Offshore downrigging for grouper can prove to be very rewarding with the proper saltwater fishing tackle. Fishing from a boat outfitted with downriggers is a great way to produce some delicious grouper for the dinner table or just a fun day on the water.
Where to find them
Trolling with downriggers can also help to locate the exact spot these bottom feeders are hanging out in. You will want to look for deep holes structure like reefs, and places where there are natural underground springs that produce cooler water. A good fish finder/ depth recorder with color helps in locating these areas as well because they can help distinguish between soft and hard bottoms.
You will need a good heavy action rod with a nice level wind reel spooled with 50 - 60# test line or a heavy duty spinning reel spooled with 40 - 50# test fishing line. Some people prefer line that is segmented with different colors that let them know just how much line they have out. This [type of line comes in handy for this type of fishing but is not always necessary as good downrigger frequently has a counter to let you know how deep you are.
Bait and lure types
There are many good types of bait for grouper, frozen white bait, squid, or sardines make excellent bait for grouper if live bait is not obtainable. Live baits that work well are, pinfish, blue runners, cigar minnows, and Spanish sardines. You will want a good 7/0 to 8/0 hook to take advamtage of using those baits tied to about an 80# test monofilament or fluorocarbon leader with a swivel.
Artificial lures such as skirted bait and plugs are highly effective when trolling for grouper. It is very useful to tie a squid to a skirted hook with bronze wire as the Grouper "love em'". flashy field around the ball that actually attracts the fish. Most models have a positive ion control that enables you to adjust the voltage, regulating this "fish-attracting" electrical field. A 10 to 12 pound downrigger weight should be sufficient for grouper fishing deeper water.
Let out about 10' of line with your lure or bait attached. Keeping the bait within 10' of ball insures it is within the electrical field produced by the Cannon downrigger. Pass the line trough the release clip, release your bail and lower the downrigger while holding a thumb on your line to make it taunt. When you feel it reaches the bottom you should bring it back a couple of feet; this is where you should drift your bait at variable speeds until you find the fish. Close the bail on you reel and crank down on the line enough to create a bend in the rod so that it will snap up the moment the fish hits it. Two downriggers placed at the back corners of the boat will allow you to use two separate fishing rods that can be fished at different depths and lengths, increasing your chances of finding the fish.
With a little practice and experimentation, you should be able to bring in your fair share of grouper using a downrigger whether you use live bait or lures. So, get out and fish when you can, cause it is soooo much fun!
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