Cold Front Gags - Grouper Report & Tips!

Another cold front has come and gone but the gags are holding steady on the nearshore reefs in 25-45ft. Contrary to most people's beliefs, area gags don't move as far or as often as they think. Even though air temperatures have been consistently cooler with the weekly cold fronts blowing through our region, the water temperatures on the bottom don't change anywhere near as rapidly or as significantly. As a result, we can find grouper year round on these nearshore reefs. Grouper, especially gag grouper, are also not as sensitive to water temperature as other fish like King Mackerel and Tarpon are. If there is food available in the area, they have little reason to leave.

Though my immediate fishing area and some of my key spots are not usually hit hard by commercial or recreational fisherman, it's tough for any fisherman to share secrets. And while trolling for gag grouper isn't quite a secret anymore, so many people are reluctant to try it because it's new. But I am here to tell you that this method of fishing will catch you more gag grouper than any traditional method you use inside 55ft of water.

What you need: a boat or even better, friend with a boat - 2 trolling rods (conventional or spinning) spooled with 50lb braid - 6-8ft of 60-80lb flourocarbon leader - Diving plugs, Rapala Mag 20/30's and Mann's Stretch 25+

I use Penn Battle II 8000's spooled with 50lb braid on a 7ft med/heavy action ugly stick (you want to be able to see the action of the lure as you troll).. I tie on 8ft of 60lb flourocarbon directly to the braid using a uni-uni knot (but use whatever line to leader knot you like). Then using a Rapala loop knot I tie on the lure. You will want to troll just two rods, but use two different color lures. The grouper will hit both but you may find that one color may be more productive than others on certain days.

As you begin the troll it is important that you set your baits back at the right distance. Read the packaging on the lure but typically 30 yards/100ft will set your bait down to the advertised depth. Braided line with zero stretch and thinner diameter will help this. If you let it out a little farther depending on depth, no worries. The goal is to have the lure just barely off the bottom. Too low and you may snag every now and then, too high and you may get a few less strikes. 2-5ft off the bottom is ideal...Speed is also a factor. In the winter when the fish are a little more sluggish, troll at 2.8-4kts. During the warmer months you can get away with 3-5 knots. Where I live in Port Richey and throughout most of western florida, the reefs run north and south. Troll north and south along the reef line and you'll find the fish. Make sure your drag is set tight enough to pull a fish away from the rocks but not too tight that a big fish will cause problems or a break off. You should be able to pull drag with your hand just a little bit from the reel. When the fish hits, and they will hit hard, you'll know. Keep the boat in gear for at least 5 seconds to pull the fish away from whatever ledge or hole he was hiding in. Then let the battle ensue. Don't forget that gags are out of season now, so catch and release until July! But now is a great time to practice this new method! Tight lines yall, I
hope you took the time to read this and be sure to post your results on here!

Went out yesterday evening for an hour of trolling. Here's a picture of a friend of mine who guides in Tampa/tarpon area with his first gag on the troll! He might be addicted...
Tight Lines..


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