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Goliath Grouper Hunting

author
Bob Roberts
• Monday, 16 November, 2020
• 7 min read

The giant of the grouper family, the Goliath (formerly called Jewish) has brown or yellow mottling with small black spots on the head and fins, a large mouth with jawbones that extend well past its small eyes, and a rounded tail. The skeletal structure of large Goliath grouper cannot adequately support their weight out of the water without some type of damage.

grouper goliath florida height
(Source: www.floridatoday.com)

Contents

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. Goliath grouper populations declined throughout their range during the 1970s and 1980s due to increased fishing pressure from commercial and recreational fishers and divers.

At their July 2014 meeting in Key Largo, this committee reviewed the most up-to-date scientific information on goliathgrouper and recommended a new stock assessment for this species. As a result, the most recent stock assessment, conducted by the FCC was completed in June 2016 (Sedan 47).

The stock assessment indicates abundance in south Florida has greatly increased since the fishery closed in 1990. However, in the final step of the review process, the assessment was rejected by an independent panel of scientists for use in federal management due to a lack of reliable indicators of abundance outside south Florida.

Goliath are also susceptible to large scale mortality events such as cold temperatures and red tide blooms. When not feeding or spawning, adult Goliath groupers are generally solitary, sedentary and territorial.

Before the goliathgrouper reaches full-size it is preyed upon by barracuda, king mackerel and moray eels, as well as sandbar and hammerhead sharks. Calico crabs make up the majority of their diet, with other invertebrate species and fish filling in the rest.

grouper goliath record hunting fishing paul catches aqua reegan werner guns outdoors cooking list year harmon
(Source: thehuntingnews.com)

Reproductive maturity first occurs in fish 5 or 6 years of age (about 36 inches in length) due to their slow growth rate. Males mature at a smaller size (about 42 inches) and slightly younger age than females.

These groups occur at consistent sites such as wrecks, rock ledges and isolated patch reefs during July, August and September. Studies have shown fish may move up to 62 miles (100 km) from inshore reefs to these spawning sites.

Found nearshore around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges; young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars; more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters. Spawns over summer months; lifespan of 30 to 50 years; feeds on crustaceans and fish.

CLOSED TO HARVEST OR POSSESSION IN THE SOUTH ATLANTIC EEA (FEDERAL WATERS) SINCE 1990. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided additional guidelines on release techniques for Goliath grouper.

Note: Goliath grouper and Nassau grouper must be released by cutting the line and NOT removed from the water. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has provided additional guidelines on release techniques for Goliath grouper.

grouper goliath pound pushes angler determined limit
(Source: www.wideopenspaces.com)

At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage. Descending Device Requirement: Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper- grouper species; Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet.

Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing. At least one hooking device is required and must be used as needed to remove hooks embedded in South Atlantic snapper- grouper with minimum damage.

Descending Device Requirement: Requirement: A descending device is required to be on board and readily available for use on all vessels fishing for or possessing snapper- grouper species; Definition of a Descending Device: an instrument to which is attached a minimum of a 16 ounce weight and a length of line that will release the fish at the depth from which the fish was caught or a minimum of 60 feet. Since minimizing surface time is critical to increasing survival, descending devices shall be readily available for use while engaged in fishing.

Click here for helpful resources, including: best fishing practices tips information on hook types how-to videos I was recently contacted by advocate goliathgrouper protectionist, Ms. Katie Carlsson, who spurned my interest in the debate to “reopen hunting on the species.” I also knew I could share my mother’s plethora of historic St Lucie River “Jew Fish” photos labeled such during the non-politically correct era that was part of my childhood and before.

Before presenting you with many links to explore and opinions to read, I will say, that according to the Shook Foundation, “vast technological improvements in spear guns and diving equipment in the 1960s and 1970s made no wreck, cave or hole safe for Goliath grouper to hide. Of course anglers have the right to argue that the grouper in some areas, like South Florida, have been perhaps “too successful” and believe hunting should be reopened.

grouper goliath fly
(Source: www.youtube.com)

)“This photograph of Jewish suspended from a pole resting on a Florida East Coast Railway car was taken in what was called the hole, a rail spur that went down to the St Lucie River near the Stuart freight depot. Joseph Jefferson, a famous actor of the day, also fished in the St Lucie River region” in the early late 1800s.

(Photo courtesy of page 51 of “Stuart on the St Lucie” by Sandra Henderson Thurlow. In the earlier part of the last century, Atlantic Goliath groupers were abundant from Florida to Brazil and throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

If you have been lucky enough to be in the water with these creatures, then you appreciate their unflappable personality and awe-inspiring size, which reaches up to 8 feet and 1,000 pounds. Twenty-seven years of protection have led to a population increase, although not a recovery to pre-exploitation levels, in the state of Florida alone.

