This catch-and-release only fishery is one of our region’s specialties, but it is not without its own controversy.
Goliath Grouper fishing has always been one of the most fun and exciting ways to spend a day on the water. This is the only big game fishery where you are virtually guaranteed success in catching a fish weighing well over two hundred pounds, and if your lucky (some might say UNlucky), ranging upwards of five-hundred! The action is generally pretty fast and furious, particularly in the warmer months, and single day totals are often well over a dozen fish. This catch-and-release only fishery is one of our region’s specialties, but it is not without its own controversy.
You would be hard pressed to find someone step off the Redemption Song after a Goliath Grouper adventure that isn’t smiling ear to ear.
After all, reeling in a few thousand pounds of angry grouper in an afternoon just a few miles from shore is hard to beat. All anglers are not so happy at the thought of these behemoths though. There is a lot of talk about whether or not harvest for these protected species should be reconsidered. Many recreational anglers feel that there are too many Goliaths and they are upsetting the balance of the ecosystems. Personal feelings aside (I couldn’t disagree more, but that’s a much longer discussion) the first step in considering a harvest season for Goliath is gathering as much research as possible. This not only ensures that a harvest season is appropriate, but helps tailor the season and harvest restrictions in such a way that they have as little negative impact on the fishery as possible.
This past June we happily agreed to participate in a two year research study spearheaded by Dr. Kris Koenig, the worlds foremost grouper and snapper expert. The project revolves around capturing, sampling, tagging,and releasing Goliath Grouper in hopes that more information can be gathered about the age breakdown of the population, distribution, population numbers, movements, and habits.
It takes a little work, and a few minutes of the angler’s time (about ten minutes) to gather this valuable data, but in exchange you get to help ensure that these great fish are here to catch for generations to come.
There is ample time for photographs while we are gathering our data with the fish safely on deck wearing their “reverse SCUBA gear.” We always welcome help with both the sampling and getting these giants back into the water unharmed…the more the merrier when moving four hundred pounds of fish! Getting to see these fish out of the water, assist with gather the samples, and snapping a few photos adds to this already incredible experience.
Pictures have never done these fish justice, but your friends and co-workers will gain new respect for your efforts when you snap a shot laying on deck next to a real monster!