Reserve your spot to dive with the groupers early as our trips are filling fast. Now multiply this encounter by sixty plus and you are experiencing the best goliathgrouperdiving anywhere in the world.
The wrecks in Palm Beach are the perfect hangout for these behemoth fish. Today’s morning trip included a stop at this great series of wrecks in search of the Goliath groupers.
Easily outweighing and almost out sizing the divers, these large sea bass (the largest of their kind in the world) are actually quite timid. Chase them and you’ll be doing nothing more than getting tail shots of these fish and running low on your air supply quickly.
Sitting back and letting their curiosity get the better of them is the best recipe for those closeup shots. Sea turtles, rays, and countless fish live around these wrecks.
With today’s ideal conditions and 3-4 dozen Goliath groupers to keep us in a constant state of awe, it is easy to understand why a few of us decided to do a second dive on the same wreck while the other divers were at a nearby reef. If the photos from today’s dive don’t convince you, then make sure to check out the recent article written in the National Geographic Magazine about the Goliath groupers.
The Goliath groupers normally stick around, with their numbers increasing throughout the months, until October. Don’t miss the opportunity to see these massive fish in all their splendor.
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I’ve had the fortune to dive with these experts many times, and it's hard to describe what it’s like to be 50 to 90 feet below the surface in clear, blue warm water swimming with 70 or so groupers that are almost all bigger than a man. The technology is basically the same as what’s used when you swipe your groceries at a cash register: When X grouper swims past one of the receivers, the device scans and identifies the fish.
The goliathgrouper fishes are now on the move, headed toward the wrecks and reefs off Jupiter, Home Sound and Stuart where they aggregate to spawn, primarily in late July through early September. I usually have my eye on far-off horizons when it comes to scuba diving adventures -- to places like the remote Tuamotu Atolls of French Polynesia that teem with sharks, or the heart of the coral triangle in Indonesia’s Raja Am pat.
And the chance to dive with fish that tip the 400-pound mark (sometimes even twice that) had me beelining it for Palm Beach County in Florida earlier this month. Each year off the coast of Jupiter, Florida, between late July and early October, hundreds of grouper -- some the size of golf carts, and up to 10 feet long -- show up to sow their wild oats in a spawning event that’s been likened to an underwater orgy.
I did a giant stride off the boat with my BCD emptied of air and let my own weight pull me gently down, down, down through glacier-blue water as warm as a bathtub. Suddenly, there they were: a band of eight enormous fish that appeared to be posing like some indie rock group on an album cover, staggered in style and hovering a few feet off the seabed.
They do the deed right around the new moon, usually at night or in the early morning hours, and it’s apparently a fast and furious affair. Known as the grouper ’s “bark,” the fish make these aggressive sounds with a muscle in their swim bladders as a form of communication during the spawning event.
At one point I caught sight of a sleeping nurse shark, easily eight feet long, tucked away under an outcropping of reef. I swam atop the wreck to fin through clouds of tropical fish and enjoy the neutral buoyancy that feels, more than ever these days, like therapy.
Somewhere beyond the grouper, out in the blue, the glint of a patrolling reef shark registered on my radar -- exciting in itself, but the big fish had long ago stolen the show. DINE : Goliath grouper have been a federally protected species since 1990 and also have high levels of mercury in their bodies, so you won’t find them on local menus.
STAY : Check into the brand-new downtown West Palm Beach property, The Ben, with a gorgeous rooftop pool and a restaurant, Spruce, with views over the Intracoastal Waterway. Sharks come in the winter, then sea turtles in late spring and early summer.
Starting in August and peaking in September, the number of these grouper at dive sites throughout Palm Beach County swells as they gather to spawn. As spawning time approaches, however, they temporarily abandon solo life and gather in groups of fifty or more.
It’s no secret that divers love to swim with big fish, and goliathgrouper, which can reach lengths over 8 feet and weights approaching 800 pounds, certainly qualify. Despite their size, goliathgrouper prefer to eat lobsters, crabs and other small animals that they can suck into their huge mouths and swallow whole.
While today, it still takes some special effort to find a spawning goliathgrouper aggregation, not that long ago it was virtually impossible. Overfishing caused such a decline in numbers that spawning aggregations had essentially disappeared in the late 1980s.
Several spots in Palm Beach County host aggregations with fairly good reliability throughout the fall. The Micah, one of a series of wrecks in a dive known as The Corridor,” and the Spud Barge are two favorite sites for aggregating Goliath groupers.
Ever catch yourself in the middle of a giant fish mating fest? These fish are called goliathgrouper, and they’re listed as an endangered species in the United States.
Often roaming the depths of dive sites in South Florida and beyond, goliathgrouper are a sight to behold when spotted. Like we said, goliathgrouper are frequently spotted inhabiting the depths off of Florida’s coast.
Hundreds of the travel great distances to Jupiter for a two-month-long mating session! Oxford Dictionary Fortunately for scuba divers, we become the beneficiaries of such a magnificent moment in nature.
Most dive shops in town craft their daily trips around visiting the grouper hotspots. To experience the aggregations in their full force, you must dive in August and September.
The streamlined check-in, laser-focused approach, informative briefings, and knowledgeable Captain and crew blew us away. We’ll be diving with them every time we visit the Jupiter area, and we highly recommend you do, as well.
As for the day itself, the general structure of the trip consists of two different dive sites. The first, a drift dive on a shipwreck featuring the main event: goliathgrouper.
The second, a drift dive on a vibrant coral reef serving as home to sea turtles, sharks, and some truly amazing ocean animals. Which site you visit, the Wreck Trek or MG-111, is entirely dependent on the Captain, conditions, and availability (our friends at Emerald Charters and their shark diving operation seem to ruffle some feathers by snatching up sites).
The current was insane, so we actually held onto structures waving like flagpoles in the wind. After drifting through the entire shipwreck we entered an area known as Warrior Reef.
It’s essentially a group of pillars that goliathgrouper are keen to surround. After leaving Warrior Reef you’ll find yourself in sand for as far as the eye can see.
Visiting with hundreds of some of the biggest fish in the world is a truly awe-inspiring experience. Additionally, Jupiter is a stunning dive destination, regardless of the aggregations.
Visit in August or September to enjoy the Goliath grouper aggregations fully. That audible bark is meant to deter you from coming any closer.
Jupiter Dive Center is a top-notch operation that we personally book trips with. The closest airports are West Palm Beach (PBI) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL).