Key West Black Grouper Fishing

Florida is known for its grouper and one of the most prized species is the black grouper. Other names for the fish include the rockfish, black rockfish or marbled rockfish and are common in waters throughout the western Atlantic Ocean.

Like most grouper, this species is very large; the black grouper can grow to as large as 52 inches and 180 pounds. Most of these fish only grow to just over two feet in length, however, with the majority of growth occurring in their first ten years of life.


This grouper has small eyes that sit over a protruding lower jaw. Its continual dorsal fin extends all the way back to its square-shaped tail. The black grouper sports an olive-gray color and features dark blotches and bronze hexagonal shapes on its body.

This fish can live for as long as 40 years. It lives a solitary existence with individuals only coming together to spawn between November and May.

The species is a protogynous hermaphrodite. That means that all juveniles are female with a portion of the population transforming into males when reaching sexual maturity. This happens when the fish grows beyond the length of 28 inches.

Common predators of the black grouper include the sandbar and great hammerhead sharks, as well as barracuda and occasionally moray eels. Adults feed on smaller reef fish like grunts, snapper and herring and also enjoy crustaceans. Juveniles feed solely on crustaceans, especially shrimp.

The meat of the black grouper generally sells for a premium and makes this species popular for both recreational as well as commercial fishing. These fish like rocky environments, in and around coral reefs as well as around shipwrecks.

Adults enjoy shallow water, generally populate depths ranging from 19 to 180 feet. Juveniles tend to inhabit shallow seagrass beds off of the coast where they are safe from predators.

How I fish for Black Grouper

When targeting Black grouper I like to use heavy tackle. I never use less than 80 lb mono leader spliced to a 80 lb braid main line. Furthermore I use no less than a # 7/0 circle hook anything lighter is likely to bend or break. Blacks can be caught on both live and dead bait but if you are solely targeting big Black groupers live bait is the way to go. I love to use live Yellowtail snappers, Blue runners, Goggle eyes, Pin fish , and Speedos all are highly effective. Now for the rig itself I like to use our stander key west bottom fishing rig. This consist of a bank sinker on a dropper loop that is free to slide up the line or down till it hits the swivel that is used to attach the leader. Long leaders are key in all bottom fishing here in the Florida keys but for grouper fishing I typically use about 1/2 the normal lengths. Most grouper leaders are between 10 and 20 feet at the most, that is the distance from the bait to the led itself. Once you have the rig ready and the bait and led set we let it all the way to the bottom then bring it just a few cranks off the bottom to prevent the bait from getting caught in whatever type of structure we may be fishing.