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Goliath Grouper: Epinephelus itajara

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
  • Adults huge, up to 800 pounds
  • Eyes small

Habitat:

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.

Behavior:

Goliath spawn over summer months and have a lifespan of 30 to 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.

Additional Information

State Record: 680 lb, caught near Fernandina Beach (1961)

Fishing Tips and Facts: Goliath grouper, commonly called jewfish, are currently prohibited from harvest in Florida waters.


Image Credit: © Diane Rome Peebles



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