A unique charter to catch a Goliath Grouper

A unique charter to catch a Goliath Grouper

July 15, 2023 2:01 pm By:

I’ve been participating in a jewfish (Goliath Grouper) study past several years that has been integral to  population data that has helped developed the current quota, and slot limit for being able to take home or keep one for diner.  Or Art, so it may be.  When I got a call from Chase and Chris, in Destin Florida, I had an opportunity for a unique charter to catch a Goliath Grouper in the slot limit.  And the unique opportunity for massive failure as these two drove all the way to Naples for a one afternoon opportunity, to catch a jewfish, in the slot limit.  Not just to eat, but to take back to the Panhandle for a local artist to use for a piece of artwork.

As luck would have it, of course, the jewfish weren’t all afternoon.  Spot after spot we went.  Live pinfish, live pilchards, cut bait, and of course the most magical backwater jewfish bait ever, small blue crabs, all drifted into deep corners, under ledges, into holes.  Nothing.  It wasn’t just the bugs, and the heat I could feel crawling down my neck, it was the sweaty drops of realization that this may be one of those days, where even the jewfish aren’t gonna eat. 

So after several hours, 25 spots, and a tide change in Rookery Bay, here we were, sun starting to wane.  And not a bite.  The tide was out going, and I suddenly thought of a spot, under a  mangrove point, where a customer got railroaded a few months back on the same tide.  Lets go!  The tide was rolling past the point mangrove covered point.  We were down to the last few magic baits, the blue crabs. 

The guys made a few casts, but were having trouble skipping it under the overhang deep enough to keep the current from sweeping it away from the hole, so I grabbed the rod for a try.  For once, I got that perfect lucky bounce under the trees, and the fluttering crab tumbled off the roots into the dark black water slowly sinking into the hole.  There was an immediate tell tale twitch in the line as I handed the rod over, and yelled ‘set the hook’.  Well, the hook as set, at the Bull Bay Bolt rod doubled over, the FFP 4000 screeched, and the battle was on. Here is a video of the battle the guys sent me. https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTREY33Qx/?t=1

Every time we gained line, the drag would screech, and the beast was back in its lair, them wrapped around root, then back out and loose.  One trick for getting big fish untangled from the gnarl of crap under the mangroves, is to stop pulling.  Just let the beast sit.  Give it slack, let it be.  It will almost always free itself, and if you gently, with a straight rod lead it out, it will follow.  Don’t yank, don’t fight it, just gently lead it out until it is 3 or 4 feet away from the trouble.  Then start the fight again.  It worked.  The fish moved into the middle of the cut, and now it was just a matter of tug a war,  and hope the hook doesn’t pull.  A few minutes later, the net scooped, and the 26 inch Goliath Grouper was on the deck.  Perfect!  The slot is minimum 24” and maximum 36”.  The boys had their artwork and dinner, and I had no egg on my face.


I will admit, it was a peculiar feeling staring at the fish, as it stared back at me, expecting to be released, and me knowing it wasn’t going to end well.  Jewfish have a knowing look about them.  They make eye contact when you handle them.  Like they know the rules, you won this time, so let me go. But this guy was the most unlucky jewfish in Naples tonight.  There was a $500 tag that was won in a lottery that said he was gonna sleep in an icy cooler ride back up to North Florida tonight!

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