By: Sandi Reid Boney
Today's "sea creature in the spotlight" is the gargantuan "Goliath Grouper" [Epinephelus itajara], which can reach 8 feet in length and weigh up to 1000 lbs!
The first time I saw a full-grown adult out of the corner of my eye, I thought it was part of the huge rocky coral head it was resting under. It was HUGE and motionless. Durham and I swam a bit closer and realized there were TWO huge Goliath under the overhang, seemingly oblivious to our amazement at their appearance.
"Goliath are found nearshore often around docks, in deep holes, and on ledges. Young often occur in estuaries, especially around oyster bars. These fish are more abundant in southern Florida than in northern waters.
Goliath spawn over summer months and have a lifespan of 50 years. Goliath are opportunistic predators and feed mostly on slow-moving, bottom-associated species. Calico crabs make up the majority of their diet, with other invertebrate species and fish filling in the rest. Goliath grouper will occasionally feed on fish that are struggling on a fishing line, but they have not been shown to actively hunt down fast, free swimming fish such as snappers and groupers. Prey is ambushed, caught by a rapid expansion and opening of the mouth that allows prey to be sucked in and swallowed whole.
- Appearance: Head and fins covered with small black spots,
- Irregular dark and vertical bars present on the sides of body,
- Pectoral and caudal fins rounded,
- First dorsal fin shorter than and not separated from second dorsal,
- Eyes small.
- These fish can live to be 50 years old.
Thankfully, it is now illegal to harvest them in Florida. (State Record: 680 lb, caught near Fernandina Beach (1961))" (I'm not anti-fishing, I am in favor of being good stewards of the abundant resources God has given us, and that includes protecting endangered and threatened species.)