One of the favorite targeted species in Cabo is the Grouper. There are over 60 species and the large ones can grow anywhere between 50 to 100 lbs and measure as long as 10 feet. Known for its stout body and big mouth, they are capable of engulfing huge baits and would not pass chomping on a fish that has already been hooked by a fisherman. The 500-pound goliath grouper caught on video eating a 3-foot shark being reeled by an angler is the perfect example of its voracious appetite.
During the cold months of winter, Groupers often stay in nearshore waters where its warmer compared to the deeper areas. But when summer comes and the water temperatures escalate, they return to their offshore habitat. You can look for them in coastal waters near natural reefs, patch reefs, man-made reefs, rocky bottoms, shipwrecks, and drop-off walls in depths over 60 feet during the warm months of the year.
Increase your grouper strikes
Your choice of tackle depends on the size of the targeted swimmer. If you’re after the smaller types, you can use your spinning gear but if you’re set on a large one that is around 50 lbs or heavier, you will need heavier conventional tackle than what you would normally use for the same sized catch. This species won’t give up without a fight so better choose a reel with a quality drag and excellent braking pressure. A rod with a strong backbone will give you more leverage against a heavyweight. When it comes to the line, the minimum is a 60-pound braided line but you can load up to 80 or 100-pound braid. In terms of leaders, use 4-6 feet of 80-100 lbs of fluorocarbon but some cases might call for steel shock leaders.
Since this species have an incredible appetite, it’s not a surprise they can be caught using both natural (live and dead baits) and artificial baits (lures). Trolling deep diving plugs is an ideal angling technique for Groupers since they go just above the reef where the targets are. When trolling, they do not waste time to think before taking a bite; otherwise, they would lose a potential meal. In other words, they bite first and regret it later when they end up getting hooked. You can also cast jerkbait minnows and retrieve them in an irregular manner but pause every now and then. You might be surprised to get a strike during one of your pauses. Metal jigs work well in deeper waters by bouncing them off the bottom and you can also drop some cranks. Bucktail jigs also generate strikes, either with bait or plain. Soft plastic curly tails attached to a 4-8 oz. jig-head are effective on them too.
Sardines, grunts, pinfish, pilchards, mullet, goggle-eyes, and blue runners make excellent live bait for these hungry eaters. You can coordinate with the crew of your charter boat to provide the appropriate live bait for your angling trip. As for dead bait like squid and baitfish, you can buy frozen or fresh ones at the local bait shop.
If your targeted fish keeps stealing bait instead of getting hooked in the process, you might want to try the live bait rigging technique called bridling. This technique requires a bridling hook (AKA baiting needle), rubber bands, hook, and of course, live bait. Begin by taking a rubber band and binding it to the bend of your hook using a cow hitch. Then catch the other tip of the rubber band with the hook end of the bridling hook. The next step is to puncture the sharp end of the bridling hook through either the dorsal fin or front of the eyes of the baitfish until it goes through the other side of the body. After this, remove the bridling hook from the rubber band and catch it with a hook to end up with a hanging baitfish. To ensure that the bait is tightly secured, revolve the hook several times to twist the rubber band. Then for the last step, slide the hook point below the twisted rubber band and you’re all set to drop your bait.
Regardless of your choice of rig, you’ll need circle hooks so make sure you have enough of those when you head out to sea. Your hooks should be appropriate to the size of your targeted Grouper with a minimum size of 7/0 or larger.
When you get a strike, keep it away from the structure as fast as you can to prevent you from getting cut off. If the Grouper swooshes back to its home or hiding place, the captain can shift the boat a little bit so the line could move out and you could get it out of the rocks or any other structure. Keep reeling until you bring it to the surface then use a landing net to get it out of the water. Do not lift the rod to get the fish because it might tear the flesh. If you plan to bring home your catch, the crew can arrange to have it cleaned and filleted for you. If you’re wondering how it tastes, the Grouper is lean and moist with a mild flavor.
Landing a heavyweight or a Goliath Grouper is very intense and requires teamwork. If you plan to catch and release the Goliath, do not bring it in the boat to avoid stressing it. You can have your picture taken with the catch on the side of the boat before removing the hook and letting it go.
If you’re up for a Grouper angling adventure, charter a boat to Cabo where these large-mouths are prolific from April to June. You also have a good chance of hooking one before and after the high season particularly during February, March and July. Expect fair catch rates during January and August but it may dwindle during the low season of September to December. Happy Grouper landing!