It’s the only place in the world where Goliath groupers are now reliably found in significant numbers, as juveniles in mangroves, and as adults in reefs, solitary or forming spawning aggregations. People come from all over the nation and the world to see the goliathgrouper spawning aggregations in the late summer, bringing big dollars that boost local economies.

Yet, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FCC) is currently considering allowing the limited take of Goliath groupers in state waters. If implemented, the kill will exterminate most of Florida’s breeding population of Goliath groupers, destroying 27 years of conservation management effort.

grouper goliath huge sea fish fishing giant groupers record vs shark history deep water creepy brazil saltwater unnatural monster redrop
(Source: huntdrop.com)

Critics of the goliathgrouper say the species is overeating and responsible for declining fish and lobster stocks. Yet, actual scientific data from researchers like Sarah Frias-Torres, Ph.D. show that overfishing, not the Goliath groupers, is the reason for declining fish and lobster stocks.

Some say that a “sustainable” take of Goliath groupers is possible, but many scientists agree that the current population would not last more than one, or perhaps two years after opening the fishery. “I repeatedly asked what scientific evidence the FCC has to support killing the Goliath groupers, because all scientific research published to date does not support a fishery for this species and shows the species is highly conservation dependent and highly vulnerable to overfishing,” said Dr. Frias-Torres.

Don Maria, a local professional diver, adds, “the annual goliathgrouper spawning aggregations that occur off the coast of South Florida are spectacular natural events on a world scale. If a hunting season is opened on the goliathgrouper, the FCC has floated the idea of charging $300 per fish killed.

Think of that: a single goliathgrouper in the water is supporting local business to the tune of $36,500 per year or more than a million dollars over its lifetime. But one spawning aggregation alone, made by several Goliath groupers, generates about half a million dollars a year for one dive business.

We are aware that the FCC is gathering public input on the possibility of a goliathgrouper killing season in Florida. As such, we have called for our supporters to attend one of the many workshops held in the state in August and October, as well as to submit a public comment on FCC’s website.

grouper wild gone goliath jewfish
(Source: www.youtube.com)

We will also gather signatures to a petition, which will be delivered to the FCC in anticipation of the goliathgrouper decision coming down later this year. “Although the species has not recovered to pre-exploitation levels, enough Goliath groupers are showing up at a few spawning aggregation sites that their presence, and the SCUBA divers that come to visit them, bring a much-needed lifesaver to small businesses in Florida, between late August and early October, just when transition between the summer and winter seasons will leave these businesses in the doldrums,” said Dr. Frias-Torres.

We strongly urge the Commissioners of FCC to maintain protections for Goliath groupers in Florida and to deny any requests for opening the fishery. A policy such as this would represent the best interests of the wildlife and humans in Florida, as well as rest on conclusions drawn from the best available science.

The GoliathGrouper was in serious decline due to overfishing until the 1990s when they were classified as critically endangered, and all harvesting worldwide was banned. GoliathGrouper eat young sea turtles, fish and shrimp, for the main part.

Young grouper commonly hang out together, inhabiting the mangrove swamps and estuaries, where they find suitable food sources in Key West. As a bottom dweller, Goliath's tend to hang out around reefs, wreck sites and coral ledges, as they like to reside in shallow water up to a depth of around 165 feet.

GoliathGrouper, due to their incredibly large size, have been the target of avid sports fishermen for decades; they were also rumored to be a restaurant-quality fish desired by seafood aficionados. Since Goliath Groupers tended to spawn in large groups, this made them easy prey for mass hunting.

grouper goliath hunting urban
(Source: davidtamargo.com)

In the past 10 years the Clearwater area and entire gulf for that matter has seen the Goliath grouper population explode. Due to the sheer size of these 100 pound plus grouper, even pulling them out of the water is not advised, by doing so will crush their skeletal system often killing them, which is considered harvesting.

Armed with top of the line Fin Nor 2-speed 30W and 130lb class rod guarantees you have a solid chance of landing one of these giants! Usually we use large dead fish, such as Bonita, mackerel or any other oily species to entice these brutes off the wreck or reef.

After getting them boat side, pictures are taken, and the hooks quickly removed, all while the fish is still in the water.

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Sources
1 www.saltstrong.com - https://www.saltstrong.com/articles/best-way-to-cook-grouper-recipes/
2 foremangrillrecipes.com - https://foremangrillrecipes.com/seafood-recipes/seasoned-grilled-grouper/
3 www.allrecipes.com - https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/19517/super-grouper/