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Grouper Season Tips and Tricks: From Spear to Plate

With Grouper season upon us, let’s help ensure you’re all set to catch your daily limit. We’ve compiled a bit of tips and tricks for making your grouper spearing adventures safer, more efficient, more fruitful, and way more delicious. We’ll go over grouper types, what gear you’ll need, how to get a better shot, and tips on cleaning and cooking your catch. Let’s get going, shall we?

Getting to know your Grouper: 

Did you know that there are 159 species of Grouper? Let’s quickly look at the most common species in Florida so we know which Grouper we’re hunting. You’ll find these amazing fish near wrecks, reefs, and rocky areas. So, when diving around reefs, always be mindful to not damage the reef while on the hunt.

Grouper you can spear: 

Black Grouper, record weight of 124 lbs 
Gag Grouper, record weight of 80 lbs
Red Grouper, record weight of 42 lbs 
Scamp Grouper, record weight of 32 lbs - known as the tastiest grouper and will rarely find them in less than 100ft of water
Yellowmouth Grouper, record weight 22 lbs

*The following species are strictly protected, and should not be hunted:

Nassau Grouper, record weight 38lbs 
Goliath Grouper, record weight 680 lbs

Divers Direct's 2020 Lobster King,
Michael Sipos, holding a gag (left) and
black (right) grouper! @sea_pos

Getting Geared Up:

Groupers tend to have some pretty tough skin, so while polespears may be okay to use for smaller groupers, you’ll want a fairly powerful speargun for the larger species. Your speargun will be partly dependent on your personal preferences and body structure, but it will also be dependent on your prey as well. Since you’ll be potentially weaving through rocky areas, a shorter speargun could be more appropriate.

Additionally, the type of spear and line you use will be important to consider. A large fish will need to be speared with a large shaft, so one that’s at least 5/16” in thickness will be ideal. Having a double flopper at the end of that shaft would be useful as well so your catch of the day doesn’t wiggle away. Here’s a speartip we think would be perfect for your hunt: Long Barb Rock Point Spear Tip.

And since you’ll be working around rocks and reefs with your prey, getting a strong dyneema line like the JBL Dyneema Shooting Line will be best to ensure your line doesn’t get cut by the rocks. 

So you’ve got your gear, you’re in the water…. Now what? 

Tips on Technique:

You’re exploring the reefs or wreckage on the hunt for your dinner, and when you find it, it may seem like an easy enough idea to just point and shoot at first sight. There are a few tricks you could apply to make this process a little more seamless. 

1. Stay calm. Seems obvious, but when you’re new at spearing, you can get excited and feel rushed to get things going. Sudden or erratic movements scare the fish, so excitedly prepping your speargun with quick movements isn’t a great idea. Stay cool, calm, and collected while you’re swimming and as you prep your speargun. 

2. When stalking your prey, it can be a good idea to approach from an angle where they won’t perceive you as a threat, or you can descend from above the fish where they can’t see you for a stealthier approach. How close you’ll need to be to the grouper will depend mainly on visibility so that you can get the perfect shot. 

3. When aiming anything, including a speargun, don’t rush but don’t hesitate. Take your time, keep a steady hand, and look exactly at the point you want your spear to land.  

Cleaning your Grouper:

Tips for cleaning so you can yield the most meat: 

1. Use a very sharp knife. Like we said earlier, groupers have incredibly tough skin. The sharper the better

2. Start by cutting from the pectoral fin down to the pelvic fin

3. Once you have that cut, follow the pectoral fin along the head towards the dorsal side of the fish with your knife

4. Now go to the tail and cut parallel to the tail all the way to the backbone

5. From the cut at the tail, begin slicing from tail to head, pulling away the meat as you go in one large fillet. 

6. Now that you have your meat, it’s time to feast.

 Pro tip: If you’re not cooking up everything in one evening, get some vacuum-sealed freezer bags and store your grouper meat to use for some other meal. That frozen grouper will stay good for up to a year, but aim for eating it within at least 3 to 8 months for preserving the best texture—great for eating during the off season! 

