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. 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). Book a Place to Stay: Booking.com is a great resource to compare hotels and guesthouses.
Or book a local apartment on Airbnb (get up to $55 off your first adventure when you go through this link !) Some scientist friends out of Florida State University’s Coleman and Koenig Laboratory have been studying their movements, and they’ve identified the Jupiter area as the epicenter of their spawning activities on the Atlantic Coast.
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 could not resist posting this short but awesome video of a goliathgrouper aggregation in the waters off Jupiter, Florida.
Well, they are more concerned with the larger fish, due to their skeletal structure not being able to handle the pressures of being out of the water. The FCC says on their regulations page that “removing smaller Goliath groupers from the water to remove hooks is not necessarily a bad practice, but this practice must be done with care”.
It is certainly a magnificent fish species that many fishermen scream at every day. These days, most all bottom fishermen have experienced the sudden, and heavy tug of a goliathgrouper as it ‘chomps’ down on the fish that is on your hook.
With 125 miles of waterways, an abundance of chic restaurants and palatial hotels, it’s a veritable slice of seaside bliss. Then, take a boat trip off the coast of Jupiter and scuba dive your way to a series of wrecks.
These behemoths of the sea can grow up to 8 feet long, roughly the length of a Smart car, and can weigh a whopping 800 pounds. As you flipper kick your way in and around the Wreck Trek, which includes Zion Train, a 164-foot-long freighter; ESO Bonfire III, a steel tanker covered in coral; and Miss Jenny, an upside down barge, dozens of the prehistoric-looking fish welcome you.
“They understand that they’re bigger than you and most of the other marine life in the ocean, so they’re not scared and allow you to swim quite close to them,” says Jena McNeal, PADI-certified rescue diver and Palm Beach County’s artificial reef coordinator. McNeal has experienced it firsthand: “On one of my favorite artificial reef sites, Walkover Reef, I came over a large pile of limestone rock, enjoying all the fish it attracts, not paying full attention to what was in front of me, and I scared a Goliath who instantly started barking at me,” McNeal recalls.
“Every year I try to dive during their aggregation time and have seen over 50 stacked up together in the water column,” McNeal says. “At Warrior Reef they stack up in groups of five to 20 around concrete pillars and act as a flock of birds pointed into the current.
The front fish swim in that position for a certain amount of time and then eventually move to the back and the entire group shifts forward.” The added bonus of loggerhead turtles, stingrays and brightly colored fish is just icing on the cake.
The Lagoon here is a haven for parrot fish, dam selfish, arrow crabs, octopus, turtles, manatees and stingrays. Managed by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management, it attracts newbie scuba divers testing out their scuba skills, teens toting along selfie sticks in search of the perfect underwater snapshot and families who appreciate the nearby playground and showers.
Divers should be familiar with drift diving since the current can crank up to 4 knots at a moment’s notice. Where to stay: EAU Palm Beach Resort & Spa is a 30-minute drive from Jupiter Dive Center.
Recover at the spa, lunch alfresco (be on the lookout for the table-side margarita cart and the beer homelier) or sign up for a Mango Farm Tour, where you’ll see 70 different varieties of the versatile stone fruit. Just be sure to never bring lights along as they can disrupt nesting turtles and disorient hatchlings from making a beeline to the water.
As the group drifted at a leisurely pace in a northerly direction, numerous Caribbean reef sharks would on occasion cruise by the divers. One poor young reef shark trailed the remains of a fishing line and a very large hook which appears to have been designed for catching these defenseless animals.
Without these predators to keep fish populations in check the imbalance could mean the destruction of coral reefs around the world. There’s no question the goliathgrouper action is reaching its climactic ending in these coming days but what an amazing way to finish off the season.
A nice stout medium/heavy 7 foot rod with a lot of backbone will be needed to drag them out of their holes before they can turn and lodge themselves in. You can find them under docks, around bridges, inshore rock piles, mangroves, inlets....
If you want to learn how to catch more inshore grouper the next time that you go fishing, then this is the article for you. It will cover the best baits, lures, tackle, tips and techniques to max out your grouper fishing trips.
The great thing about grouper is the challenge of getting them out of their holes after the initial hit. Another great thing about catching grouper is when they are filleted and released into the grease.
In the article below, I will teach you simple tips and techniques to help you when inshore grouper fishing in Florida. Inshore grouperfishingFlorida --GEAR and TACKLEGear-- You need to get yourself a decent pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and so you can see into the water.
Whatever price range you decide is for you, you definitely need a pair of polarized sunglasses. The best colors lenses for dirty or murky water are amber, rose and copper.
The best colors for clean and clear water is blue and gray lenses. These shirts employ microfiber technology with built-in UV protection.
They also are moisture wicking which evaporates you sweat more efficiently to keep you cool out on the water all day. Range around bridge pilings or deep water docks, then you will need to beef up your gear.
I eventually figured out how to target grouper inshore along mangrove river banks. They like to back into holes in the mud bank that have a good amount of current running by them as well.
When you find a suitable environment to target grouper anchor down current to cast lures or anchor up current if you are going to drift a live bait past their holes with the tide. It is not imperative that you drift your live baits with the current but I have found that you are less likely to alert the grouper to your presence that way.
Grouper eat just about anything but a palm sized pin fish or a finger mullet have worked the best for me. I like white and natural color combinations the best and a red jig head.
Cast your lure up current and bounce it slowly by the grouper hole. A feather jig with a shrimp or piece of squid will also do the trick in this scenario.
I have caught my share of Goliath and gag groupers by casting a silver spoon close enough to their holes to elicit a strike. Inlets with rocky bottoms are a great place to catch a ton of groupers.
I used to snorkel in the Lake worth inlet back in the day before you got hassled for everything fun. I would see these 15 to 20 pound gag groupers sitting behind this little rock or sponge in the middle of the inlet waiting to slam unsuspecting prey item.
Once I saw that behavior I realized that drifting with the current and vertical jigging is a great way to catch those grouper. The key is to keep the rod tip high when drifting the inlets with live bait.
You can troll lipped plugs over shallow reefs or rocky bottoms for grouper as well. This technique is very effective with the proper sized lip on the lure to get it down to within a few feet of the bottom.
Your trolling speeds also have to be just right or you will be too shallow or so deep that your lures get snagged on the bottom. Watch the video below to learn the best lures and techniques for inshore grouper fishing.
If you haven't ever snorkeled around a deep bridge or dock piling it is amazing how much life is around these structures. The grouper, snappers, shook and a host of other predators will prowl the pilings waiting for an easy meal.
Your job is to give them that easy meal with a nice sharp hook in it. The good news is that you may send down a dead squid for a gag grouper and end up with a big cuber snapper.
A 2 ounce flair hawk style of shook jig will work wonderfully for nighttime grouper. Make sure to focus your fishing efforts around the lights on the bridges and deep docks.