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Don’t forget the bag limit when fishing for grouper

By GEORGE TUNISON - | Sep 24, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Capt. Roy Bennett with his grouper.

When going grouper fishing, don’t forget the Gulf Grouper Aggregate Bag Limit regulation: “All species of grouper in the Gulf are included in a 4 fish per harvester per day aggregate bag limit in any combination of grouper species”

There is also a zero bag limit for captain and crew of for hire vessels which applies to gag, black and red grouper.

Red grouper are a popular sport and table fish and are being caught by our offshore crews on secret and not so secret GPS coordinates, ledges, wrecks and reefs throughout the Gulf.

FWC rules call for a 20-inch minimum size limit with 2 fish per harvester and the season is open year-round.

The IGFA All Tackle Record was set by a 42-pound, 4-ounce fish. Worthy of mention is the 12-pound test line class record caught during 2007 in Port Canaveral, Florida. This red weighed 25 pounds, 8 ounces.

Here at home grouper hit man Roy Bennett made it look easy with a 29- and 30-inch doubleheader caught during a recent beautiful day on the Gulf 50 or so miles south of Sanibel Island. His gang also caught good numbers of lane snapper before motoring home.

Lane snapper have an 8-inch minimum size limit with a 100 pounds per harvester daily recreational bag limit, which is not included in the Gulf snapper aggregate bag limit. Lane snapper are also open to year-round harvest

Keep a cobia rod rigged and ready for action when going offshore as you never knows when you might encounter these hard fighting and sometimes too curious for their own good sport and table fish. One rod rigged with a brightly colored bucktail or feathered jig and another with a foot long plastic eel will handle the lure casting crowd’s needs. Serious cobia hunters will have a live-well full of real deal eels ready to cast with big white baits, pinfish and crabs also good back up choices.

Cobias are required to have a 33-inch minimum fork length before being allowed guest of honor spots at your backyard grill. One allowed per harvester and never more than 2 per vessel.

If you hook one and fight it to the boat, be aware that the battle is only half over. Getting the fish out of the water and into the fish box can also be quite the challenge with these strong battlers, which are usually gaffed often resulting in major mayhem, bruising and lacerations. A few years back I watched a Keys mate’s thigh being deeply punctured by a gaff due to a thrashing cobia not happy about leaving the water. Most captains carry a fish club on board to help quickly subdue these tough fighters.

Although some snook still linger around the passes and beach, most of the gang is thinking of seriously fattening up for the upcoming cold water period and can be found on inshore mangrove points and shorelines, creek mouths and throughout our river systems. Not many take advantage of the snook’s big appetite and its fondness for big baits. A foot-long mullet under a float presented around large structures will get the interest of that 30 pounder that’s been ignoring your traditional 3-inch spinning lures. Just make sure your tackle is capable of lob casting these big live baits, setting the hook and getting these big fish turned away from cover or it’s quickly, game over.

Many famous trophy snook guides like “The Mad Snooker” Capt. Dave Pomerleau of Bradenton Florida, promote the use of J hooks when fishing jumbo baits with the idea being to set the hook now on the strike instead of waiting for the fish to turn, helping the circle hook set itself, while at the same time letting the fish get a head start for cover.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@aol.com.