“The fact we’re even having this discussion means we’ve been successful,” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chair BO River. Curious and generally fearless, they were easy targets for anglers and spear fishermen, especially when they gathered in large numbers in July and August to mate.
After the ban in 1990, the fish began to bounce back, but scientists believe Florida's record 2010 freeze likely sent numbers downward again. Anglers, however, have increasingly complained that the voracious fish are taking over reefs and gobbling up their catches.
A survey FCC conducted in the Keys and Dry Tortugas found just a 2 and 4.5 percent increase. They also said lobster counts have remained stable, indicating that the fish are not affecting the popular, and lucrative, crustacean.
The controversy over whether to allow harvesting has divided some anglers and divers, who consider the gentle Goliath a mascot for the reefs. On Thursday, about 60 speakers, nearly all divers and many wearing Save the Goliath T-shirts handed out by the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, criticized the move as an attempt to appease anglers.
“You’re awarding a trophy fish to essentially a lazy hunter,” said Miami diver James Woodard. UM Rosenthal School of Marine and Atmospheric Science fishery scientist Bill Hartford and Nova geneticist Andrea Bernard said they are working on building a statistical model, similar to methods used to assess blue fin tuna, that can account for gaps in catch history caused by the fishing moratorium and provide an accurate count for adult fish in Florida.
“People got us into this problem and if the fishing opens back up, we'll likely be back in this position,” said Ellie Fodder, a sophomore environmental study major at Becker College who left campus at 3:30 a.m. Thursday with her dive club, the Scuba Jews, and campus rabbi, Ed Rosenthal, to make the morning meeting. Eddie sat down on the deck and braced his foot against the rail, I figured we were into a big one.
When his hat fell off, and he started to make grunting sounds, I was sure of it. Eddie looked up at me with a twisted smile and was just hanging onto the rod for dear life.
Something was living in this wreck 10 miles off southwest Florida, and whatever it was had already beaten us up several times. But on this day we were maxed out on gear big enough to crank one of these monsters up ... if only Capt.
This started out innocently enough a few weeks earlier when a couple of fishing buddies and I dropped a live pinkish on 30# mono down on a wreck 50 feet deep looking for a grouper dinner. Something big grabbed it, screamed out about 40 feet of drag, got into the wreck and cut the line on something sharp.
It had to be a big grouper, a shark, a giant ray, or maybe a huge barracuda. The rod bent over 180 degrees, the back of the boat went down 6 inches, and the 150# braid snapped like a rifle shot.
The steel hook, thick as a shoelace, broke off at the eye. I asked the guys in the local bait shops if they knew any captains up for the task of fishing for seemingly unwatchable monsters.
The Goliath, once called the Jewish, is the biggest member of the grouper family. The winds of spring kept us inshore for a couple of weeks, so we enjoyed the opportunity to fish the bridges for pompano and sea trout.
It finally took a rig spooled with 150# braid, a 500# mono top shot, and huge #16 circle hook under 2 ounces of lead to bring a Goliath to the surface. Eddie's wreck, and he pulled a big Spanish mackerel out of his cooler, the one bait he said Goliath can 't refuse.
It was a short, furious, and profane battle, a hard fought back-and-forth fish fight, exciting to watch with an uncertain end. Eddie prevailed, and suddenly a giant brown fish appeared on the surface and lay at the side of the boat as exhausted as Capt.
On the next calm day I returned to my wreck lying now in water so clear you could see its dark silhouette on the white sand bottom 50 feet below. I went over the side to find an old shrimper torn apart by hurricanes and fishermen's anchors, its wheelhouse barely recognizable.
And then they appeared, slowly emerging from the shadows of broken masts and rigging. A fearless giant Goliath carries the remnants of three different rigs ripped from fishermen.
Three fishing rigs hung from his mouth, one still with its sinker, medals of recent battles won, and then I recognized one of my rigs, the 150# braid to a black swivel to 200# mono, hanging out of the left side of his mouth. There was the proof: These were the bad boys that had beat us up, and a few other fishermen, too, by the looks of it.
I returned to the surface knowing those hooks will soon rust and the line will fall away, and these Goliath's will own this wreck for many years to come. Goliath grouper can be found across the Caribbean from Central America, around the Gulf, and up the Atlantic to the Carolina's, but they are most plentiful in Florida.
The Atlantic Goliath grouper or Tamara (Epimetheus Tamara), also known as the Jewish, is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths from 5 to 50 m (16 to 164 ft). Its range includes the Florida Keys in the US, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean and most of the Brazilian coast.
On some occasions, it is caught off the coasts of the US states of New England off Maine and Massachusetts. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from the Congo to Senegal.
Young Atlantic goliathgroupers may live in brackish estuaries, oyster beds, canals, and mangrove swamps, which is unusual behavior among groupers. They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and can weigh as much as 360 kg (790 lb).
The world record for a hook-and-line-captured specimen is 308.44 kg (680.0 lb), caught off Fernanda Beach, Florida, in 1961. Considered of fine food quality, Atlantic Goliath grouper were a highly sought-after quarry for fishermen.
It is a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen because of the grouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning annually to the same locations.
Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, its population was in rapid decline. The fish is recognized as “vulnerable” globally and “endangered” in the Gulf of Mexico.
The species' population has been recovering since the ban; with the fish's slow growth rate, however, some time will be needed for populations to return to their previous levels. Goliath groupers are believed to be protogynous hermaphrodites, which refer to organisms that are born female and at some point in their lifespans change sex to male.
Males can be sexually mature at about 115 centimeters (45 in), and ages 4–6 years. In May 2015, the Atlantic Goliath grouper was successfully bred in captivity for the first time.
Tidal pools act as nurseries for juvenile E. Tamara. In tidal pools juvenile E.Tamara are able to utilize rocky crevices for shelter.
It may have referred to the fish's status as inferior leading it to be declared only suitable for Jews, or the flesh having a “clean” taste comparable to kosher food ; it has also been suggested that this name is simply a corruption of jaw fish or the Italian word for “bottom fish”, Giuseppe. In 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using the term because of complaints that it was culturally insensitive.
^ “FLM NH Ichthyology Department: Goliath Grouper”. Age, Growth, and Reproduction of Jewish Epimetheus Tamara in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Pseudorhabdosynochus species (Monogenoidea, Diplectanidae) parasitizing groupers (Serranidae, Epinephrine, Epinephrine) in the western Atlantic Ocean and adjacent waters, with descriptions of 13 new species”. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Epimetheus Tamara.