And make no mistake, Goliath are perfectly happy in murky, even milk chocolate muddy water. This is shallowest grouper of about 14 species in the Gulf and Atlantic, spending perhaps its entire life in less than 100 feet of water.
They said when the shrimp boats docked, they would soon dump buckets of shrimp heads overboard, and they’d see the big grouper come up and inhale gallons of heads. Back in our serious spearfishing days at the platforms off Sabine Pass, or the South Padre jetties, we’d see big Goliath, but our light spears practically bounced off them.
Shooting at a variety of fish species, we became very accurate with the short 3-band guns we had; I even speared pompano a few times. The smaller of the two fish dragged me endlessly through bottom murk and pipes overgrown with barnacles like an underwater obstacle course.
Sensing time was running out, I pulled myself up the cable onto his back and finally steered him up to the boat; the water was only 30 feet deep. We set both fish in the bow, so we could get the boat up on plane, the Johnson 70 horse outboard straining with the heavy load.
Back at the Sportsman’s Supply in Sabine Pass, the two fish weighed 165 and 210 pounds on the store scales. Filleting each (fish) was like cleaning a hog, and I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the meat, with lots of fatty strips.
I’ve seen one video of a hooked cow nose ray circling under the boat, and a huge Goliath rising to inhale it near the surface. So, imagine drifting a fresh stingray deep around the end of a Texas jetty, when the tide has slowed.
Years ago I scuba dived the end of one jetty, and saw four big Goliath cruising by, averaging about 150 pounds each. Those big puppies would have been real happy to find a fresh stingray, of which Texas bays are in plentiful supply.
After getting hooked, these fish would make a power dive into the nearest hole unless stopped with heavy tackle. In Florida, I’ve hooked a few Goliath in recent years, often in water as shallow as 12 feet.
We caught eight of these fish up to 25 pounds without moving the boat, while anchored near Shark River in the Everglades. What a region: That incredible maze of sheltering mangrove islands stretches for about 70 miles, from Flamingo to Naples, now the center of the universe for goliathgrouper.
On a previous trip we stopped at a channel marker in Florida Bay just south of Flamingo and I tossed out a live, 2-pound jack crevasse, and a huge Goliath inhaled it within 10 seconds. It was a savage battle at close quarters, more like fighting a manatee, and we had to crank the engine and motor away from the pilings about 40 yards.
When the behemoth was finally brought alongside, we took pictures and twisted loose the 20/0 circle hook. We kept it in the water; it’s now considered uncool and I think prohibited in Florida, to drag Goliath into the boat for hero pictures.
It was Gus pan-Arabist, a Houston firefighter, who caught our state record goliathgrouper at Galveston’s north jetties. Saw fish were pretty much wiped out by nets in Texas, and the Goliath population laid low perhaps for other reasons.
Texas is blessed with a great many grouper species offshore, in sufficient numbers to pursue on a year-round basis. 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. Daily Bag: 5 Min Length: 14 inches Max Length: 30 inches No more than one black drum over 52 inches may be retained per person per day and counts as part of the daily bag limit and possession limit.
Daily Bag: 3 Min Length: 20 inches Max Length: 28 inches During a license year, one red drum over the stated maximum length limit may be retained when affixed with a properly completed Red Drum Tag and one red drum over the stated maximum length limit may be retained when affixed with a properly completed Bonus Red Drum Tag. 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.
Non-offset, non-stainless steel circle hooks MUST be used when fishing for sharks in state waters. 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.
A video shot from waters off the coast of Bonita Springs went viral showing a caught shark eaten whole by a GoliathGrouper. Mike Kessler has fished southwest Florida waters for nearly 50 years and said the GoliathGrouper population is out of control.
He remembers fishing for them long before they were on anyone’s radar, and would go places like ledges and wrecks to find them. At Thursday’s FCC meeting, data showed many sight-seeing divers have favorable views on the fish.
Captains said GoliathGrouper are delicious to eat and if the ban were lifted it would also be good for the local economy.