By: Caitlyn Gatrell
When you ask a Florida saltwater angler what species they target, typically you’ll hear snook, redfish, tarpon, etc. As the list goes on, a lot of anglers will mention the species goliath grouper. Now, this fish is truly a beast; even the small ones have incredible strength! For anglers like me, it’s always an exciting time when you get to hook up to a goliath. Bonus if it’s a big one. My personal best goliath grouper (pictured in the photo) isn’t even a huge one, but the battle this fish provided was extremely impressive. The day before a local fishing tournament, my fiancé and I were on the water, trying to reach some pre-tourney luck. We did well, and although grouper wasn’t on the qualifying list, it still was the catch of the day. As we inched towards the end of our fishing trip of the day, we decided to try one more spot. This spot is a favorite of ours, and is basically a small, hidden channel-like mangrove area. There’s a little cut in the middle reaching a bit of depth and a decent current flow. I threw a live bait right by a hanging mangrove branch and let it sink down. Within a couple seconds I felt a huge thump, my rod slammed down, and then suddenly everything stopped. It took me a minute to process everything and when I went to reel, it wouldn’t move. I kept pulling on the line and tried to flick it, but it wouldn’t budge. Now I had a feeling that whatever hit it was still on. My fiancé even pulled on the line but was convinced I was just stuck. I kept insisting there was a fish on there, and sure enough, he started to feel it move around. It took some effort and strategy, but we ended up getting it out of whatever hole it pulled itself into. At this point, we hadn’t seen the fish, but knowing grouper like to hide, we had a feeling it was one. The fight was hard as there was so much structure in the way, and the fish was strong. Eventually we were able to pull it up. I was racing with excitement once I realized it was a goliath grouper. At the time I hadn’t caught much and the ones I got were small, so it was on my bucket list to catch a bigger one. We brought it into the boat and were able to snap a cool photo before releasing it back. You always must be careful with these guys because they’ve got sharp fins and teeth. They tend to give you a stank look when you’re up close with them, so make sure you have a good grip on them and don’t let them intimidate you! These guys have quick and easy releases, as they tend to immediately and aggressively shake off and dive back down. I watch them go and then grab a mullet and get ready for the next hook up!