Groupers live in deeper water than our other reef fish, and they like natural structure. Rocks, ledges, and drop offs are prime grouper holding spots. “I don’t start looking for spots until I am in at least two hundred feet of water,” said Kelly. “Our part of the Gulf of Mexico drops off quickly when you reach that depth and, as a result, the rocks and ledges of limestone will show up on your bottom machine. You have to use your electronics to find spots that hold the fish.”
Unlike when you are looking for a snapper spot and you want to see your depth finder loaded with fish, Kelly says he is not nearly as concerned with marking fish as he is the structure. Grouper are going to be on the bottom, so they are not going to mark up on the screen high in the water column. “If you see loads of fish on the spot, you are not going to get your bait to the grouper if they are there, so just move on to another spot.” For bait, Kelly says ‘anything that wiggles’ is prime bait for scamp and gags, but red grouper prefer dead or cut bait. A whole butterflied fish is the bait of choice for red grouper.