Grouper fishing in Islamorada is a lot of fun. We catch grouper all year long , but we can only keep them during the open seasons.
The limit is 3 per person, but only 1 Gag or 1 Black grouper in the 3. Snowy grouper have a shorter season ending on August 31. Gag and Black grouper must be 24 inches and Âmost of the others are 20 inches. The same regulations apply in the keys in both Atlantic and Gulf state waters. State waters extend to 9 miles in the Gulf and 3 miles in the Atlantic
State and world grouper records are:
- Black grouper The state record is 113lb 6oz caught in the Dry Tortugas in 1990 by Donald Bone. the world record was caught in the Gulf in Texas in 2003 by Tim Oesteich. It weighed 124lbs.
- Gag Grouper 80lbs 6oz caught in Destin in 1993 by Bill Smith This is also the world record.
- Goliath Grouper 680lbs caught in Ferdinaanda Beach in 1961 by Lynn Joyner. This is also the world record. Species in now protected.
- Nassau Grouper 9lb from Marathon Key in 2007 by Nicholas Grecco World record was caught in Bimini in 1994 by Lewis Goodman. Weight was 38lb 8
- Red Grouper 42lb 4oz caught in St Augustine Inlet in 1997 by Del Wiseman Jr. This is also the world record.
- Warsaw grouper 436lb 12oz In Destin in 1985 By Steve Haeusler. This is also the world record
- Yellowfin grouper Â 34lb 6oz in Key Largo in 1988 by Roy Hogrebe. The world record was caught in Louisiana in 2002 by Jim Becquet in 2002. It weighed 42lbs..
Grouper are found on the reefs and wrecks off of the Keys. The bigger specimens are generally found on the outer reefs and deep water wrecks. The are tough fighters. Usually caught on live bait or cut bait, they live on the bottom. When caught they will try to pull back into the cover often breaking or fraying line. You must get control of the fish quickly and turn it toward the surface. Groupers start life as females and change to males later in life. Grouper have large mouths with heavy plates to crush prey. The do not bite off pieces of their prey , but will swallow it whole. They will use their mouths to suck in prey from a distance and to dig shelter holes.
The giant of the grouper family, the goliath (formerly called jewfish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins, a large mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes, and a rounded tail. It also has five dark body bands or stripes that are most visible on young goliaths. Goliath grouper can reach 800 pounds and over 8 feet Â in length. The Florida record is a 680-pound goliath grouper was caught off Fernandina Beach in 1961.
Goliath Grouper Â are not legal to keep. They are a protected species, however we do get them on the hook when grouper fishing. They can be extremely large and hard to bring to the boat. They are generally found in less than 70 feet of water. They like rocky areas, reefs, and structures in the water like bridges and pilings. They feed on crustaceans and fishes. They have been known to swallow a shark.
All goliaths that are caught must be released. Many fisherman believe that the stock has returned to acceptable levels and should not be protected. They are protected mainly because of their slow growth and the fact that the mature sexually late. Their main diet is Calico crab and other invertebrates. They will eat fish but rarely chase them. Florida state record is 680lbs.
Gag grouper have a 24 inch minimum. You can keep 1 gag or 1 black but not both. Season is closed from Jan 1 to April 30. Brownish gray in color with dark worm like markings on the side. Florida state record is 80.6lbs
Gag grouper are generally found on hard bottoms in 60 to 250\’ of water. The are often alone , but are sometimes found in groups of 5 or more. They love rocky areas and irregular bottoms.\
Generally considered the best eating and it the species preferred by restaurants.
Black grouper have a 24 inch minimum. You can keep 1 gag or 1 black but not both. Season is closed from Jan 1 to April 30. The black grouper has olive or gray body coloration along with dark rectangular blotches and small hexagonal bronze spots on its head and lower side. Black grouper can grow up to 52 inches and have been known to reach 170lbs. They are considered one of the best tasting fish in the ocean. World record is 124lbs. Florida state record is 113lbs caught near the Dry Tortugas. It may have been broken by a pending 124lb fish caught in Fort Myers.
Red, Scamp, Yellowfin and yellowmouth
Red Grouper are usually found in deeper water on rocky flat bottoms. they like holes and the edges of the rocks. They are not usually found on coral reefs. They are usually dark brown with a reddish cast
Red, Scamp, Yellowfin and yellowmouth Grouper have a 20 inch minimum and are counted in the 3 grouper maximum. Season is closed from Jan 1 to April 30\
Warsaw and Snowy grouper are prohibited.
Reef fish can be used as bait in the Atlantic.