Key West Goliath Grouper Fishing

This is one of the most iconic fish in the waters of the Florida Keys. The goliath grouper is an enormous species, growing up to eight feet long and weighing as much as 800 pounds. Once you see one, you’ll never forget it.

This species is common almost everywhere in the Atlantic Ocean, save for the extreme north and south where the water is too cold. They are especially bountiful in the western Atlantic in and around the Caribbean and Florida.

Goliath grouper tend to stay relatively shallow, sticking to depths of 16-164 feet. They inhabit not only reefs and wrecks, but also oyster beds, brackish estuaries, canals and even mangrove swamps, which is very unusual for grouper.

These creatures lead a solitary life with very low numbers found in any one location. This changes when it comes time to spawn, however, when they come together in groups of 100 or more. These groups are called spawning aggregations.

Males reach sexual maturity at about 45 inches in length or at about age five. Meanwhile, females do not mature until reaching sizes of 49 inches at approximately age seven. Scientists suspect the species are protogynous hermaphrodites, meaning that they all start as females and some change to males as they mature, although that is still a theory as of yet.

The goliath grouper spawns immediately after full moons between June and December. They return each year to the same spawning grounds. This has made them easy prey for unscrupulous anglers who do not value our natural resources.

These fish are also naturally curious and have no fear of humans, making them easy prey for spearfishermen. These two factors have lead the fish on the no-take list.

Prey items of the goliath grouper include crustaceans, octopus, barracuda, young sea turtles, a variety of smaller fish and even sharks.