It’s gag grouper season in Tampa Bay and area fisherman are already catching limits of big grouper. Since the season opened, gags are out hanging around structure. This could be anything from the shipping channels inside the bay to rock piles and ledges in the gulf. They are biting and while you may have to wade through some smaller fish to get to the keepers at least the action is good. What you may not know is that many anglers are hauling up this highly desirable big game fish right just outside the waters of Lands End Marina in the bay.
Come on down and drop a line. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a first-time grouper fisherman, trust these tips from our staff:
Grouper are very structure oriented fish. They might take up residence around a small rock, it could be a ledge, or along the vertical wall of a shipping channel. Newcomers or anglers hoping to land fish should look for grouper hiding around any of these types of bottom that provide cover. Anchor up and drop a line. Use the current or wind to drop your anchor away from where your fishing and swing back to the spot. Sometimes adjusting your spot by letting out anchor rope or hauling it in can make a huge difference in catching fish. Since your fishing around bottom that can cut you off, you need a heavy rig to haul these big fish out of their hiding places. Use enough weight to get down and hold, a 2 to 8 ounce sinker on a 2- to 3-foot heavy monofilament or fluorocarbon leader will reduce breakoffs. Remember to use circle hooks when bottom fishing to stay compliant with the law. Many anglers use 50 or 60 pound test with an 80 lb leader, but you might want to go heavier. Live bait is best for grouper, especially pinfish or grunts. In a pinch cut bait can produce good results as well.
Trolling is one of the most popular ways to catch grouper in the area due to the many shipping channels that kris cross the bay. To troll for grouper you can use the same rod and reel you used when anchored up, but you’ll want to move slowly – and we mean slow. Use a big diving plug like a Manns stretch 25 or a big soft plastic on a planer or downrigger that can get down deep where the fish are. Cruise rock pile to rock pile or along the edge of the channel, letting the lure run just off the bottom.
Grouper follow water temps. In hotter months, they’ll seek deeper water. In the cooler months, they’ll move inshore – sometimes in as little as 20 or 25 feet of water.
- Fish the edges of the Skyway Channel for good results.
- When running from spot to spot look for hard bottom or rocky bottom you might just find a new place to catch a limit.
- Don’t over look the numerous artificial reefs in the area that have published numbers.
- Take pictures! We want to see the big grouper you’re catching near Lands End Marina.