Cooking your Grouper:

Michael Sipos with another great catch! @sea_pos

Good news! Unless you burn your grouper or serve it undercooked, there’s really no way you can mess this cooking thing up when it comes to fish. Most fish are actually quite easy to work with, grouper especially. Some seafood seasoning and a splash of lemon or lime is a foolproof way to season your grouper. You can always blacken it, use Italian seasoning, or use nothing but salt and pepper and your grouper will be delicious still. 

But what about preparation? 

Perhaps one of the easiest and most common ways to prepare a grouper is in a skillet. So for now we will go over cooking pan-seared grouper. 

• First things first, always pat your fish dry when preparing it—paper towels will work fine. Regardless of how you cook the fish, you’ll want a dry fillet to work with.
• Add the seasoning of your choice to the fish while you wait for the pan to heat.
• When cooking any fish, you’ll need to make sure your pan is quite hot. It’s a good idea to heat your skillet for at least 3 minutes on medium-high heat, then add your olive oil or melt your butter before adding the fish. 
• When you add your grouper to the skillet you want to hear it sizzle when it meets the pan. 
• Now how long you keep the fish on each side will depend on the thickness of your fillet, but 2-3 minutes on each side is a good general starting point. You can always keep flipping for shorter and shorter time periods until it looks right—golden on each side. 
• If you’re not too concerned about presentation, a great way to check and see if nearly any fish is done cooking is to dig in lightly with a fork. If the fish starts to easily fall into layers, you have a well-cooked fish that’s ready to eat.  
• While a pan-seared grouper is delicious on its own, you’ll need to dress it up with something, and thankfully grouper is such a mild fish that it can go with just about anything. You can place it on a salad, cut it up for fish tacos, add it to pasta, or simply serve it with a side of vegetables and some mashed potatoes for a simple and delicious dish. 

Bon appetit! 

Think you’re ready to get out there and hunt some grouper? Well, we hope these tips and tricks on getting your fish from spear to plate helps to make your grouper spearing adventures easier and your grouper cooking more delicious. Find us on Facebook and Instagram (@diversdirect) and let us know how your grouper season is going. Adventure on! 

Don’t forget to stop by and check out the Florida Grouper Rules and get your permit before you head out. There are quite a few species of Grouper, so make certain you know the rules for each species.

Spearfishing & Grouper FAQ

Is Spearfishing difficult?

As with anything, once you learn a few skills and techniques, spearfishing is not difficult, exciting and challenging perhaps. You do want to ensure you learn proper spearfishing safety techniques as it can become dangerous.

How does spearfishing work?

On the most basic level, you take your loaded speargun underwater, properly identify the species you’re hunting, aim, and shoot. Ensuring, of course, there is no one to get hit by a misfire in the area before you shoot. Collect your catch and head back.

What's the best speargun for a grouper?

Ask 5 spearos, you’ll likely get 5 different answers. It really depends on the environment, your size, and what you’re comfortable with. Check this Speargun Selection video.

Is there grouper season in Florida?

Yes. Grouper season in Florida is determined by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Check out the Florida Grouper Rules for the most up to date information.

What's the largest grouper?

Ol’ big boy Goliath Grouper. No, you can’t spear Goliath Grouper. Reference the  Florida Grouper Rules to keep yourself in the clear. Don’t forget to read up on the size limits...

Do I need a license to spear grouper?

Yes. Here’s where you get your State Reef Fish Angler Designation. And, you’ll need to sign up for the State Reef Fish Survey. Check the gear rules for the area you intend to hunt. Florida Grouper Rules are different based on where you go.

How many species of grouper are there?

There are 159 species of grouper.

References:
Spear Factor - Spearfishing Grouper
The Florida Living Magazine - Spearfishing Tips & Techniques

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