This goliathgrouper research program investigated juvenile and adult Jewish abundance, distribution and migration patterns; their age and growth; and their habitat utilization. With the help of Don Maria we have tagged over 1,000 adult Jewish and have observed aggregations of goliathgrouper in both the Gulf of Mexico and more recently, the South Atlantic.
Posters created by the Center of Marine Conservation help disseminate information about our project and its requirements, highlighting our tagging study and the morphology of goliathgrouper. Given that these groupers were afforded protected status, researchers worked to utilize and develop novel non-lethal techniques to procure and analyze biological samples for life history information.
These casualties, resulting from red tide, gave our biologists a unique opportunity to collect a multitude of biological samples, without having to sacrifice healthy animals. From these decomposing carcasses, biologists were able to record length for use in an age/length relationship, and were able to extract monoliths and remove dorsal spines and rays for comparison of hard parts in age and growth analysis.
Tissue samples were also removed and sent to the Florida Marine Research Institute, so they could evaluate the level of red tide toxin. The sampling trip gave these biologists an opportunity to educate the curious beach goers about red tide and goliathgrouper (a few of which had been misidentified as baby manatees).
Attempts to evaluate the data needed to assess the status of these depleted stocks and develop rebuilding plans present unique challenges. In 2010, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries convened a benchmark goliathgrouper assessment for the continental U.S. population.
The Atlantic goliathgrouper or Tamara (Epimetheus Tamara), also known as the Jewish, is a large saltwater fish of the grouper family found primarily in shallow tropical waters among coral and artificial reefs at depths from 5 to 50 m (16 to 164 ft). Its range includes the Florida Keys in the US, the Bahamas, most of the Caribbean and most of the Brazilian coast.
On some occasions, it is caught off the coasts of the US states of New England off Maine and Massachusetts. In the eastern Atlantic Ocean, it occurs from the Congo to Senegal.
Young Atlantic Goliath groupers may live in brackish estuaries, oyster beds, canals, and mangrove swamps, which is unusual behavior among groupers. They may reach extremely large sizes, growing to lengths up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and can weigh as much as 360 kg (790 lb).
The world record for a hook-and-line-captured specimen is 308.44 kg (680.0 lb), caught off Fernanda Beach, Florida, in 1961. Considered of fine food quality, Atlantic goliathgrouper were a highly sought-after quarry for fishermen.
It is a relatively easy prey for spear fishermen because of the grouper's inquisitive and generally fearless nature. They also tend to spawn in large aggregations, returning annually to the same locations.
This makes them particularly vulnerable to mass harvesting while breeding. Until a harvest ban was placed on the species, its population was in rapid decline.
The fish is recognized as “vulnerable” globally and “endangered” in the Gulf of Mexico. The species' population has been recovering since the ban; with the fish's slow growth rate, however, some time will be needed for populations to return to their previous levels.
Goliath groupers are believed to be protogynous hermaphrodites, which refer to organisms that are born female and at some point in their lifespans change sex to male. Males can be sexually mature at about 115 centimeters (45 in), and ages 4–6 years.
In May 2015, the Atlantic goliathgrouper was successfully bred in captivity for the first time. Tidal pools act as nurseries for juvenile E. Tamara.
In tidal pools juvenile E.Tamara are able to utilize rocky crevices for shelter. Besides shelter, tidal pools provide E. Tamara with plenty of prey such as lobster and porcelain crab.
The Atlantic goliathgrouper has historically been referred to as the “Jewish”. It may have referred to the fish's status as inferior leading it to be declared only suitable for Jews, or the flesh having a “clean” taste comparable to kosher food ; it has also been suggested that this name is simply a corruption of jaw fish or the Italian word for “bottom fish”, Giuseppe.
In 2001, the American Fisheries Society stopped using the term because of complaints that it was culturally insensitive. Age, Growth, and Reproduction of Jewish Epimetheus Tamara in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Pseudorhabdosynochus species (Monogenoidea, Diplectanidae) parasitizing groupers (Serranidae, Epinephrine, Epinephrine) in the western Atlantic Ocean and adjacent waters, with descriptions of 13 new species”. Wikimedia Commons has media related to Epimetheus Tamara.
The FCC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) manages the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean differently, and it’s important to know what’s in season and what you can harvest from each shoreline. The Gulf of Mexico is a unique body of water that provides commercial and recreational anglers plenty of fishing opportunities.
The Gulf covers most of Florida’s west coast, from Pensacola in the Panhandle to the start of the Everglades at the tip of the peninsula. This is important to keep in mind as there are different regulations for what’s in season and what you can harvest depending on if you’re in state or federal waters.
For Gag Grouper fishing in the Gulf, it’s important to note what county you’re embarking from. For counties of Franklin, Weibull, Taylor and Jefferson (in the Panhandle area from Apalachicola to Steinhatchee) there is open season in state waters from April 1 to June 30, and again from September 1 to December 31.
