As the days begin to grow shorter, the near shore gulf water temperature will slowly fall. Eventually it will drop into the preferred range of the gag grouper, somewhere between 65 and 78 degrees. This will kick off a shift of medium-sized gags into the shallow hard-bottom areas where food is more abundant.
Trolling: As the water cools, it usually becomes much clearer. This creates ideal conditions for trolling plugs or jig for grouper. By pulling big-lipped plugs at varying distances behind the boat fishermen can cover a lot of ground. Since there is no scent involved, strikes come when the fish sees the lure. When conditions become turbid, trolling becomes much less effective. An abundance of floating grass or weeds can also make trolling tougher.
Live baiting: For decades the best way to catch grouper has been with live bait. You can catch them with dead sardines, squid and other cut baits, but nothing will outfish a fresh, lively jumbo pinfish. Bigger grouper below the boat are finicky feeders that may hang back and let the small fish feed first. That is until the extra-large pinfish comes fluttering to the bottom. This triggers the big ones to dart in and snag the irresistible meal.