Recent Reviews

★★★★★
We had 2 boats. Ben was captain on one. Our captain was Zack. He was the BEST!! So friendly, we had a blast! I would recommend him to everyone! Donna Box

James B. with Ben Trainer of Tavernier, Florida

★★★★★
Amazing fishing guide! Knowledgeable and very friendly! We had an amazing day with Ben! Caught a lot of fish

James B. with Ben Trainer of Tavernier, Florida

★★★★★
Captain Zach and Captain Ben were awesome! We caught a ton of fish on our family trip! We had a blast!

James B. with Ben Trainer of Tavernier, Florida

★★★★★
Ben was very knowledgeable as to where the fish were. From the Barricuda my grandson caught, to all the other fish my son in law, and myself caught. The weather was tremendous. Zach, and Ben changed their schedule to accommodate the 2 families. Will definitely book with them again.

James B. with Ben Trainer of Tavernier, Florida

★★★★★
Great Trip, we caught some good fish had some good stories and laughs. Would highly recommend a trip with Capt Don!

Nathan P. with Don Reichert of Islamorada, Florida

★★★★★
Captain Nate from the beginning asked a lot of questions about us and what our hopes were. He was extremely informative about what the conditions were, fish in season, and other tid-bits regarding our trip. Heading out we encountered extremely heavy fog so it was a bit slow getting out where we needed to be. Once we got out where we needed to be it was absolutely beautiful and Captain Nate put us on a couple catches. We got Trigger, Red Snapper, a B-Liner, and some tropical looking fish.. Unfortunately we were only able to keep the B-Liner but our family thoroughly enjoyed the trip! Once we started making our way in we realized that there was a red Tide which hindered some of our fishing. I will definitely book Captain Nate again on our next trip.

Ken H. with Nathan Stow of Panama City Beach, Florida

★★★★★
Our trip with Gulf Bay charters with Captain Rick and his first rate deckhand Logan was fantastic. They put us on multiple fish of different types and we tried different methods, some trolling, a lot of bottom fishing and some deep water with electric reels. We caught a lot of large triggerfish, three King mackerels and enough Mingo (vermillion) snapper that we had far too much fish to eat over the next two days. The boat was fantastic, offering the six of us more than enough space to spread out and all fish at once, and Logan was knowledgeable and efficient at everything. I really enjoyed catching a small shark and we had a larger one steal some of our fish to add a little excitement. Near the end of the day we had a large amberjack up to the boat but unfortunately he got off. We played with a few barracuda as well, caught a few snapper and small groupers that we couldn't keep and in between spots, we could chat and I enjoyed learning about the local waters and the trade. I personally caught 22 fish and my son got 21 so we were busy. The weather was near perfect and Rick adeptly steered us around a small storm, where we got to see a waterspout. I would highly recommend Gulf Bay - we had a blast and really enjoyed getting to learn from a couple of true professionals. Thank you Captain Rick, thank you Logan!

mike c. with Rick Durant of Pensacola, Florida

★★★★★
Our 6-hour in-shore fishing trip with Captain Billy was such a great time! He's definitely done his fair share of charters and we were lucky enough to catch quite a few fish. He followed all sizing restrictions and made sure we were on fish at every spot we went to. After, he showed us the proper way to clean fish. We will most definitely do another charter with him in the future.

ILEANA W. with Bill Perkins of Jacksonville, Florida

★★★★★
Great trip. Captain Bryan was awesome.

Brady S. with Bryars Bishop of Orange Beach, Alabama

★★★★★
Great Trip! We enjoyed ourselves and are going home with LOTS of snapper. Reeled in my first shark. Thanks Captain !

Lisa B. with Joel Brandenburg of Marathon, Florida

Everything You Need to Know About Gag Grouper Fishing

What is a Gag Grouper?

Gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis), also known as velvet rockfish or charcoal belly, are a member of the grouper family. They have a mottled-gray coloring with spots ranging from worm-like, boxy, or even “kiss-shaped” covering their stocky body and large head.

They are often confused with other members of their family, especially the black grouper. They can be most easily distinguished by their coloring, as well as the shape of their preopercle. The preopercle is the middle bone of the gill cover, which with gag groupers are noticeably notched with a very lobed appearance, whereas black groupers have a very rounded preopercle with no lobe below it.

Also, like many of their grouper family, they will use their swim bladder to make low grumbling sounds when they feel threatened.

How big do Gag Grouper get?

Over their average lifespan of 16 years, gag groupers can grow up to over four feet and weigh over 50 pounds. However, the average male grouper will reach maturity at eight years old at around 39 inches, and the average female will mature at age five to six, and at about 26 to 30 inches long.

Males over the age of the weight of 30 pounds are called black bellies, and are considered trophy catches.

What's the biggest Gag Grouper ever caught?

The world record gag grouper, according to the IGFA, weighed in at a whopping 80 pounds and six ounces. Caught in Destin on October 14th, 1993 by Bill Smith.

Smith was using mingo snapper as bait, and after a 20 minute fight, was able to wrangle in the mammoth grouper. He then took it to the Marina Point Destin, where they were able to officially weigh it in for the record.

Where is the best place to catch Gag Grouper?

Gag grouper can be found in the Western Atlantic Ocean. The highest north they are found is in Bermuda, North Carolina, and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and sometimes juveniles will be found as far north as Massachusetts. Further south they can be found in Brazil.

They can be found either solitary or in groups of 5 to 50 fish in depths from 30 to almost 150 feet, often among oil rigs and reefs. They also will migrate in late winter to offshore spawning grounds as low as 230 feet.

When should I catch Gag Grouper?

Cooler weather brings gag grouper closer to shore, where they will spawn from January to March on the coasts of the Atlantic and within the Gulf. October through December will be a good time to catch them migrating inwards, and throughout the summer you will need to head to some deeper waters.

However, depending on the area you head towards, you will need to be wary of season closures. In Atlantic waters, the season is closed from January 1st to April 30th. In the Gulf (except for a select few states and counties), they are open from July 1st until December 2nd.

How do you catch Gag Grouper?

Of all methods, jigging is far and away the most effective way to catch gag grouper. Use depth sounders to find rocky outcrops and irregular bottoms where gags gather, and then anchor nearby to fish, or begin trolling. Recommended baits are live pinfish, frozen herring, squid, scad, porgies, sardines, smaller snapper, crabs, shrimp or grunts, the smellier the better.

Remember that gag grouper are strong, and have an instinct to bite and drag their prey into hiding areas within rocks and coral, making your line very susceptible to being cut. It is crucial to get the fish up off the ground as quickly as possible.

Are Gag Grouper good to eat? What are the best Gag Grouper recipes?

Gag groupers are an excellent fish to eat, often one of the favored groupers. They have a firm white flesh, with very little red. Many say that filleting and baking the grouper is the best preparation, and the less ingredients the better. Just some simple olive oil, lime, parsley, salt and pepper is recommended.