Goliath of a catch

Tina Harbuck
Angler Hunter Waneck smiles for the camera while Capt. Alex Hare, right, tries to pull the goliath grouper closer to the boat to get the hook out of mouth before releasing him back. This was a first for the captain and his anglers. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

It’s one thing to see one on TV, but to see one face to face is unbelievable.

Capt. Alex Hare and his group of anglers from Louisiana got an up-close and personal look at a 350-plus pound goliath grouper on a recent trip aboard the Silver King, a 25-foot center console boat.

“You don’t realize how big they are. You see it on TV, but when you see one in person they are huge. We were shocked,” said the young captain.

Hare, 27, had taken Hunter Waneck, Becca Peisker, and Charlie Reagin out for a day of fishing for snapper and such about 15 miles down the beach in 75 feet of water when the giant grouper latched on.

“We hooked about an 8- to 10-pound snapper and fought him for a while and then all sudden something ate it,” Hare said.

Captain said they fought the fish for about 15 to 20 minutes and then all of sudden they got the snapper back.

However, when the snapper surfaced it was scaled, completely.

At that point, captain had his suspicions that it might be a goliath down there.

So they did the same thing.

This time they got a hook in the giant grouper and fought him for about 45 minutes before they got up to the boat.

“He was huge … I don’t know how much it weighed … about 300 to 400 pounds,” Hare said.

“You weren’t going to get your arms around the whole fish I’ll tell you that … it was huge.”

During the fight, Hare said the goliath took out a lot of line.

“He was pulling drag. He pulled 150 to 200 yards three or four time,” he said.

Once they got the grouper to the boat, they took a few photos and were able to touch him before they released him.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the harvest and possession of goliath grouper is prohibited in state and federal waters. The fish must also be immediately returned to the water free, alive and unharmed.

The goliath grouper is the largest grouper and can weigh up to 800 pounds. The largest caught in Florida was a 680-pounder caught in May of 1961.

Hare estimated the goliath they caught to be about 350 pounds.

After a few photos, they followed regulations and released it.

“We got the hook out of him and then kind of pushed his head down. He flipped his tail and splashed us all, whacked the side of the boat with his tail and then swam straight down. He was healthy. We watched him swim down as far as we could see.”