I’m back! I wanted to continue my discussion of the manly sport of fishing. I wish, like Hemingway, I could target Giant Bluefin Tuna and Black Marline. Alas, these species do not exist off the shores of my hometown of Naples, Florida. We have other species to target and no less manly to pursue
One of my favorites is the all-powerful grouper. Unlike most species you would catch like tuna, billfish and sharks (something else I pursue off Naples), grouper must not be allowed to run. A grouper never ventures very far from their home, some hole in the reef, hard bottom or wreck, for any reason. They will dart out for a few seconds, grab a meal and then it’s right back to their hole. This is a characteristic of grouper that makes them such a challenge to catch and so abusive on equipment. You must stop them from getting back in their hole, usually no more than a few feet from the hook up.
I liken a grouper to a tug boat. Tug boats are always listed with, not only their horse power, but also their “bollard pull”. This is the amount of pull in pounds a tug can exert while pushing or pulling on a ship or other object (another manly career Lumsky: harbor tug-boatman). It is usually in the hundreds of thousands of lbs. Groupers, like tug boats, have outrageous “bollard pull” for their size. Here is a picture of my friend, Bill wrestling with what appears to be a monster of monolithic proportions
That is a very stiff, large offshore rod bent almost to the point of breaking and Bill literally went to his knees to turn this grouper around. It ended up being a rather small Goliath Grouper, weighing about 75 or so lbs. This species of grouper can reach well over 500 lbs!!! Even this smaller 75-100 pounder is quite capable of pulling a full grown man over the side if you are not careful. How much manly fun is that?! Goliath Grouper fishing could probably fill a blog segment all on its own. Perhaps something you may see in the future. I think today, I will talk about the eating species (Goliaths are protected and must be released without putting them in the boat and unharmed).
This was Bill’s “little” Goliath….you could stuff a steering wheel in that mouth.
There is a fine balance between making sure the groupers are hooked and letting them make their way back into their hole. Yank prematurely on the rod to set the hook and they are gone. Wait too long and you have a solid hook set, but the menace has gone back in his hole with your bottom rig! Once in their hole, they are almost impossible to get back out. Eventually I will discuss a trick for getting them out that works about 75% of the time.
This is why grouper fishing requires very stout gear. Even for a small grouper, Like a 15 or 20 lb. Gag or Red, 50 lb. test leaders are usually the minimum. I don’t take chances and use 100 lb. mono in case I have to wrestle it out of its hole or it wraps the leader around the reef, rock or other obstruction. You need abrasion resistance and this comes from diameter, which equals big breaking strain. Rather large and heavy offshore rods with very stiff action coupled with large heavy reels used to be the norm. With advances in graphite, carbon and glass composites along with modern resin technologies, the rods have become smaller, thinner, lighter and yet almost indestructible and ridiculously strong. High speed “Jigging” rods, originally designed for tuna, amber jacks and other larger predatory fish have become very popular for grouper. Their light weight, small diameter and heavy lifting power serve the grouper fisherman well.
Check out Charkbait.com (one of my favorite on line fishing stores) for some of my favorite gear. I like to find affordable gear. For the fishing I do, I just can’t justify spending thousands of dollars on a rig, but I do like quality. Here is a great rod by Okuma called the Cedros Jigging Rod in the $100.00 range for use with up to 200 lb. test line!
A beautiful lightweight easy to handle rod that is quite capable of pulling up larger grouper. They are fantastic rods that will not tire your arms as you jig the lure/bait up and down off the bottom. With this Rod and a lightweight high performance conventional reel and you have a “meat stick” you can be proud of and use all day long without getting tired.
Technology certainly did not leave the conventional reel behind. Today, incredibly light, small, but strong reels made of carbon fiber components, aircraft aluminum bodies and even sporting dual drag systems rule the offshore world. Almost Herculean free spool drag numbers can be obtained with these newer reels.
I could write all day long about this mighty little reel….Avet’s mini powerhouse the SX Lever Drag.
In this picture is one of my favorite rod and reel setups for just about anything offshore.
This is a good size offshore Star Rod. The diminutive SX almost looks funny on such a large rod. There is a rather large Hammerhead Shark on the other end of that line. The SX made short order of the fight.
Minus the handle and the lever, you could slide this reel inside a beer can. It will hold about 250 yards of 80lb braid line and cranks down to 14lbs of free spool drag. 14 lbs. does not sound like a lot when you say it fast, but I have pulled a 400lb Nurse Shark (actually several large ones as they eat at the bottom along with the groupers) off the bottom in 100ft. of water in less than 10 minutes. It’s a boat wench. It will make short order of even the largest Gag, Red or Black Grouper.
Couple one of these high tech reels and rods together with some high breaking strain braided line and you have one agile yet very capable offshore grouper catching rig…AKA “Meat Stick”. Meat Stick is a term used to describe a rig used to catch fish for the cooler and not necessarily just for sport.
Next time in “The Corner” I will go into the bottom rigs or leaders, lures, baits and hooks used to get one of these fish from the reef, wreck or hard bottom to here….
Talking about your manly grilling…how about grilling up fresh grouper 30 miles offshore!!!! That makes the absolutely freshest and extremely tasty grouper sandwich you can ever eat. And the atmosphere rocks!!! Literally…Ha
Until Next time….tight lines and maybe I’ll see you outside the inlet.