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Old 07-17-2017, 07:01 AM   #1
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Default Cannot get keeper groupers...

We are going out 30-35 miles to 90-95ft. and can't catch a single keeper. We catch red grouper ALLLL day long and they're all undersized. We mainly fish live pins. I'll be honest and say I've never had a boat big enough to go this far so we don't have any spots marked, we just drive until we see 90ft.+ and then we drift looking for cheese bottom and bites. When it's colder we stay more shallow but I've never had to go out this far for gags and reds.

Any tips or help would be greatly appreciated, this is my first full season fishing offshore for grouper.

EDIT Notes:
We leave through John's Pass.
We fish knocker rigs 3oz-6oz weight (depending on current) with 3/O-6/O hooks
We normally drift because we don't have spots marked and when we hook up we mark it and drift it again to check (not much success with this method but I think that's due to my GPS).
We fish live pins but will also drop frozen sardines, squid and threadfins.
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Old 07-17-2017, 07:41 AM   #2
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Bigger bait. Try big Bonita strips, butterflies hard tails or white snappers or live squirrel fish
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Old 07-17-2017, 07:51 AM   #3
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Troll Skyway channel with X rap 30's don't have to go very far.

Caught 4 gags 18-26" in hour and half Sat
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Old 07-17-2017, 08:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
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Bigger bait. Try big Bonita strips, butterflies hard tails or white snappers or live squirrel fish
Gotcha. Are those lizard fish any good for grouper?

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Troll Skyway channel with X rap 30's don't have to go very far.

Caught 4 gags 18-26" in hour and half Sat
Interesting... So a really great THT member "Selser" helped me in my troll game last year and I use Magnum stretch 30's and those x-raps. I feel like it worked REALLY well in the winter but I don't seem to hook up in the summer. I was thinking it was a temperature thing. Water was 87-90 all day yesterday.
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Old 07-17-2017, 08:08 AM   #5
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Selser knows his stuff for sure. Gags are out there. I got a new all yellow X rap 30 and it was getting crushed. Only trolled for a little bit and it was non stop
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Old 07-17-2017, 08:18 AM   #6
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You say you don't have any spots marked. Everybody and his brother is out there marking spots and they don't stay secret for long. If you can scout around or somehow figure out how to get some spots that should help getting the bigger grouper. Live big pinfish have worked for me in the past as well as Sand Perch (which my buddy calls grouper candy). Grunts or Yellowtail also have worked.
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Old 07-17-2017, 09:12 AM   #7
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Ok so it would seem as though we need to sabiki some larger bait or try trolling nearshore... Any other suggestions regarding what bottom to look for?
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:54 PM   #8
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Check your private messages,
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:57 PM   #9
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I normally don't have an issue, but I always anchor up to a spot and fish that spot. I spearfish quite a bit, you would be amazed how small some of these spots are. You are either on it, or in the sand. Good luck!
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Old 07-17-2017, 01:58 PM   #10
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Saturday we caught 4 tiny grouper vs easily over a 100 snapper with everything from strip bait, to large blue runners, and large pinfish.


Didn't seem to matter. The snapper are just too thick. Wouldn't shock me a bit to think that the number of snapper has forced the grouper deeper than usual.
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Old 07-17-2017, 02:11 PM   #11
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Fish have found out about size limits and learned to stop growing just under the limit. Flounder in my area were first to figure it out.
Bonecracker and fijon like this.
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:04 PM   #12
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I've been out to 60 miles and finding a lot of the same on the bottom. A few nice fish, but nearly everything that goes into the box needs to be measured. Different than every other year I have fished over there. Running further too.
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tapate50 View Post
Saturday we caught 4 tiny grouper vs easily over a 100 snapper with everything from strip bait, to large blue runners, and large pinfish.


Didn't seem to matter. The snapper are just too thick. Wouldn't shock me a bit to think that the number of snapper has forced the grouper deeper than usual.
As in Red Snapper, that you can't keep? No Mangroves?
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:37 PM   #14
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Maybe we've just been lucky but we have been killing the red grouper 38 miles from Johns Pass on hard bottom. All big fatties 25 inches and up. We haven't been so lucky with the red snapper. Only 1 keeper so far.
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:49 PM   #15
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Definitely a thanks to you guys, I am glad I was able to help. I definitely don't know everything about the grouper trolling but I can tell you Toofman that it is the same experience I have always seen. I only troll for gags when the water cools off, I never have luck in the heat of the summer trolling, BUT thats not to say it doesn't work, because DEBT has it dialed in pretty good.
Since I dive a TON, the main thing I see and think is that in the summer there are such schools of glass minnows and good bait balls surrounding these ledges and the gags that they don't have to chase or even go far to fill their stomach, so they really don't care to chase the plugs. In the winter I think they are hungry, and aggressive on the plugs. Just my thoughts, seems to have worked for me over the years.
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Old 07-18-2017, 05:30 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 85okhai View Post
Bigger bait. Try big Bonita strips, butterflies hard tails or white snappers or live squirrel fish
x2, a one or two pound chunk of ladyfish, cuda, or bonita will get a big grouper intrested.
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Old 07-18-2017, 06:43 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lobstercatcher229 View Post
As in Red Snapper, that you can't keep? No Mangroves?
Yes the endangered ARS. Only a few mangroves this season, but those have good sized.


Edit- not leaving out of Johns Pass, im in NW FL.
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Old 07-18-2017, 08:00 AM   #18
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Yes the endangered ARS. Only a few mangroves this season, but those have good sized.


Edit- not leaving out of Johns Pass, im in NW FL.
Thanks for the information. I dive South Florida and the Hogfish is pretty common if you like them less than 12 inches. I could see some sort of rule to bring the Hogfish population back to what it was in South Florida in 1968. The ARS rules are currently ridiculous.
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Old 07-18-2017, 08:20 AM   #19
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You may be blowing right passed the fish heading out to 90'. Watch your bottom machine like a hawk on the way out and if you see a nice spike on the machine stop and check it out. If you don't have a specific coordinate you're running to it can't hurt to try. I'd anchor up rather than drifting if you can get on some good structure and if you get some nice grunt drop down an entire filet and it might produce a larger fish. We fish out of Crystal River and I've got keeper Gags in 45', 55' and one out in 95'. So far I've had the same luck as you on RG though all dinks. Think we are still suffering from the Red Tide years ago.
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Old 07-18-2017, 10:58 AM   #20
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I've done better trolling in 45 feet of water off Anna Maria than any years past. I do OK in shipping channel but get lots of smalls.

Find some ledges and try to parallel them. Gags will hit big lip plugs and bucktails on a downrigger. I used to pull up the occasional red grouper too. None this year.
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