One of the simplest fishing modes for offshore fishermen/women, is to learn how to salt water fish by rigging your tackle for bottom fishing. In Florida, bottom fishing will bring in a variety of fish such as; groupers, lane snappers, vermillion snappers, mangrove snappers, etc.
Grouper and Snapper are both considered prized fish that are prevalent along all coasts of Florida. A grouper is a firm white meat, hard fighting and good eating bottom fish, The Florida Keys groupers are deemed the best grouper fishing in the world. The yellowtail snapper are thought by some to be the best tasting of the snapper group and they love to feed on live shrimp.
The objective is the same no matter which types of rig that you use, simply to get your bait to the bottom and dangle it in a way that is appetizing to the fish that live there. Learning which types of basic rigs, and bait will entice a grouper, for example, is the whole key to a successful catch.
Keep in mind that according to the most recent Fish and Game regulations, you must use circle hooks now when bottom fishing.
One of the most commonly used rigs is called a fish finder rig and it is the simplest because it only requires one swivel, one weight, and one hook and you can rig it in just a few minutes. To assemble a fish finder rig; first cut 4-6 feet of monofilament of Flurocarbon line (called the leader), place a sinker on the standing line (the line going to the reel) and tie the swivel on. Tie the leader that you cut off on the other side of the swivel. Tie your 3/0-7/0 hook to the end of the leader, add your bait, (live shrimp, pinfish, and large grunts are types of bait that attract reef fish), then drop the rig to the bottom and wait for the fish to bite. Usually when fishing for grouper it is recommended to use heavier line such as 80-100 lbs test tied line for the leader to 40-80 lbs of standing line.
For smaller fish such as porgies and snappers the leader should be smaller and the size of the standing line is reduced- 20-40 lb line and 30 lb for the leader. 1/0 to 4/0 hooks are recommended, depending on the size of bait that you select, but the rig is the same as the fish finder rig-see photo. It is optimal to have on hand between 1-8 oz sinkers, (6 oz is most commonly used for grouper and snapper) then select the size that best works depending on the conditions mentioned. The goal is obviously, to keep your bait at the bottom.
When using a conventional reel, it’s important to remember to keep your thumb on the spool to avoid getting your line tangled up as you drop your line to the bottom. When you feel a bite, raise the tip of your rod up high and reel quickly. With circle hooks you can lose your catch if you jerk the line.
Be sure to check the bag and size limit each time before you depart as the limit changes occasionally.