Any fish retained under authority of a Red Drum Tag or a Bonus Red Drum Tag may be retained in addition to the daily bag and possession limit as stated in this section. Daily Bag: No limit Min Length: 86 inches Max Length: No limit Daily Bag: No limit Min Length: No limit Max Length: 12 inches (see below) Clarification May not take from public waters, or possess on board a boat, mullet over 12 inches during October, November, December, and January.
Min Length: 24 inches Max Length: No limit Min Length: 99 inches Max Length: No limit Min Length: 64 inches Max Length: No limit Atlantic angel, Basking, Big eye sand tiger, Big eye six gill, Big eye thresher, Big nose, Caribbean reef, Caribbean sharp nose, Dusky, Galápagos, Long fin make, Narrow tooth, Night, Oceanic White tip, Sandbar, Sand tiger, Seven gill, Silky, Six gill, Small tail, Whale, and White. Daily Bag: 0 (catch and release only) Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks MUST be used when fishing for sharks in state waters.
Late summer generally offers flattened seas and that makes it easier to reach these fish. Such depths are more easily reached along the middle and South Texas coasts, while anglers in Sabine Pass would have the longest run offshore.
Gas inside each fish doubles every 33 feet as it rises to the surface, so a deep-water grouper (or snapper) will balloon and float. Our grouper caught in 900 feet typically have ruptured scales, their eyes bugged out and stomachs fully extended.
Black grouper : Smaller specimens grow up on the coral reefs of Florida and the Caribbean, and then move into deeper water. I've only heard of a few big ones migrating to Texas waters, where they're occasionally caught around coral and rocks like the Clay piles off Galveston.
This is a big, aggressive, opportunistic fish that has been known to follow boats and strike trolled baits on the surface in 100 feet of water, in the Florida Keys. Also known to carry ciguatera poisoning, because of its affinity for eating smaller fish living around coral reefs, where the toxin is produced.
Gags start their life in very shallow water, preferably grass flats, then migrate offshore. Years ago on Halloween we caught a stringer of 10 at the South Padre jetties, on 52M Mirrors when the water was quite clear, and should have released them all.
Gags like to bunch up in a spawning aggregation late each winter, with hundreds of females and only a few males to mate with. This makes for poor spawning success, and this scenario remains the gag grouper's Achilles' heel.
Goliath grouper : Formerly called “Jewish” or (even earlier) “sunfish”, these guys grow to about 800 pounds, yet inhabit depths of only 12 feet or so, on occasion. We've caught lots of them under shady mangrove trees in southwest Florida, where Naples is the center of the goliathgrouper universe.
Federally protected since 1990 Gulf-wide, their numbers are now such that they will attack hooked fish around the wrecks offshore in 30 to 50 feet, separating fishermen from their shook, permit, snapper and grouper, even blacktop sharks. There are countless shrimp boat wrecks off the beach offering shelter to these giants, and Texas probably has the biggest series of fish-sheltering rock jetties of any coastal state.
Catch and release only, so don't drag your Goliath into the boat for a hero picture, it's hard on the grouper's vertebrae. Be sure to dump your extra stingrays in the rocks when you leave; it helps sustain the local population of Goliath, and they will appreciate the gesture.
Grays by: More of a coral grouper, and visitor from The Bahamas, I've only seen one, a hefty specimen of eight pounds or so, at the Served Rigs off Galveston. It seems our planted, deepwater platforms in 800-900 feet have become population islands for tropical fish from The Bahamas and Caribbean.
Misty Grouper : Commonly found in deeper waters along our Atlantic coast and The Bahamas. Red hind grouper : This is a coral reef visitor from the Caribbean, and we've caught them at the Flower Gardens at night, on cut bait.
Small red hinds are thick in The Bahamas and fierce enough to hit trolled plugs as large as themselves. Rock hind grouper : Very common at Texas Gulf platforms, ranging a half-pound up to maybe three pounds.
I've talked to Florida Atlantic anglers who have never heard of snowiest of that size, but I told them it was in Texas, where all fish grow larger. We caught ours on large fillets of blue runner for some reason black fin tuna strip baits didn't work as well.
