Like we said, goliathgrouper are frequently spotted inhabiting the depths off of Florida ’s coast. For whatever reason, the massive fish seem to congregate near shipwrecks and other artificial reefs.
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.
Thankfully, I brought my handy pole spear to remove the invasive species. 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).
Jupiter Dive Center is proud to offer an exclusive GoliathGrouper Specialty course where you will learn all about these amazing behemoths of the ocean. During peak season, you can expect to see sixty or more of these gentle giants congregated along the Jupiter Wreck Trek.
This course starts in the classroom, where students will learn about goliathgrouper identification, habitat, range, diet, and role in the marine ecosystem. Following the presentation the students will participate in two guided dives where divers will focus on putting their newfound knowledge to use.
Divers who complete both the classroom and dives will receive a GoliathGrouper Awareness certification. Once you complete this course, you may be interested in learning more about other marine animals such as sea turtles or sharks.
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. 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.
Then they swim into view, gentle giants stretching up to eight feet and weighing in at a svelte 500 pounds. Historically, Goliath ranged well beyond our state’s shores, now, they are primarily found in southern Florida ’s waters.
In fact, every year from July through September, they aggregate off Jupiter, Florida to spawn. An assessment of the Goliath population was conducted in 2016, but the report was not accepted at the federal level.
According to the FCC website, staff will provide a review and discussion of goliathgrouper, including biology, stock status, and stakeholder feedback. They will then seek the Commission’s direction on what steps to take next for goliathgrouper management in state waters–which may include limited harvest.
Until more data about Goliath groupers is available any decision to open up harvesting opportunities is premature. Voice your opinion at the FCC Commission meeting on April 26th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Ken Hudson specializes in light tackle, live bait charter fishing in the Stuart, Jupiter, Ft. Pierce and Palm Beach areas of the Treasure Coast of Florida for such prized catches as Shook, Tarpon, GoliathGrouper and Trout. Shook is the prized game fish in Ft Pierce, Stuart, Jupiter and all along Treasure Coast for many reasons.
Shook is abundant at the river mouths that run into the ocean and also can be found far up the rivers and creeks, miles from the ocean. Shook moves in and out of salt and brackish waters, making the angling possibilities for them almost endless.
Live Pilchards are the bait of choice, with 60lb fluorocarbon... Monsters nook in Florida inshore saltwater fishing with Shook City Charters in Stuart, FL.