This massive, inquisitive fish is found primarily in shallow tropical waters near coral or artificial reefs. Though their range includes the Florida Keys, Bahamas and the Caribbean, goliath grouper have been caught on occasion off the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts.
Known for their immense size, the world record for a hook and line captured Goliath Grouper is 680 pounds, caught off Fernadina Beach, Fla.in 1961. They can reach lengths greater than seven feet and are estimated to live to 50 years or longer.
Once considered excellent eating, and with predictable behaviors that made them easy to catch, goliath groupers were once in rapid decline due to overfishing. Fortunately, protection measures taken in 1990 have helped to stabilize fish populations, though the fish’s slow growth rate means it will take time for these fish to completely recover; they are currently completely protected from harvest.
The goliath grouper’s powerful jaw and sharp teeth are well adapted to its food source of crustaceans, fish, octopus, and young sea turtles. Though the fish can seize prey with its teeth, most food is swallowed whole. Baits for these fish include mullet, small jack crevelle, or other live, active fish. Though they’ve been known to eat dead baits, big, live baits attract big goliath grouper!
While these fish are surprisingly agile for their size and put up an impressive fight, their value as a gamefish comes primarily from their sheer bulk and weight. Bringing one of these 200 to 300 pound beasts boat side is an unparalleled thrill. Depending on the location, 150-500 lb test line is recommended. Heavy, durable tackle is required as well as some other specialized equipment like a fighting harness. These fish will prove worthy opponents for any enthusiastic angler!