountain (seamount), that projects upward and is a must for all anglers looking to target giant Grouper or any other sportfish.
Marathon has a plentiful reef system with many wrecks off the shore. This makes for some of the best fishing in the Florida Keys and a great place for finding large-sized Black, Gag, Red and Scamp Grouper. The Sombrero Reef, The 7 Mile Bridge Reef, and The Thunderbolt Wreck are the most popular of these wrecks. Just like Islamorada, there is a large underwater mountain, The Marathon Humps, which again is a must-go destination for all anglers where big fish, including Black, Red and Gag Grouper.
Most Popular Species of Grouper in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is one of the best places for Grouper fishing. There are19 different species of Grouper in Florida in and around the waters of the Keys. Some of the most popular are:
Red Grouper are beautiful fish. They boast a striking orange-red color. They average around 15 pounds in size and are fun to catch because they fight hard.
Black Grouper are one of the most desirable because of its size, they can grow to over 100 pounds, and for their tender sweet meat. They have olive gray or brown bodies with irregular colored spots. They are powerful and very fun to reel in.
Gag Grouper look similar to the Black Grouper with a brownish gray color, but are much smaller, usually the size of a Red Grouper. Like the others, they are delicious and are one of the most popular fish on restaurant menus throughout Florida.
Scamp Grouper is one of the tastiest of all the Grouper species. It is also one of the smaller species of Grouper at only around 5 pounds. They have tan to grayish-brown bodies covered with sharply defined, well-separated dark spots. You can usually find them in the reefs in 75-300 feet deep waters offshore.
How to Catch Grouper in the Florida Keys
While some species of Grouper can be elusive, if you get the right equipment, use the correct techniques, and the right bait, catching Grouper can be fun and easy. Two fishing methods are bottom feeding and trolling. Grouper go after just about anything that passes by them, but there are a few baits of choice when going after them, which include frozen squid, octopus and crab, as well as sardines and pinfish whole or chopped. Frozen fish are great because they can’t fight back, and dead stinky bait is very attractive to fish.
Florida Keys Grouper Season
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Grouper is managed differently in Gulf vs. Atlantic and state vs. federal waters. Gulf state waters are 9 nautical miles offshore, and Atlantic state waters are 3 nautical miles offshore. Regulations vary based on species. Here are the seasons for each popular grouper species you would catch in the Keys.