(Lichtenstein, 1822); SERRANIDAE FAMILY; also called spotted jewfish, southern jewfish, junefish, Florida jewfish, jewfish
Known to occur in the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies. It is also known in the eastern Pacific from Costa Rica to Peru. This species is usually found inside of the 12 fathom bottom contour, though it may occur in deeper waters. It favors areas near rocky shores and islands, reefs, ledges, dock and bridge pilings, and wrecks, where caves and holes offer refuge.
The goliath grouper is the largest of the grouper in the western Atlantic, possibly reaching 8 ft (2.5 m) and a weight of 1000 lb (455 kg). The body, including the head and fins, is mottled with dark brown blotches and blackish spots. As the fish grows older, the body becomes darker and the spots and blotches become more numerous and less distinct.
It can be easily distinguished from the giant sea bass, Stereolepis gigas, because it has more soft rays (15 16) than spines (11) in the dorsal fin. The giant sea bass also has 11 spines, but only 10 soft rays. The goliath grouper can also be distinguished from the giant sea bass by its rounded tail fin, large, rounded pectoral fins, and different color pattern.
Goliath grouper feed primarily on crustaceans, but also on fishes and even an occasional turtle, which is inhaled into the goliath grouper’s enormous mouth. It is a very sluggish fish and an opportunistic feeder. Some very large specimens show an extraordinary degree of curiosity and will leave their caves to swim up to a diver. There are reliable reports of goliath grouper or giant sea bass interfering with diving operations and occasionally even attempting to swallow divers.
Despite poor fighting ability, its great size and weight and its habit of swimming into a hole or between rocks when hooked, make it difficult to land. They can be taken on live or dead bait fished on the bottom from boats, bridges, or shore. Slow trolling also works on occasion. Baits include crabs, spiny lobster, fishes and cut bait.
The goliath grouper is an excellent food fish at any size. But, it is now totally protected from harvest in Florida waters.
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