As winter approaches and temperatures drop, massive migrations of Gag Grouper are heading for the warmer protection around St. Pete Beach. We are already seeing groups of them on our fishing charters as we post this. Gag Grouper are great fun to catch and easier than you think. Here are some pro tips:
Catching Gag Grouper in Florida
As the gulf’s water temperatures dip, Gag Grouper are desperate to head towards the coast and up onto the flats. Here they can find survivable temperatures and get ready to spawn. In the Gulf of Mexico, spawning happens from around January to March.
How Big Can You Catch?
Grouper are large fish, with catches usually weighing around 2lbs to 12lbs (though there are bigger ones out there!). The world record Gag Grouper catch is currently at 80 pounds, caught in 1993.
Fishing for Gag Grouper in shallow waters can be great in the fall when tides are weak and redfishing is tougher. Florida’s Gulf of Mexico laws allow 2 Gag Grouper per person which can be a four grouper aggregate.
Where to Catch Gag Grouper in St. Pete Beach?
While out on the water this November, we’ve already seen them showing within a few miles of the shoreline along with other fish such as Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish, Speckled Trout and Spinner Sharks.
They’re usually headed for shelter, so we search around structures near St. Pete Beach. Here we find decent size Gag Grouper, fast. They can also be seen around rocky ledges and patch reefs.
Another old trick can be searching for stone crab traps. If you see some crabbers’ traps, you can be sure some Gag Grouper are probably swimming nearby.
How to Catch Gag Grouper in St. Pete Beach?
Get Ready for the Fight!
Gags are a blast! They’re very aggressive and will fight you hard. Once hooked, they’re desperate to swim away and hide (or pull you in!).
Heavy gear is a must to avoid the Gags taking your line. Gags like to run into a hole to avoid being caught. Once in the hole, they will flex their gills which makes it very difficult to get them out. To fight that, you need to keep the drag tight and cranked all the way down. That way, it’s near impossible for the line to be pulled off the spool.
Keep your bait low, then reel up a crank or two so your bait is swimming just off the structure. Keep your rod low. When the Gag strikes, you can lift it fast! Turn away from the rocks, lift and reel down.
Carefully reel in the slack until your rod is low and tight to the fish. Then it’s all about using a quick, upwards stroke. We’ve learned some other tricks over the years that work too, especially when tackling a Gag that has headed to the rocks.
Gag Grouper Fishing Temperatures
Gag Grouper love water temperatures of between 66-78° F. In St Pt Beach, the winter water temperatures are around:
- November – 74.8° F
- December – 68.5 ° F
- January – 66° F
Book a Gag Grouper Fishing Charter in St. Pete Beach
At YACHTFISH Fishing Charters, we know all the hotspots for catching Gag Grouper in St. Pete Beach and would love to help you get your hands on one. This fall is prime time for catching big Gag Grouper near the shore. They guarantee a great fight! Book your St Pete Beach fishing charter with YACHTFISH today!