Taken as a group, the grouper is one of the most popular game and table fish in all of Key West. Here is your guide to everything you need to know about the most common varieties of grouper to be found in the water around Key West.

Contact us today for a fantastic grouper adventure. You and your party will have a wonderful time with Captain Pepe’s Key West Charter Fishing.


Shallow water grouper are closed for harvest January 1st to May 1st in the Atlantic.

Black Grouper

The black grouper is one of the most popular fish in Key West. There are two main reasons for this popularity. First, its mild, delectable flavor makes the black grouper an excellent table fish. Second, they put up just enough of a fight to be a highly sought after game fish as well. You can find the occasional black grouper further north along the Atlantic Coast, but they’re much more abundant in the Bahamas, here in the Florida Keys, and in the Caribbean.

Size and Appearance

You can identify a black grouper by its size and its uniquely beautiful appearance. Although they can occasionally grow up to over 4 feet long and weigh in at 100 pounds, the average black grouper is between 2-3 feet long and weighs about  10-20 pounds.

The black grouper is visually striking, both in and out of the water. Their coloring is quite variable, ranging from an olive green to a splotchy gray with dazzling patterns that emanate from the eyeball and radiate toward the tail in very complex lines.

Fishing for Black Grouper in Key West

The black grouper can be a something of a challenge to catch, but that’s a big part of the fun. As long as you know where to find them and what bait to use, you should be able to land one without too much trouble. They’re most often found near reefs and other strong structures, but they sometimes swim in open waters as well.

Sometimes its easier to catch a black grouper if your boat is drifting because you can use the boat to pull them away from the structure.

As soon as grouper is hooked it will run with all its force into the nearest hole. If he gets himself deep enough in, you won’t get him out.

As far as bait goes, they’re more likely to go after live fish such as Blue Runners and Pilchards, but dead bait sometimes works too.

Goliath grouper

Because of its incredible size, the Jewfish or Goliath grouper might be the most impressive member of the grouper family. Unfortunately, because they’re considered an endangered species, the jewfish is catch and release only at the current time. Due to these protections, they have flourished and they are now numerous on many large structures.

Size and Appearance

Needless to say, the Goliath grouper is absolutely huge. This formidable creature can grow up to 7-8 feet long and weight over 700 pounds, but adults typically come in at about 400 pounds. If the proportion of weight to length seems a bit off, it’s because the Goliath grouper is a very broad-bodied fish, with a width that is almost half of its length towards the middle of its body.

Fishing for Jewfish in Key West

The Jewfish can be found throughout Key West and down to the coast of Brazil. They tend to stay at depths of less than 200 feet and like to swim near rocky formations and shipwrecks. There are a few things to remember if you summon up the courage to go after a Jewfish. First, they’re very territorial and have attacked more than a few divers who’ve gotten too close. Second, be ready for a long and difficult fight! Not only is the Jewfish absolutely huge, it will also do everything it can to stay underwater.

But if you want to give the Jewfish a shot, bring along your heaviest tackle and some 100-pound test line just to be sure. For bait, you should only use live fish under 15 pounds, as artificial lures and jigs pretty much never work.