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. Something wolfed down the pinkish and took line like the rod was tied to a dragster.
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.
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.
Goliath's can live 50 years and grow to behemoth size. 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.
These fish are the largest of the Grouper family and their size has rightfully earned the name GOLIATH ! If you find a five hundred pound Grouper at the end of your line you are going to be pretty sure it is the GoliathGrouper.
Knowing how to identify them will save you a lot of headache in the long run. Over the last 30 years that these fish have been under protection their populations in the Florida area have rebounded quite well.
The fish must be returned to the water immediately free, alive, and unharmed Photographs can be taken but only during the active act of release. The skeletal structure of large Goliath grouper cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage.
If a large Goliath is brought on-board a vessel or out of the water, it is likely to sustain some form of internal injury and therefore be considered harvested. Removing smaller Goliath groupers from the water to remove hooks is not necessarily a bad practice, but this process must be done with care, using proper fish handling techniques, and the fish must be returned to the water as expeditiously as possible.
Like any wild animal, GoliathGrouper are most dangerous when they feel threatened or when they are hungry. GoliathGrouper have huge mouths and can swallow large fish whole.
This exact scenario is actually the basis for a lot of shark encounters as well for divers and spear fisherman. If you do catch a GoliathGrouper and jump in the water with them for a picture, remember, their sheer size and strength can injure you if they were to start slashing around.
You will find them near reefs, shipwrecks, rock ledges, old phosphate docks, etc. They live in shallow water up to around 150 feet deep and hold tight to the structure mentioned above.
The current world record for GoliathGrouper is 680 pounds and was caught off the coast of Florida at Fernanda Beach in 1961. There have been a lot of very large GoliathGrouper caught since 1961 when you were allowed to harvest and weigh the fish.
Many anglers argue new world records have been brought to the edge of their boat. Since anglers are not allowed to remove large Grouper from the ocean it is impossible to know their exact weight unfortunately.
One of the reasons GoliathGrouper populations are so threatened is because of their slow growth and re-population rates. GoliathGrouper males reach sexual maturity around the age of 4 – 6 years old.
At this age these fish are already around 4 ft long and would look like adults to many fishermen. When it is time to spawn, during the months of July, August, and September, these fish form groups of around 100 fish and all congregate at specific sites like shipwrecks, reefs, and rock ledges to spawn.
Although, Scientists believe these fish live on average 50 – 100 years! Now that you are aware of the protections that surround these amazing fish, you can still go out and “catch” one.
GoliathGrouper feed mostly on crustaceans like crab and lobster, fish, rays, and even sharks around the reef. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat live or dead bait as long as it is fresh, they really aren't all that picky.
Outside the US these fish are harder to find as they taste great and are not hard to spear. They are not shy and unlike most fish, will not be in a hurry to swim away, making them an easy target.
Bouncing your rig off the bottom a little to create some commotion will help them notice your bait. Make sure you have some good leather gloves when hand lining these massive fish.
GoliathGrouper put up a strong, but short-lived fight. Rigging for GoliathGrouper isn't difficult just takes some heavy-duty line and crimps, about 16 ounces of weight and a 20/O Circle Hook.
For GoliathGrouper you will want 600 pound test monofilament fishing line. You can do it relatively close to shore with a live Sting Ray and a hand line if you don't have heavy-duty gear.