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Middle Grounds bait question for grouper/snapper

Hey guys. First off thanks for everyone that has responded to my past post regarding bottom fishing combo for bait fishing at the middle grounds.

I along with two of my uncles will be fishing the 12 hour extreme trip on Hubbards Flying Hub June 9 & July 11. As it is during ARS season we will be targeting them along with grouper and mangrove snapper. The boat supplies threadfin and squid.

Besides the two ARS that I am allowed to keep, I am looking to target larger fish like red and gag grouper.

I live over on the east coast in Palm Beach County so I have access to fresh ballyhoo and possibly fresh dead goggle eyes. I think goggle eyes are not common in the Gulf and was wondering if I would be wasting my time and money bringing over a few dozen fresh frozen goggle eyes from the local bait guy to bottom fish with?

No matter what I will bring over some fresh ballyhoo.

What do you guys think about bottom fishing with fresh goggle eyes vs fresh ballyhoo for grouper?

Also what leader length do you prefer while bottom fishing in middle grounds at anchor? Over here along east coast I have to go long leader while drifting and I think that a long leader may cause tangles with other fishermen.

As I am on the east coast I don't have much experience bottom fishing in the middle grounds.

Thanks in advance

Replies

  • NitzeyNitzey Posts: 269 Deckhand
    Whew, I am out of my league here as I am a transplant from the Panhandle, where deep spots were very close to shore.  We used to target red snapper foremost, and without question, the biggest are up in the water.  The big ones are not fearful of leaving the bottom.  Try halfway up, whatever the bait.  Chumming will bring them up to the top.  It is a different fish when caught higher up; they hit and fight very hard.

    As a general rule, lighter leaders will elicit more bites.   Fluorocarbon of course.
  • clarosaclarosa Posts: 942 Officer
    I would scrap the ballyhoo and gogs and bring some local frozen sardines(not the imported) and a box of boston/northern mackerel. I've caught some of my biggest ARS on Boston Mackerel and the sardines will be much better for the Mango's. The Mackerel works better for Red Grouper too.
    SnappaSlappa jigs, Made By Fisherman FOR fisherman

    https://snappaslappa.com/collections/jigs
  • Jack HexterJack Hexter New Port RicheyPosts: 5,510 Moderator
    I don't know what it is about ballyhoo in my area (Anclote - N & S) but I've dropped live and fresh dead ballyhoo during a hot grouper bite and it turned it off.  I've never caught a grouper on a ballyhoo in the gulf.  I've asked well respected charter captains about this and they have the same results, yet they don't know why
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,667 Captain
    Squid works very well for big ars too.  I was out a few years ago in 175' of water in the boat I now own with the former owner TokinRed.  He is adamant about live bait only.  Would rarely take dead bait with him unless I snuck it on.  We were buddy boating with a buddy of his and they are a few hundred feet away slaying the big snapper.  It was ridiculous.  He drove over to us and threw a 5 lb box of squid on the deck and it was game on.

    I take EVERYTHING now when I go.  Especially on a trip like that.
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • Mackeral SnatcherMackeral Snatcher Posts: 12,900 AG
    Fresh grunt heads work well, but don't tell anyone.
    THERE SHOULD BE NO COMMERCIAL FISHING ALLOWED FOR ANY SPECIES THAT IS CONSIDERED OVERFISHED.
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 16,491 AG
    i can tell you I did not have much success,in fact zero success with cigar minnows.   I have heard of people stuffing them inside a squid and using that as bait but never done it myself.   
    You can't pet a dead dog back to life 
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,533 Admiral
    American Red Snapper:  
    Have been fishing the Florida Middle Grounds for 40+ years. In all probability you will be fishing the Grounds. Average depth125 feet; or beyond over 200.'
    That boat is a fish catching machine. You will catch your limit of Red Snapper. The provided Threadfin is all the bait you will need.
    TIP:  Start out fishing the bottom; if no hits, crank about 8-10 times & hold for a few minutes; then let back down. Keep repeating this... It works!
    LEADER: 3-4 feet is plenty. Fluoro for American Reds, Gag & Red Grouper is a waste of money. They could care less. 
    May want to use Fluoro for Mangrove Snapper; I don't & I have caught them by the hundreds. 
    Red Grouper: Threadfin & squid work well. 
    Gag Grouper: Will hit threadfins well; live pins much better. That boat has a live well.
    Suggest 40 pound tackle for American Reds & Mangrove Snapper, 80-100 for grouper. 
    Captains: Not sure who the Captain will be. Will probably be either Captain Joey or Rich. Both are very good.

