Angler Hooks First Goliath Grouper on Florida’s Treasure Coast

By Ed Killer

“Wait for it… wait for it…”

The guide wore the worst poker face ever. His cautioning instruction was almost laughable. His wry grin totally gave away his hand.
For a fleeting moment, and as line hopelessly disappeared into the tannin-stained water, the angler’s day passed through his memory the way a near-death experience flashes one’s life before his eyes. He almost—almost—wished he hadn’t tangled with that pre-dawn 100-pound tail-walking tarpon. He nearly regretted the two tackle-testing tugs of war against snook topping 30 pounds. He came close to wishing he hadn’t been compelled to cast a topwater plug into a raging school of daisy-chaining 40-pound jack crevalles.


No, the angler decided, this was going to be the day he would remember if he ever did have a near-death, life-flash-before-his-eyes moment. For him, his decision to travel to the Treasure Coast area of Florida was one of the best decisions he ever made.

This fish-rich region continued to blow his mind with one crazy experience after another. And this was his first day on the water here.

It was a lot like the first day on the Treasure Coast enjoyed by fishing television show host and professional bass angler Byron Velvick. The host of “Guides’ Eyes” set to debut in spring 2013 on The Outdoor Channel had first traveled to Jensen Beach in the fall of 2008 to fish with Flatlined charters’ Capt. George Gozdz to produce the show “Going Coastal” that aired on ESPN2 for two seasons. Velvick, a skilled angler who fished mostly freshwater as a competitor on the B.A.S.S. Elite series, was about to discover a whole new style of fishing.
“I had fished for redfish, spotted seatrout and bonefish before,” Velvick said at the time, “but this was insane.”

He had quickly realized he had brought knives to a gunfight. Fishing the inshore waters near where the Indian River Lagoon is crossed by the St. Lucie River as it heads to sea at the St. Lucie Inlet can simply be mind-expanding. Gozdz guided Velvick to his first ever catches of tarpon, snook and Volkswagen-sized Goliath grouper—all before lunch. By mid-afternoon, Velvick was simultaneously crying tears of angling joy and back pain.

The Treasure Coast and its seaside towns of Stuart, Jensen Beach, Port Salerno, Fort Pierce and Sebastian have long drawn anglers from parts far and wide for stellar angling opportunities. Presidents extending back to Harding fished for tarpon here. Commercial fishermen migrated here each winter to feed the nation with Spanish mackerel, bluefish, pompano and more. Once the incredible sailfish fishery was discovered in the 1930s, the area was appropriately nicknamed “Sailfish Capital of the World.” Although mostly ignored, those who target them know there are wild local ponds that harbor 15-pound largemouth bass.

But the quality of the inshore sport fishing has earned this zone a permanent spot on the Bucket List of anglers seeking rewarding challenges. A deep stable of skilled professionals are eager to steer thrill seekers to a myriad of angling choices using any method desired. Fly fishermen delight in chances to score snook, tarpon, bruising jacks, bonito and gator trout. Light tackle specialists can enjoy everything from deep jigging for grouper and amberjacks on offshore reefs to casting spoons into a boiling school of blackfin tuna to battling a 30-pound permit or fooling a 15-pound tripletail. Bluewater fans can troll, live bait drift or bottom fish for 50-pound dolphin, 50-pound kingfish or 20-pound mutton snapper, respectively.

Ironically, the heaviest gear this angler needed during his trip to the Treasure Coast he was employing near one of the area’s many bridges. In merely 20 feet of water adjacent to a concrete piling 120 feet from the main navigation channel, this angler was locked up in a cage match with a true leviathan. Somewhere down there was a beast with a mouth that could inhale a 5-gallon bucket and the girth of a granite boulder. Its mass was only matched by its attitude.

Using a broomstick stiff boat rod and a 50-wide conventional reel with 100-pound braided line, the guide had stuck an 8-pound live jack on a 12/0 circle hook. Once the bait had been sucked into the giant’s maw, the angler and guide reeled smoothly and then used the boat’s motor to get the fish out away from the structure.
After being brought to his knees twice, the angler finally got to see the results of his sacrifice. The huge olive and gray mottled fish with rounded tail and pectoral fins buoyed to the surface with a seriously annoyed look in its eye.

Without hauling the fish out of the water, which would be equal parts impossible to dead lift 400 pounds and injurious to the fish besides, the guide took a quick snapshot of the angler with his catch. Then the hook was carefully removed and the fish was sent lazily back to its lair under the bridge.

And right above the photo of his ear-to-ear smile as he crouched over the gunwale with his impressive catch in the background, he remarked “First Goliath. Cross it off my bucket list.” Martin and St. Lucie Counties are centrally located on Florida’s east coast two hours south of Orlando, and two hours north of Miami. The area has many marinas and boat launch facilities. For more information on accommodations visit: or

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