Speckled hind grouper : I haven't actually seen one of these in the Western Gulf, but a friend, Alan Reynolds in Port Niches, saw one landed in about 600 feet out of Venice, Louisiana back in early June. Most big Warsaw years ago were landed by the party boat crews on the typical 80-200 foot snapper rocks during late winter and early spring, when these fish were spawning in (for them) shallow water.
Yellow edge grouper : This is a deepwater fish and fairly numerous; commercial boats target them with long trot lines on the bottom. The specimen I caught in the picture hit around midnight, about 120 miles southeast of Sabine Pass.
I'm not sure the goliathgrouper (big rump) would be impressed with this more recent name, so dubbed in 2001 by the American Fisheries Society. Some believe, due to the goliath's immense size, that it was the great fish that swallowed Jonah, the Jewish prophet of the Old Testament.
A less pleasant theory is that in the 1800s, Jewish were considered trash fish, leading some people to declare it fit only for Jews. However, this notion is normally discredited as reports from 17th century onwards praise the Goliath as excellent eating.
However, in an 1884 work, “The fishes of the Florida Keys,” David Starr Jordan proposed the inclusion of the Goliath in Epimetheus; this classification remains in use today. Adults appear to occupy limited home ranges and prefer areas of rock, coral, or mud bottoms.
This species is notable as one of the few larger groupers found in brackish waters, often setting up house in seagrass and estuaries habitats. Its range extends in the Western Atlantic from Florida to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea; in the Eastern Atlantic from Senegal to Congo, though Goliath are rare in the Canary Islands; and in the Eastern Pacific from the Gulf of California to Peru.
Young Goliath, which are strikingly patterned, inhabit shallow bays, especially near oyster beds, undercut ledges, and mangrove swamps. Juveniles tend to stick with one estuaries area for the first five or six years, then emigrate to offshore reefs when they reach about three feet in length.
Goliath's have three to five rows of teeth in the lower jaw, with a number of shorts, weakly developed canines. They are generally brownish yellow, gray, or olive with small dark spots on the head, body, and fins.
Predators of goliathgrouper include large fish, such as sandbar and great hammerhead sharks, barracuda, king mackerel, moray eels, and other grouper. However, these sedentary lords of the deep feed primarily on crustaceans, stingrays, and a variety of slow-moving, poisonous, or envenomed fish (codfish, burr fish and puffer fish, catfish, toad fish, and file fish).
The Goliath is a rather sluggish fish, rarely inclined to actively hunt and capture faster moving animals. Lobsters are vacuumed from rock crevices by the strong suction of the goliath's large mouth.
They are an opportunistic feeder, sometimes indulging in a hooked gag or snapper, happily oblivious to the woebegone cries of foiled anglers. Goliath's are the dominant, apex predatory fish on many reefs, helping maintain balance and increasing biodiversity in their ecosystems.
Additional warning may come in the form of audible rumbling generated by the muscular contraction of the swim bladder. But remember kids, large individuals of this species should be treated with caution as some have been observed stalking divers and even conducting unsuccessful ambushes of the seemingly unwary.
This social event lasts only a few weeks each year, between early July and late September, and represents most of the total annual reproductive effort. Ship wrecks, rock ledges, and isolated patch reefs are preferred spawning habitat.
A month or so after hatching, the pelagic larvae mature into juveniles, only 2.5 centimeters long, and settle into estuaries habitat. Goliath groupers are believed to be protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning as they grow, individuals first mature as females and later become males.
However, the significance of this finding is less meaningful than it seems since transitional individuals are rare even amongst confirmed species of protogynous hermaphrodites. Large size, slow growth, low reproductive rate, and spawning behavior brought the goliathgrouper to the edge of extinction not long ago.
On some of the more heavily visited wrecks, just the sound of a spear gun being cocked will attract the opportunistic giants. Plus, their habit of spawning in large aggregations, returning like clockwork to the same locations, make them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting.
Additionally, it's likely that low-level harvest of this species continues by illegal poaching and mortality upon release following accidental capture. Dedicated surveys and stock assessments are conducted regularly, and the species is periodically reassessed for reintroduction into recreational fisheries.
Despite poor fighting ability, its great size and weight, plus its habit of swimming into a hole or between rocks when hooked, make the Goliath a challenge to land.