    May want to also try the 39/44 hour trips on the Florida Fisherman ll. You can legally keep a 2 day possession limit. 
    Hope this helps.  Bob


  • hook_emhook_em Posts: 291 Deckhand
    Squid works very well for big ars too.  I was out a few years ago in 175' of water in the boat I now own with the former owner TokinRed.  He is adamant about live bait only.  Would rarely take dead bait with him unless I snuck it on.  We were buddy boating with a buddy of his and they are a few hundred feet away slaying the big snapper.  It was ridiculous.  He drove over to us and threw a 5 lb box of squid on the deck and it was game on.

    I take EVERYTHING now when I go.  Especially on a trip like that.
    When I used to fish on the head boats out of Texas, they only used squid for ARS.  The rigs were 2 hooks on a steel leader.  Quite often you would get 2 fish on a drop.
  • th19999th19999 Posts: 257 Deckhand
    Thanks for all the responses.

    I would never have thought that ballyhoo would not work well in the gulf. I guess I will bring sardines as something different from the provided threadfin. Which brands of sardines are "local"?

    I think the boat provides the large squid wings that you can cut strips from so I may bring a box or two of whole frozen squid along with a few dozen live pinfish that they can provide. 

    I probably wont use all the bait as it is a one day trip, but there are several in my group so I will have plenty to share.
  • clarosaclarosa Posts: 942 Officer
    th19999 said:
    Thanks for all the responses.

    I would never have thought that ballyhoo would not work well in the gulf. I guess I will bring sardines as something different from the provided threadfin. Which brands of sardines are "local"?

    I think the boat provides the large squid wings that you can cut strips from so I may bring a box or two of whole frozen squid along with a few dozen live pinfish that they can provide. 

    I probably wont use all the bait as it is a one day trip, but there are several in my group so I will have plenty to share.
    Fishermans ideal supply house will usually have them, Just ask for domestic sardines https://fishonestop.com/en/?SID=6uheqop0712cajdhkoaftqd693 . Like captain bly said, squid sometimes out fishes everything weirdly. For the charters I ran last year, sardines and boston mackerel were by far the best baits for ARS, but every once in a while the squid would be the ONLY thing they bit. Sometimes they will not touch it though. A big live sand perch is my go to for my largest ARS. Throw a decent sized live bait on a 1/2oz jighead(with a strong hook) and hold on. The biggest ones like to stay up in column. 
    SnappaSlappa jigs, Made By Fisherman FOR fisherman

    https://snappaslappa.com/collections/jigs
  • Mango ManMango Man Posts: 13,422 AG


    I take EVERYTHING now when I go.  
    Here's your answer. You never know what they're going to hit. Pins, Pigs, dines, squid, Cigar Minnows, Boston Mac and the list goes on. You're making a 2 or 3 plus hour run, burn lots of fuel, why would NOT be prepared. 

    I remember quite well a trip I did to the MG's up in the 600's. The only bait they'd (gags, AJ's, Scalies) hit were live squirrels. Period. 


    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,667 Captain
    Why are you so wise in the mountains?   

    Look up pilot cove.  A very good Friend of mine developed it.   

    Hope all is well in the great white north and if you ever want to get out, yiu got a spot.....
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,533 Admiral
    edited April 2021 #14
    Live Pins are fantastic bait for grouper Mangrove & Red Snapper. Threadfins also work well. On the longer 39/44 hour trips we salt them down; probably not necessary on a 12 hour trip. 

    Squid wing, cut into strips, also works well; very good for Red Grouper. 
    Captain Joey, and Captain Rich are both experts they will teach you all the tricks.
    Captain Rich will show you how to catch American Reds & Red Grouper on a gig. 

    Please share your great catch. On-the-water photos would be great!
  • th19999th19999 Posts: 257 Deckhand
    Thanks for all of the input.

    Yesterday my local bait shop had domestic sardines from Cortez Fl. He did not know when or if they were going to get them next so I got two 5lb boxes and will store them for my future trips.

    Also I will probably bring a box of frozen squid and maybe Boston Mackerel to fish along with the live pinfish that the boat can provide at extra cost.

    I will be bringing a camera on the boat and I will report back with photos on how we do and what baits worked the best for both June and July trips.
  • Mango ManMango Man Posts: 13,422 AG
    What bait are they providing??


