In my opinion

South Atlantic grouper fishing closes Jan. 1

 

The South Atlantic fishing season for shallow-water grouper ends on Jan. 1.

Going for grouper

To charter Free Spool for a day of fishing, call 305-582-5445.

To access Miami-Dade County’s list of artificial reefs, go to miamidade.gov/development/reef-locator.asp.


scocking@MiamiHerald.com

South Florida anglers who want to catch grouper to anchor their holiday and New Year celebrations have 12 more days to get it done. The annual spawning season closure for shallow-water grouper in the South Atlantic, which took effect in 2010, begins Jan. 1 and runs through April 30. That means no harvest at all for red, gag, black, scamp, red hind, rock hind, yellowmouth, yellowfin, graysby and coney until May 1 in federal or state waters on Florida’s east coast and the Keys.

One of the region’s most successful grouper catchers is 30-year veteran captain Dennis Forgione, 48, owner of the charter boat Free Spool at Haulover Park Marina. Forgione says now is a great time to bottom-fish when conditions are right.

Conditioning

“You need north current or south current,” he said. “North is the preferred current.”

The most difficult conditions, he said, are when the wind and current are in opposition, as in a southerly wind and southerly current. Trying to anchor a boat near an artificial reef or rock pile so that baits are close to — but not in — the structure is extremely difficult in those circumstances, especially since the best depth range for grouper is 100 to 200 feet.

Forgione has been known to re-anchor the boat a couple times on the same spot trying to position it just right — or to leave if the current is too feeble.

Best bait

Once the boat is anchored with the stern just up-current of the target, Free Spool’s crew tosses out a few live pilchards or threadfin herring to stir things up. The boat typically carries a variety of live bait, including pinfish and sardines. But bait has been tough to obtain recently in the Haulover area, Forgione says, because a lot of the small fish died when they got washed ashore during the passage of Superstorm Sandy in October. Some boats have been forced to travel south of Government Cut to catch bait while others simply purchase it from Lester’s, Ashley’s or captain Jimmy Lewis’ live bait services.

Armed with plenty of live bait and heavy tackle — Penn conventional rods and two-speed reels loaded with 80- to 100-pound braid — the crew gauges the lead sinkers to the current velocity. That means anything from 3 ounces to 3 pounds of lead. Leader material is usually 10 to 15 feet of 60- to 100-pound monofilament, also depending on the current.

“If there’s a lot of current, we have to use lighter leader so the lead will go down,” Forgione explained.

The long leaders, he said, allow the bait to swim freely and naturally. Hooks are 9/0 circle hooks. Baits are usually hooked through the nose so they don’t get spun around the leader.

Common finds

The most common grouper species in local waters are gag, black and red. Forgione says blacks and reds tend to stick close to the sunken structure, while gags may range outward into open sand. Along with groupers, anglers might also catch mutton snapper, bonitos, kingfish and other species.

Forgione is not willing to give up GPS coordinates for any of his grouper hot spots, many of which have taken him years to locate. But a good place for a would-be grouper catcher to start is the Miami-Dade County artificial reef program website at miamidade.gov/development/reef-locator.asp.

And anglers should always pay attention to their fish-finders while cruising because they might stumble upon a previously unknown but productive site.

Read more Outdoors stories from the Miami Herald

  • OUTDOORS

    South Florida outdoors notebook: Seminar on bottom fishing set for July 10

    Captain Bouncer Smith will conduct a seminar on Bottom fishing from 20 feet to 2,000 feet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at Dusky Sportcenter, 110 N. Bryan Rd., Dania Beach. Admission is $15, redeemable for store merchandise. Call 954-922-8890.

  •  
Tyler Vick of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, holds up a nice snook caught near Flamingo in Everglades National Park.

    OUTDOORS

    Snook appear to have made full recovery in Everglades National Park

    The fishing near Flamingo in Everglades National Park is so good these days you almost forget about the bloodthirsty insects descending on you and the cloying heat enveloping you the minute you get out of the car.

  • Fishing Report: Redfish are best bet in Florida Bay

    Captain Jason Sullivan of Rising Tide Charters reported having some of the best tailing redfish action he has seen in years over the flats in Florida Bay. At times he has come across schools of redfish that numbered close to 100. Captain Jon Fetter of Catching the Cure Backcountry Fishing Charters out of Fort Myers reported redfishing has been hot during the early mornings around the mangrove shorelines. Shrimp-tipped jigs have been the top redfish baits this week. Plenty of mangrove snapper can be caught along the mangrove islands and oyster bars where they are attacking shrimp-tipped jigs.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category