Juvenile Goliath are typically more brown or tan with a more noticeable pattern of dark, blotched, vertical lines. Once they reach reproductive age, goliathgrouper form large aggregations of 100 or more individuals during the summer spawning months of July, August, and September.
These aggregations gather at shallow ledge or shoreline sites such as the mangrove forests of Ten A Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Threats Several life history traits of goliathgrouper make the species particularly vulnerable to the pressure of overfishing.
These traits include late sexual maturity, large and predictable spawning aggregations in shallow inshore waters, and strong refuge site fidelity. For example, found approximately two hours north of Ten A Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Tampa Bay is one of the largest ports in the United States.
It is estimated that over the past 100 years the area has lost over 44% of its mangroves and salt marshes due to heavy human development and traffic. Coral reefs are susceptible to degradation through natural factors including hurricanes, El Niño events, and diseases.
Reefs are also degraded through human action such as overfishing, damaging fishing practices, development, pollution, ocean acidification, and irresponsible tourism. Once abundant and growing to massive, reproductively mature sizes, goliathgrouper have suffered significant population declines attributed to overfishing and habitat loss.
While the species is showing clear signs of recovery in South Florida, the true status of the population remains uncertain. Based on recovery trends throughout the past decade, goliathgrouper are no longer classified as a species of concern in U.S. waters.
Yet, goliathgrouper remain vulnerable to the pressures of overfishing and habitat loss as the long-lived species slowly rebuilds. With uncertain population dynamics, the harvest moratorium for this species remains in place and goliathgrouper are considered endangered in global waters by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Its large, thick, elongated body can grow to over 8 feet long (and up to 800 pounds), from rounded snout and small eyes, to short, fan-like tail fin. Usually it is a mottled yellow-brown to gray with darker bard and spots, ideal for blending in to their rocky coral and muddy inshore habitat.
Other names are Baden (Portuguese), campus (Portuguese), hernia gig ante (Italian), China (Spanish), group (Portuguese), gran morgue (Iranian), guava (Spanish), data (Japanese), harbor (Norwegian), havsabborre (Swedish), Tamara Vienna (Polish), Judaism (Norwegian), hero guava (Spanish), hero (French), orphan (Turkish), raitameriahven (Finnish), Sophos (Greek), scarring (Italian), tip (Palikir), Atari (Icelandic), and zackenbarsch (German). A 450 pound goliathgrouper caught by Buddy Junks at the Big Indian Rocks Fishing Pier, Florida (1976).
Photo courtesy Kenneth Krzysztof historical importance to commercial fisheries, the goliathgrouper has also long been prized by recreational and sport fishers. Spear fishers find this fish easy to approach; hence in locations accessible to divers their numbers have declined.
The large size, slow growth, low reproductive rate, and spawning behavior have made the goliathgrouper especially susceptible to overfishing. The goliathgrouper is totally protected from harvest and is recognized as a “Critically Endangered” species by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Furthermore, the IUCN concludes that the species has been “observed, estimated, inferred or suspected” of a reduction of at least 80% over the last 10 years or three generations. Historical exploitation of goliathgrouper annual spawning aggregation sites greatly reduced the number of reproductive adults.
Occurring in shallow, inshore waters to depths of 150 feet (46 m), the goliathgrouper prefers areas of rock, coral, and mud bottoms. It is territorial near areas of refuge such as caves, wrecks, and ledges, displaying an open mouth and quivering body to intruders.
Additional warning may be delivered in the form of the goliathgrouper ’s ability to produce a distinctly audible rumbling sound generated by the muscular contraction of the swim bladder. Photo courtesy NOAA Distinctive Features Goliath grouper are the largest members of the sea bass family in the Atlantic Ocean.
Coloration This fish is generally brownish yellow, gray, or olive with small dark spots on head, body, and fins. The presence of a number of short weakly developed canine teeth is useful in distinguishing this species from other North Atlantic groupers.
Photo © Don Maria Size, Age, and Growth The goliathgrouper is the largest grouper in the western Atlantic. However, this specimen was sampled from a population of individuals depressed by fishing pressure and it is projected that goliathgrouper may live much longer, perhaps as much as 50 years.
Photo © Don Maria Food Habits Goliath grouper feed largely on crustaceans (in particular spiny lobsters, shrimps and crabs), fishes (including stingrays and parrot fishes), octopus, and young sea turtles. However, the significance of this finding is of diminished value when one considers that transitional individuals are known to be rare amongst confirmed species of protogynous hermaphrodites, such as the red grouper (Epimetheus Mario) and gag (Mycteroperca microbes).