    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln
  • th19999th19999 Posts: 257 Deckhand
    Mango Man

    The boat provides thredfin along with large squid wings. They also provide live pinfish at @ $9 per dozen and I plan on getting 3 dozen for the trip.
  • tankeredtankered Gainesvill, FlPosts: 1,424 Officer
    I've been to the MGs 5 times (though on private boats, not Hubbard's) and not once have fish been picky about bait.

    For what that's worth. 
  • Kokosing LoverKokosing Lover Posts: 1,157 Officer
    th19999 said:
    Mango Man

    The boat provides thredfin along with large squid wings. They also provide live pinfish at @ $9 per dozen and I plan on getting 3 dozen for the trip.
    You won't need three dozen for a 12 hour trip.  As far as red snapper are concerned, you're probably overthinking the bait situation.  Red snapper are the dumb rabbits of the snapper family; they tend not to be the most sophisticated eaters compared to mangroves and muttons and most days will eat whatever is put in front of them.  Some baits will perform better for larger fish by dint of staying on the hook better, i.e. boston mackerel.
  • tankeredtankered Gainesvill, FlPosts: 1,424 Officer
    ^^^^^ This. 

    My first time out there, we had sabiki'd some pins up on the way out, at our first stop as soon as the anchor caught everyone on the boat was scrambling to get a live pinfish to drop down.

    Except me, I grabbed half a sardine, dropped it down and came up with the first ARS on the boat, which would also turn out to be the biggest of the trip. 

    Like I said, I have yet to find a real picky fish out there.
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,533 Admiral
    The threadfins provided are all you will need for Red Snapper. Anything else is an expensive over-kill
    Both Red & Mangrove snapper love threadfins. As was said Red Snapper are easy to catch. They are very aggressive and will hit just about any bait offered. Mangrove Snapper also love threadfin, but are much harder to fool.
    Red Grouper:  Will feed on just about anything. 
    Gag Grouper: Will hit threadfins well. But big live pinfish are a better choice when targeting Gags. 

    Personally I prefer the 39/44 hour overnight trips. Love the 2 day possession limit. 
    We can legally keep 4 American Reds, 4 Gags, and 20 Mangrove Snapper.
    The meals are outstanding:

    That was dinner on the 44 hour Middle Grounds & beyond trip 04/23/21.
  • SmoothwaterSmoothwater South Pasadena Posts: 192 Deckhand
    Don't forget the jigs.  The biggest RS i've caught have been on vertical jigs up in the water colum.  You can get the local dines from FISH by the flat.  
    Everglades 243
  • terdfergusonterdferguson Posts: 101 Deckhand
    What are domestic sardines?  Are they spanish sardines, scaled sardines or something else??
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,533 Admiral
    Have seen many caught on jigs. 
  • clarosaclarosa Posts: 942 Officer
    What are domestic sardines?  Are they spanish sardines, scaled sardines or something else??
    locally caught, non imported sardines. A lot of the sardines are imported from China and they don't smell the same and are usually not as good. AP Bell will usually have local sardines, as well as FISH. When fish are being picky they will get bit much better than the imported. 
    SnappaSlappa jigs, Made By Fisherman FOR fisherman

    https://snappaslappa.com/collections/jigs
  • Kokosing LoverKokosing Lover Posts: 1,157 Officer
    What are domestic sardines?  Are they spanish sardines, scaled sardines or something else??
    Spanish.
  • Mango ManMango Man Posts: 13,422 AG
    Why are you so wise in the mountains?   

    Look up pilot cove.  A very good Friend of mine developed it.   

    Hope all is well in the great white north and if you ever want to get out, yiu got a spot.....
    Pilot Cove is close by, nice area! I appreciate that Bly. We might be heading down for a Long weekend visit in September depending on work and we do have reservations on St Pete Beach. I'll let ya know. 


    America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
    Abraham Lincoln
  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 2,667 Captain
    The owners of Pilot Cove are very good friends of mine.  Good folks.  Good to have a beer with.  Lane and Beth.  Touch base with them.  You will enjoy them.  Hope all is well.
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • Hunter85Hunter85 Posts: 110 Deckhand
    my suggestion for grouper bait would be the biggest, lively b liner you catch off the spot you are fishing 
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 5,533 Admiral
    "my suggestion for grouper bait would be the biggest, lively b liner you catch off the spot you are fishing"
    Fantastic bait, but against the law. 
     
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