Big Man Catches Big Fish

Had enough of the snow? Watch as Big Bill Smith from Georgia lands a big Goliath Grouper in Stuart, Florida.

More about Bill's catch, from the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Distinctive Features

Goliath grouper are the largest members of the sea bass family in the Atlantic Ocean. The body is robust and elongate; its widest point is more than half its total length. The head is broad with small eyes. The dorsal fins are continuous with the rays of the soft dorsal longer than the spines of the first dorsal fin. The membranes between the dorsal fin elements are notched. Pectoral fins are rounded and noticeably larger than the pelvic fins. Bases of the soft dorsal and anal fins are covered with scales and thick skin. The caudal fin is rounded.


This fish is generally brownish yellow, gray, or olive with small dark spots on head, body, and fins. Large adults are somber-colored. Three or four irregular faint vertical bars are present of the sides of individuals less than 3 feet (1m) in length. The rear half of the caudal penduncle of these small individuals is covered by another similar bar. The tawny colored juveniles, although not as colorful as some grouper species, are attractively patterned; exhibiting a series of dark, irregular, vertical bands and blotches.

Size, Age, and Growth

The goliath grouper is the largest grouper in the western Atlantic. Growing to lengths of 8.2 feet (2.5 m), this grouper can weigh as much as 800 pounds (363 kg). In Florida, the largest hook and line captured specimen weighed 680 pounds (309 kg).
The oldest verifiable goliath grouper on record is 37 years. However, this specimen was sampled from a population of individuals depressed by fishing pressure and it is projected that goliath grouper may live much longer, perhaps as much as 50 years. Males achieve sexual maturity at four to six years of age and lengths of 43-45 inches (110-115 cm), females at six to seven years of age and 47-53 inches (120-135 cm). Growth rates are slow, averaging approximately four inches (10 cm) per year until the age of six years. Growth declines to about 1.2 inches (3 cm) per year at age 15, and less than .4 inches (1 cm) per year after 25 years.

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