12 Mile Grouper
"Grouper Gold Mines Within Sight of Land!"

by
Allen Applegarth

Allen Applegarth
author1@gte.net


Allen Applegarth is the author of the recently published book, Florida Fishing. He lives and writes in St Pete, Florida
For many, the thought of catching off shore grouper entails a long trip aboard a big sea worthy craft, fully equipped with GPS systems and high tech fish finders. As a result, their interest in grouper fishing remains no more than a thought of "I wish I could." Although charters are a great way to catch fish, many of us want to use our boats and control our time span on the water. The following article will provide details for those of you who really want to catch grouper—but just do not have the high tech equipment or wish to travel 50+ miles offshore. Further, it is much easier to drift fish versus trying to work a channels edge or an offshore reef. So, for those of you who are intrigued by grouper fishing but not by the streamlined methods—give it a try!
THE BAIT—

Pinfish, Pinfish, and more Pinfish—Grab yourself a bag of unfrozen chum and head out to the nearest flats—in our case it was the flats near the Skyway bridge. Anchor up in about 4 feet of water on the sand bottom, 5 feet from the grass. Drop your UNFROZEN chum bag in and wait a few minutes to draw out the pins hiding in the nearby grass. Position your boat where the chum slick will cover the sand bottom and not the grass bottom. This will draw the pins into the open sand bottom, allowing a much cleaner and fuller net. We used this method and netted a minimum of 6-8 pins per throw. After 10-15 minutes we had 40 pins in the well and enough bait to head offshore. Remember—Draw the pins away from the grass. If you chum over the grass the pins will be near shelter, thus—a messy net and less bait.

PRECAUTIONS—

Before you choose to take a trip offshore, make sure that you check the weather report. Find a day with low or no rain chances and light East winds—this will help keep the gulf water calm. Although you may not be far offshore, take a cell phone or some other device to contact another in case of an emergency.

GOING OFFSHORE—

Leaving out of Blinds Pass, head straight (WEST) until you reach 12 miles. If you are not equipped with a distance log, estimate your speed and calculate from that. If your heading out in the afternoon, look for one of the pleasure cruise lines, they must be a minimum of 9 miles offshore to operate, however, some do travel up to 15 miles. Another way to judge your distance is to look at the shoreline. On a clear day, you should be able to see a hint of land at 12-15 miles. Since you are not targeting a certain area, plan to spend some time on the water. In our case, we hit gold 20 minutes after arrival, but as we all know—fish are very unpredictable.

FISHING FOR GROUPER—

Once you reach the 12-15 mile area, turn off the engine and begin your drift You’ll want palm size pins hooked forward of the dorsal fin on a 3/0 hook. Use about 3 feet of 40lb mono leader under a swivel and a free sliding egg weight Use the smallest weight possible, but make sure it reaches the bottom.. Drop your bait straight down to the bottom and allow it to drag behind the boats drift. You should have 15 feet of line from the rod tip to the water's surface to put your bait at a good distance from the boat. The bottom in this area is incredibly smooth and chances of snags are minimal. As the weight drags the bottom it disturbs the bottom and draws attention to the pin swimming closely behind or above. As you drift across the 36 foot deep water, you will drift over different bottom types that hold plenty of keeper size grouper. The bottom looks smooth but it houses many keeper sized grouper!

Keep Your Tip Up!

Allen Applegarth, Author Florida Fishing

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