The Atlantic goliath grouper or itajara (Epinephelus itajara), formerly known as the jewfish, is a saltwater fish of the grouper family and one of the largest species of bony fish. The species can be found in the west ranging from northeastern Florida, south throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and along South America to Brazil.
The Goliath Grouper lives up to its name as one of the largest species of bony fish. Native to South Florida and beyond, these fish are some of the most sought-after in the sea. As of 2021, the largest Goliath Grouper recorded caught in the wild is 680 pounds on the Southern coast of Florida. Anglers reeled the Grouper in May of 1961.
The goliath grouper exhibits territorial behavior near its sheltered home in a cave or wreck. This consists of a “threat display” to intruders by opening its mouth wide and shaking its body or producing a loud booming sound (see below). The goliath grouper will produce loud “booms” when it is startled or cornered.
Goliath Grouper habitat As with most fishing, locating the fish is always key to landing one of these monsters! Goliath Grouper are a structure oriented fish. You will find them near reefs, shipwrecks, rock ledges, old phosphate docks, etc. They live in shallow water up to around 150 feet deep and hold tight to the structure mentioned above.
The Atlantic goliath grouper, like most groupers, is an ambush predator and eats fairly large fishes and invertebrates and even small sharks. Reefs with large numbers of predators, like Atlantic goliath groupers, are known to be healthier than reefs with no predators, so this species may represent an important part of the reef food web.
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