Anglers in the Keys will be thrilled to hear that a prize trophy fish, the goliath grouper, may soon be back as a harvest option in South Florida. The goliath grouper, which can grow to be a massive 800 pounds and over eight feet in length, has been firmly on a restricted list which bans its possession and harvest for more than 30 years. The current rules surrounding the fishing of goliath grouper in the Florida Keys state that anglers can only perform catch and release of these giants.
On October 8, 2021 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will meet to hear proposals to reinstate the harvest fishing of goliath grouper. The current plan that will be considered includes offering only 200 permits per year. Under the plan, prospective anglers would have to pay a $10 entry fee into a lottery. If successful, applicants would pay $500 for the fishing permit and would be eligible to fish in the extremely regulated harvest season which would be slated to run from March 1 - May 31 beginning in 2023.
Though the species has been restricted for three decades, the FWC has seen requests to reinstate the harvest greatly increase in recent years and believe the time may be right to change its status. The director of FWC’s Division of Marine Fisheries Management has stated that the population of goliath grouper has been rebuilt in the last 30 years enough to be able to sustain the restricted harvest, but the rest of the commission will make the ultimate decision after considering all information at the October 8 meeting.
Fishing in the Florida Keys is one of residents’ greatest past-times. It would be a fisher’s dream to win one of the 200 permits to be able to once again fish for these beautiful giants. Owners of oceanfront homes in the Florida Keys would be prime applicants, as goliath grouper primarily are found on the Atlantic side of the islands. If you are a hopeful angler, find all waterfront homes for sale in the Keys here.