Black, Red, Scamp, Yellow fin and Yellow mouth Grouper all have similar regulations in the Gulf. It’s open season in both state and federal waters for Rock Hind, Coney, Yellow edge and Snowy Groupers.
You can ask your charter captain if the size you have is a keeper or not; or refer to the FCC regulations to make sure you’re staying compliant. If you’re lucky enough to catch a GoliathGrouper or Nassau Grouper, take a quick picture and release it back to the wild.
Now moving east to the beautiful Atlantic Ocean where there are excellent opportunities for grouper fishing. Keep in mind, the FCC considers the Everglades and Florida Keys as part of the Atlantic Ocean waters, and all fishing done in these areas must stay within Atlantic-specific regulations.
From the Florida Keys to Jacksonville, anglers have hundreds of cities to choose from to launch your grouper expedition. The real question is, what subspecies of grouper you’ll find at the end of your line.
There are quite a few other species of grouper that are found in deeper waters and throughout the Bahamas and other locations. For the most part, their habits are very similar and will be treated all the same when it comes to tackle and techniques.
The one thing that all groupers have in common is that they are bottom dwelling, structure oriented fish. Seldom will one be found high up in the water column or on sandy bottom with no structure.
Reefs, wrecks, artificial reefs, areas of rocky bottom, and ledges are the top spots where anglers catch grouper in open water. Penn is THE name in saltwater tackle and makes some excellent equipment at reasonable prices.
Goliath grouper grow hundreds of pounds and requires special tackle. Anglers fishing in hundreds of feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean with heavy lead will need a stouter outfit than those fishing in 40 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico.
Anglers fishing in shallow, clear water sometimes find that lighter spinning tackle makes a more natural presentation. Some anglers simply prefer the comfort and feel of a spinning outfit.
This mostly occurs in the shallow waters of the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico north of Tampa. Therefore, anglers anchor or drift a decent distance from the spot and cast live baits or lures in towards the structure.
A 7-8 foot heavy action rod with a 6000 series real is a good all-around combination. In water much deeper than 50 feet, conventional outfits are simply a better choice.
While the initial cost is higher, braided line last much longer than monofilament. Braided line is also thinner in diameter, which allows it to sink faster when fishing in deep water.
Many use a strong black swivel to connect the leader to the main line. A sliding sinker is often placed on the main line and then the swivel stops it from going any further.
The weight is generally placed on the running line ahead of the swivel that attaches the leader. However, there is another rig that works very well for grouper fishing, particularly in water shallower than 100 feet.
With this rig, the sinker slides on the leader and rest right on the eye of the hook. Also, when snagged up, the sinker jerking up on the line then banging the eye of the hook will often free it.
With this rig, multiple hooks are tied off of dropper loops on the main line. The bank sinker works well as it tends to walk and bounce off of rocks and other snags.
While most grouper are caught on live or natural bait, there are a few situations when they can be taken on artificial lures as well. Trolling with deep diving plugs is an incredibly effective technique when grouper are in fairly shallow water.
It allows anglers to cover a lot of water over a large piece of structure in search of fish. Trolling is effective anywhere that there is submerged structure in the 50 feet deep or shallower range.
The shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, channel edges and large bays such as Tampa Bay, and coral reefs of the Caribbean are prime spots to troll for grouper. They are categorized by size, giving anglers a good idea of how deep they will go.
Papal and several other lure manufacturers also make quality deep diving plugs for grouper fishing. With the boat idling along at 4 to 5 knots, the plug will dig down to the maximum depth, putting out a lot of flash and vibration.
A down rigger is a device with a cable and a heavy ball which takes the lure down deep. This technique is used extensively in the Great Lakes region for walleye and salmon.
Grouper can also be caught by anglers casting artificial lures, though there are limited situations where this can occur. Basically, when grouper are holding over structure in fairly shallow water, usually 10 feet deep or shallower, casting lures over the structure and retrieving them back in can produce jarring strikes from grouper.
Plugs will dive to a determined depth, while jigs can be worked through the entire water column but are extremely effective when bounced on the bottom right on top of the structure. White buck tail jigs are often used and can be tipped with a strip of squid or cut fish.
There are basically four types of grouper that are found in good numbers in the United States. Gag grouper are very aggressive and are the species most often targeted by anglers fishing with artificial lures.
Black grouper are normally found in the deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean and down around the Florida Keys. Surprisingly, they are often encountered in the inshore waters, as shallow as five or 6 feet deep.
Many a large Goliath grouper has surprised an angler casting to the mangroves for shook or redfish. It is not at all uncommon for an angler to lose a 5 pound snapper or grouper to a big, hungry Goliath grouper.