Goliath Grouper, Jewfish Good Or Bad

Are goliath grouper / jewfish all that bad?

Special note: I have been calling Goliath groupers Jewfish all my life since I was able to talk. For whatever reason they changed the name so I use both now. Jewfish are members of the Sea Bass family and not really a grouper at all. There are many stories about Jewfish that will entertain readers, one of which some scholars think is the story of Jona and the whale. 

Jewfish | goliath Grouper

Dream Catcher Charters Releasing a Goliath Grouper / Jewfish Fishing with Capt. Steven Lamp

Lately I hear more and more how fellow captains, guides and anglers want there to be a lift on the moratorium preventing the harvest of Jewfish or Goliath Groupers. Ideas such as buy a tag to kill one or a slot size for a one per harvester limit. All good ideas but the reasons they come up with these desires to kill this species of fish are not what you might think.. They want to kill them because they think the jew fish / goliath groupers are eating the grouper and snapper on bottom structure or wrecks that they live on  and must be eradicated. For fear of killing ALL the grouper and snapper.

I am writing this article to say from personal experience, that is absurd.

Back in the 70’s my father used to kill Jewfish/ goliath grouper every weekend. He has probably killed well over 200 of these beasts up and down the west coast of Florida off of all the major wrecks of the day from 45 – 150 ft of water. His reasons were similar but back then, he was able to sell them to local fish houses and restaurants, so there was an added benefit. He used to say that the Jewfish / Goliath groupers were eating all the grouper and snapper on the spots where he was finding them. In hind sight my father an avid spear fisherman in the day will tell you he was wrong. It was not the Jewfish / Goliath groupers killing the fish it was the more and more spear fishermen and fisherman that were doing it as popularity of these sports was just dawning.

Before we started killing Jewfish and Goliath groupers in the 60’s and heavily in the 70’s the grouper and snapper fishing and spear fishing was at its peak. Grouper were being shot and caught in sizes not since seen in shallow close to port destinations not seen since. So one would be lead to believe if the Jewfish and Goliath groupers were eating all the Grouper and snapper.. Well Why were there so many around when there were even more jewfish / goliath groupers there to eat them? My dad has shared with me spots where he would shoot large grouper back in the early 70’s where now,, there is nothing. His dad used to catch nice sized 30 lb black grouper in boca grande channel in the 40’s and 50’s every weekend, in numbers that would match a long liners today in 250 feet of water.

Here is the deal. Nature has balance. Jewfish / goliath Groupers were here co existing with grouper and snapper long before we got a taste for either species. On the wrecks, reefs, springs and ledges. They were everywhere and there were lots of them. Problem is today there are many harvesters. Not too many.. just a lot. Every one has a right to the resource.

There are plenty of Snapper And Grouper around. These fish caught with Capt. Steven Lamp on the Intense June 2012

The reason grouper and snapper fishermen think the Jewfish / goliath grouper is eating all the snapper and grouper is because when they are fishing the grouper eats the bait, starts to fight, and slows down his ability to flee. Jewfish / goliath grouper are not stupid. As predators they see an opportunity to feed and get trained to the grouper eating the bait and struggling. Easy meal. The only ones that lose here are the Grouper and the fisherman. The jewfish / goliath grouper was just taking advantage of a situation. Just like sharks. We don’t like it but thats the way it is.

So saying jewfish / goliath grouper need to be eradicated for eating our fish we catch, is kinda dumb.

Lets look at this from another direction.. 

Open a season on jewfish / goliath grouper. There is no reason in my opinion ever for a closure on anything. States needs money to manage the resource. Jewfish / goliath groupers are a great food value. Buy a fish tag from the state and fish for them in a season set for doing so. make the tag a decent value to the state, yet affordable for the anglers.  WIN WIN.. I think 75.00 is a fair price. If the fish is of decent size, that is way less than 1.00 a pound. Some angler gets his ego on by catching a monster and many people eat some nice filets for dinner. Again, win win.

In this approach, Fish tags work. If an angler wants to kill the fish he buys the tag. The state gets the money to put toward managing the resource keeping us all in line. I would like to think fishermen are self manageable but thats just not the case, Myself included we have all over harvested at one point in our lives or another. Its almost in our nature.

As a fishing guide,

I love Jewfsih / goliath groupers.. Yes, they are a pain the butt when fishing a wreck. However, I am a fan of them around the mangroves. These smaller fish are awesome fun on live bait, chug plug or fly. weighing around 8 – 25 lbs these fish put up a strong fishy and easy to release and eat the next day for another client (renewable resource). And, if they ever let us keep one.. The tastiest fish EVER..

I am Capt. Steven Lamp I own Dream Catcher Charters. We know where Goliath Groupers / jewfish live off of Key West if you would ever like to go visit one. Look us up. Dream Catcher Charters


About Capt. Steven Lamp
Veteran Key West Fishing guide Capt. Steven Lamp has been fishing the waters of the Florida Keys professionally since 1993. Specializing in Flats, Backcountry, Fly Fishing, Wrecks, Reef and Offshore fishing in Key West, Florida. Capt. Steven is also the founder and director of Dream Catcher Charters located in Key West, Florida.