The Grouper and the Shark, a Dubious Florida Keys Fish Story

Did I mention that I love to fish for Grouper here in the Florida Keys? If you know me, you know that I’m not gonna go anchor up somewhere and hope the chum brings the fish to me. You know I’m gonna be trolling for them.

I sleep with my weather radio in the bed up by the headboard. The first thing I do when I wake up is listen to the NOAA Marine Weather Forecast.
The day is good to go fishing. It’s the first part of May. I decide to go trolling for Grouper. I gas up the boat, pack a cooler for me and one for the fish I’m going to catch. I get my rod and reels and my artificial lures and I’m gone.

Black Grouper Florida Keys Fishing As soon as I get to the patch reefs in Hawk Channel I get the lines into the water. It’s such a beautiful day, yea, the weather man was right for once. We have light winds and nice calm seas.

I caught two Gags’ after only 10 minutes of trolling, got them at the same time. One is 18" and the other is 20" so I release them back into the water. Gags’ are a long and slender Grouper. All the others in this species are fat.

I keep trolling toward the reef . All of a sudden my reel is screaming. I let go of the steering wheel and grab the reel. If I don’t get it quick, he’ll be under a coral head. I had to really tug to get the rod out of the holder. I can feel him running, then it’s like I have the bottom. He’s made it to the coral heads.

I have the rod in one hand and driving the boat with the other. I have to pause and reel in line as I get close to where he’s under the coral head. I’m bumping the engine in and out of gear to do this. As I get over him and the line is straight up and down, I put the rod into a holder and grab the anchor and toss it over the bow of the boat. This will allow me to try and get the fish out of the hole and up to my gaff.

I try to muscle him out, no luck, and I don’t want to break the line. I let the line go slack for a little while. I thought he would think he’s out of trouble and come out of the hole. It didn’t work. I leave the rod in the holder and grab my mask and snorkel . I want to see this fish. I swim down and there he lays, wedged into a beautiful coral head.

Next I tried what I’ve been told the Cubans do to get fish out of rocks and holes. They reel the line in and keep lots of tension on the hooked fish. Then you start strumming the line every few seconds and keep this up until it drives him out of the hole or head.

Trixie's first grouper I've been doing this for a while and didn’t realize behind me there was a large sportfishing boat coming my way. It passed to my starboard side. When I realized how close it was I quickly let out on the line. The boat was making a huge wake and I was afraid it would break the fish off. After the wake bounced me around for a few minutes, I felt the fish. I began reeling like crazy. I could see the Grouper. He was on the way up. Next thing I feel he’s pulling for the bottom. I start really giving it all I got. I want him to stay away from the coral heads. All of a sudden it’s really hard to reel. I can slowly gain some line in. I keep at it and when I can see the fish it’s a shark. He gets to the surface and slaps his tail on the water. A big splash of water goes totally over me. This shark and I are in a battle. He has stolen my Grouper and has my purple lure stuck in his lip. I want that lure back!

I get my pliers out while fighting him and try to position myself to get the lure without falling on the shark. I’m jerking on the hook and twisting and the shark is thrashing about splashing me with water. All of a sudden it’s over. I have me purple lure back and the shark is gone.

After this was all over I thought it would be a good idea to cut off 20 or so feet of line and re-rig my lure. I kept fishing and ended up with a nice 14 pound Black Grouper. Once again the Florida Keys waters proved to me what an exciting place it is to fish.

Have you ever wondered how all those wonderful grouper get mates? It's not as easy as you may think and sometimes a female has to change sexes! How do they do that?

OK, now that you have your nice grouper what do you do with the fillets? If you don't handle the fish properly after you put him in the box you'll end up with tasteless fillets. Here's a few things you should know to assure those grouper fish fillets are flavorful.

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