Waterman's Journal

Jul 08, 2022

Deep Dropping for Grouper in Costa Rica

When most people head out for a day of offshore fishing, they have visions of marlin, tuna, and dorado - which are surface feeders that are usually found no deeper than 100 feet of the ocean’s surface… But what if you drop your bait down to the bottom of the ocean? Follow along with Captain Ron and the crew of PELAGIC as they go deep dropping for grouper and you will find out exactly whats down there…

Why would anyone want to fish for bottom critters instead of marlin?

Marlin and other Pelagics are the “glamor species” of our oceans and they get all the attention – and why not – they are sleek, streamlined, and super strong fighters that will test your angling skills. But if you want to change it up for a day, and try something new, then give offshore deep-dropping a try and you might be surprised at how much fun you can have. But definitely the best part of a productive day of deep dropping is when you get back home – DINNER IS SERVED!!!

What are the primary target species when deep dropping?

When we go deep dropping, we are generally targeting bottom dwellers such as: groupers, snappers, and tilefish – which are all very abundant and very tasty on the dinner table. Another great thing about most bottom fish species is that the meat is much more suitable for freezing than pelagic species like tuna and dorado. This is a good thing so you can fill your freezer with tasty fish fillets that can be enjoyed weeks or even months after the catch.

What is the ideal depth and bottom conditions for “deep dropping”

Over the years we have found that an ideal spot for deep dropping usually consists of the following elements: a deep offshore canyon with depths of 2000 feet or more, then rises up to a plateau that reaches about 300-600 feet – this is the zone. But before you deploy your baits, use your sonar to find rocks and humps on the bottom that are holding bait. By this time, you should see a “red cloud” of fish on the meter – those are huge schools of bottom dwellers – most likely groupers and snappers. Now, position the boat up current from the zone you want to target and toss your lead overboard! If you execute this properly, your baits will land directly on top of the target location and BOOM!! INSTANT HOOK UP!!!

What kind of bait rigs are used when deep dropping for grouper, snapper, and other bottom dwellers?

For deep dropping, the best baits tend to be fresh cut strips of tuna, whole or cut squids, and even strips of ballyhoo or mullet if you don’t have access to fresh tuna or squid. For best presentation, cut the baits into slender strips about 3-6” in length and 1-2” in width. For terminal tackle, we generally use an 8-12 foot leader with a swivel on top, 4-6 hooks spaced 2 feet apart, culminating in a heavy lead weight of 2-8 pounds, depending on depth and current flow. With this set up, you can get multiple baits down to the bottom fast, and be ready – the bite is usually INSTANT!

PRO TIP: If you don’t get a bite within 5 minutes of reaching the bottom, wind it up and redeploy. Repeat as necessary until you get bit instantly on every drop. THIS is the reason why we use electric reels for deep dropping – NOT to help fight the fish - but rather to help wind up the heavy lead over and over throughout the day.

What kind of fishing tackle and gear is needed for deep dropping?

For deep dropping, the standard “go to” rig for us consists of:
● 6’ to 7’ conventional boat rod with heavy action and strong backbone for lifting power to get the heavy lead up and down the water column.
● Electric powered reels like the Shimano Beastmaster, Diawa Dendoh, or basic models from Kagan work just fine.
● IF you don’t have access to an electric reel, no worries, you can use almost any conventional reel that has a large line capacity – like the Shimano Tiagra 50W.
● 80 to 130 pound braid or spectra backing
● 80 to 130-pound monofilament mainline
● 80 to 130-pound fluorocarbon leader with 2-6 hooks staggered about 2 feet apart.
● 7/0 or 8/0 Owner circle hooks

Final thoughts on Deep Dropping

Not only is Deep Dropping a fun alternative to your typical offshore fishing trip for marlin or tuna, but it’s a great way to load up the dinner table with some great eating fish species like grouper, snapper, or tilefish. Remember, always obey local regulations and please don’t take more fish than your family and friends can eat.

Ronald “Captain Ron” Kawaja: Captain Ron is the president and founder of PELAGIC clothing company and a world-class angler who has traveled the globe for the past 20+ years in search of big fish, exotic fishing destinations, and pure ocean adventure.

His voyages have included fishing & competing in the world’s largest and richest sport fishing tournaments; pursuing the elusive “grander” (1,000+ pound marlin or tuna) on rod and reel; and seeking out the world’s ultimate fishing destinations in places like Australia, Africa, Ascension Island, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Cabo, Cancun, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Hawaii, Isla Mujeres, Madeira, Nicaragua, Nova Scotia, Panama, Prince Edward Island, Puerto Rico, and Puerto Vallarta (to name a few).

Over the years, Captain Ron has won and placed in numerous fishing tournaments around the world, including the prestigious White Marlin Open in Ocean City, MD where he was named “Grand Champion & Top Overall Angler” - to win this title, Kawaja competed against more than 2,000 anglers and finished in first place. As recently as October 2021, Captain Ron led his team to a first-place victory against 189 of the world’s top sport fishing teams at the world-famous Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

As an angler, he has extensive experience in a diverse range of fishing situations, from fighting giant fish over 1,000 pounds on stand-up tackle, to chasing light line billfish world records, and he credits 100% of his success to all the pro captains and crews he has fished with and learned from over the years.

Today… Captain Ron’s infectious enthusiasm, optimism, and excitement for fishing shine as brightly as ever, as he continues to seek out the very largest fish that swim in the ocean – each and every time he leaves the dock his motto is “TODAY IS THE DAY!” – but his true passion has become sharing his experience and knowledge with others, telling big fish stories, and helping the next generation of anglers to get fired up on big game fishing.