Photo courtesy National Marine Fisheries Service In support of the notion that the species is a protogynous hermaphrodite is the fact that the largest Goliath groupers are invariably male. Spawning occurs during the summer months of July, August, and September throughout the goliathgrouper ’s range and is strongly influenced by the lunar cycle. Ship wrecks, rock ledges, and isolated patch reefs are preferred spawning habitat.
In the 1980s these aggregations reached a low of less than 10 individuals per site as fishing pressure greatly impacted this species. Since receiving legislative protection the spawning aggregations of goliathgrouper have risen to 20-40 individuals per location.
These pelagic larvae transform into benthic juveniles at lengths of one inch (2.5 cm), around 25 or 26 days after hatching. In an 1884 work, “The fishes of the Florida Keys,” David Starr Jordan proposed the inclusion of the goliathgrouper in Epimetheus (Bloch 1793) and this combination remains in use today.
Of incidental note is the fact that various authors have incorrectly spelled the specific epithet “Tamara” as “tiara.” The genus name comes from the Greek epinephelos translated as cloudy. A number of authors treat the name Promiscuous Tamara as valid taxonomy for the goliathgrouper.
Enjoy a day on the water with Captains Jesse McDowell and Kelly McDowell of Florida Inshore Stream charters fishing the renowned waters of Charlotte Harbor and nearby areas of Coca Grande, Lemon Bay, Pine Island Sound, and the Gulf of Mexico. Whether targeting Coca Grande tarpon, fishing the flats for shook and redfish, or miles offshore digging for grouper, snapper and cobra, Jesse and Kelly are sure to give you a fishing charter FIX to write home about.
Their strength, endurance, ability to gulp air for additional oxygen, and bouts of blistering runs taking in excess of a hundred yards will have you tired out before you even get close to wearing the fish down. We target tarpon primarily around the beaches of Coca Grande using live bait.
If so, give us a call to book your Coca Grande goliathgrouper fishing charter while we still have this beautiful weather. Captains Jesse and Kelly will ensure a fun filled day of fishing on the waters in and around Englewood, Coca Grande, Placid, and Pine Island.
We dock our boats at Sarsaparilla Marina, located in Placid, FL, just minutes from the world-famous Coca Grande. In just a few short minutes, you can be skimming over the flats of Charlotte Harbor or entering in to the Gulf of Mexico.
The shallow bays and miles of mangrove shorelines that comprise the back country of Charlotte Harbor and Coca Grande provide pristine fishing enjoyable to the whole family. Inshore game fish such as redfish, shook, and trout are a few of the targeted species year round.
He also was extremely helpful at coaching my son and I on the exact techniques to catch the fish we were after. That’s why the exceptionally large Goliath grouper (Epinephalus Tamara) is the focus of a novel smart-sensing system that will remotely alert authorities of incoming manned and unmanned underwater vehicles.
Goliath grouper are distributed in subtropical environments including both Atlantic and Pacific shorelines of North, Central and South America, as well as western Africa. In most cases, these reefs are often constructed adjacent to inlets and shipping fairways to ease stakeholder (fishermen, diver) access.
To date, there have been no studies that have quantified boom dynamics in response to different stimuli, although such experiments are possible in a controlled environment and in situ. The researchers will therefore conduct a suite of experiments to isolate these behaviors from fish held in captivity at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium to animals tracked within their natural habitat along Florida’s offshore reefs.
“In addition to defense-related applications, the project provides a tremendous opportunity to delve deeper into the behaviors of goliathgrouper, a species that was previously decimated from over harvest but has experienced considerable recovery in Florida waters. Cherubim and Anemia and the team leverages a naturally dominant and territorial species,” said James M. Sullivan, Ph.D., executive director of Far’s Harbor Branch.
The Atlantic goliathgrouper, like most groupers, is an ambush predator and eats fairly large fishes and invertebrates and even small sharks. Throughout most of the year, low numbers of the Atlantic Goliath groupers are observed in any one place.
However, during reproduction (immediately after the full moons between June and December), they come together in groups of at least 100 individuals. These groups are known as spawning aggregations, and they form at relatively few places throughout the species’ range.
Though they were likely naturally rare, scientists believe that destructive fishing practices have reduced the numbers of the Atlantic Goliath groupers by at least 80% and that the species is now critically endangered. Furthermore, a total lack of fear of people makes them an easy target for spear fishers.
Finally, the Atlantic goliathgrouper ’s large size, slow growth, and ease of capture all contribute to slow its recovery, even where laws have been put in place to give it some or complete legal protection from fishing (e.g., in the USA and Brazil). It is important to continue to monitor Atlantic goliathgrouper population trends in order to determine whether the species is recovering or if stronger legal protection may be required.
Scientists only recently divided the species into two, based on their slightly different genetic makeup. The two species are similar in both appearance and behavior, but little is known about the population trends or conservation status of the Pacific goliathgrouper.