Goliath Grouper Fishing | Everything You Need To Know

The Goliath grouper is native to the Western Atlantic Ocean, ranging from Rhode Island to southern Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico. They can be found as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as southern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.

The goliath grouper is the largest grouper in the western Atlantic Ocean, with a size of 8.2 feet (2.5 m) and a weight of up to 800 pounds (363 kg). The greatest hook and line captured specimen weighed 680 pounds (309 kg) in Florida.

Man on a boat holding a large Goliath grouper alongside, highlighting the unique experience and regulations of Goliath grouper fishing

Fishing The Goliath Grouper

Goliath grouper are a popular sport fish. They can be caught on hook and line with a heavy rod and reel. Using a hand line is also a popular way to target these giants. 

Goliath grouper can be found in many different habitats, including shallow water flats, coral reefs, shipwrecks, and channels. They eat mostly fish but will also eat crabs, shrimp, and octopus.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has several regulations that are important to respect regarding the harvest of goliath grouper. The FWC recently established a lottery system to reintroduce the harvest of Goliath groupers. But for the most part Goliath groups are a catch and release sport fishery. 

Harvest and possession of the Goliath Grouper have been banned in both state and federal waters off Florida since the 90s.

If you are lucky enough to catch the fish, you must follow the following guidelines:

  • Immediately returned into the ocean alive and without harm.
  • Photographs are permitted during the active act of release. Taking photographs or doing other tasks such as weighing the fish should not impede the release in any way.
  • During the release, large goliath groupers should be kept in the water. Large goliath grouper have a fragile skeletal structure that cannot support their weight if they are out of the water. If a huge goliath is carried onboard or taken out of the water, it will almost certainly suffer some form of internal damage and be classed as harvested.
  • It's not always a bad idea to remove smaller goliath groupers from the water in order to extract hooks, but this operation must be done carefully, with good fish handling procedures in place, and the fish must be returned as quickly as possible.
Man leaning over a boat holding a line with a large Goliath grouper, highlighting the unique experience and regulations of Goliath grouper fishing

The Future Of Goliath Grouper Fishing

The FWC has several regulations in place to protect goliath grouper, but these regulations may need to be updated as the population of goliath grouper continues to increase.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has proposed a final rule that, if enacted at the start of March 2022 Commission session, would allow for a limited, highly regulated goliath grouper harvest in state waters.

This plan includes a lottery draw to allow for harvesting while creating area and seasonal closures, size and gear restrictions, and post-harvest standards. This limited harvest would provide divers with additional access opportunities while also allowing the species' population to grow.

Updates to the draft proposal have been implemented, including new proposed rules to reduce the impacts of catch-and-release fishing on goliath spawning aggregations in state waters, as instructed by Commissioner action at the October 2021 Commission meeting.

The Bottom Line

Goliath grouper are a popular sport fish in Florida. Regulations are in place to protect the fish, but the population is increasing, so the FWC has proposed a limited harvest.

If enacted, this would provide additional access opportunities for fishermen while also allowing the species' population to grow.

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