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seagrant

My dive buddy weighed over 700lbs!!!

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OK, yea, I get kinda hard up for dive buddies. Owing to my independant nature, my lack of consuming air in my tank, my photography and my wanderings underwater, during and especially towards the end of dives I'm really looking for some company - a dive buddy, to keep me compay so to speak......, when all have left..... B)

 

While diving here off Clearwater a couple of weeks ago I was delighted to see six huge endangered goliath grouper at one of our artificial sites about 9 miles out. We used to see a dozen and more of the 5 foot to 8 foot + creatures at some sites, but since the devastating red tide last year, which was the worst one is anyone's memory, many of the goliaths died but some still out-ran it.

 

This site that we now have at least six large ones on is farther north and that is why I believe it has more coming back as it was closer to the boundary of where the red tide ended, or at least got less severe.

 

So I swam up to all six to see if any of them would tolerate some companionship, if you have ever swam with one you know it takes a lot of "being calm" and not breathing too much as they are much bigger and faster than you and don't have to hang around if they don't want to!

 

It was hard but it seems I did get one to be a buddy, at least for a bit.... <_< And yes, I'm sure she/he weighed over 700lbs! It was as long as me, and with my fins I'm over 7 ft long, so??? :o

 

Here's some pics, C:

 

PS - although I'm quite insouciant about this, believe me I'm very active for legislation to continue to protect these endangered fish. As you can see they can be quite curious and spearfishing them while on scuba could be analogous to shooting a pet cow, where is the sport in that? Yet that is partly how these types of large grouper and their relatives came to be so rare in the world now. Florida is one of the few places is the world where you can still see large individuals regularly, what a rare treat it is for divers! And if you have never head them "boom", well it is an experience for sure - felt all thru one's body!!! These didn't "boom" around me cause I'm calm, but I often hear the "booming" sounds in the beginning of dives, just as the divers are descending on the sites.

 

 

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Here's the one that turned out to be my "buddy"! :( It is sort of a "don't try this at home" type thing cause inside structure like this they are much bigger than you and will run over you and "boom" loudly if startled. But "my buddy" here and I have an understanding, as long as I didn't make hardly any bubbles and didn't move suddenly, it was all copasetic.

 

 

 

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This is how I first "spied" him and wondered if she/he would be my buddy? Now don't say it looks like the last thing it wants is me as a buddy............ :D

 

 

 

 

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Still the closer I got the more we seemed to "bond". Not many bubbles or sudden movements from me - no "booming" from she/he, that was the deal......... :P

 

 

 

 

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This is another individual that I tried to recruit for my buddy. If you have any doubt about the size of these fish, the sharksucker there is over a foot long - so you do the math!!! :D

 

 

 

 

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Obviously this one did NOT want to be my buddy....., it's OK I can take rejection........ :o

 

 

 

 

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I tried to get these both to accompany me, but although the darker one seemed slightly curious I had no luck at all...........

 

 

 

 

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In fact I swam near the lighter colored one several times, but it was not in the least bit interested in being my dive buddy, quite the contrary. OK, I respect that and gave the grouper its space....

 

 

 

 

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This is not a good pic but it shows how the two darker ones traveled behind the lighter colored one. The other three goliaths tried to find solace inside the barges. All will be well again when these pesky divers leave!!! :(

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Nice shots! Always good to see photos of this gentle giant. I still can't get over the fact that they changed its common name from "Jewfish" to "Goliath Grouper" just to be politically correct... I wonder if they will change the "Black Grouper" to "African-American Grouper" next... :P:D

 

BTW, they are very common in the Pacific side of Panama and some parts of Brazil too, especially the south. Last year I counted at least 8 in a dive I did off of Panama City (Panama).

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Really Cool Shots...

 

I Saw one of these in Apataki (French Polynesia) last year, but i had the 105mm on :P I did get a shot of the Porcupine Fish in its mouth though..... I'll see if i can did it out when i get back from work.

 

Spearfishing on SCUBA? Wheres the challenge??

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Cool series Carol.. and i too have seen the one in Apataki that Simon refers to. AN amazing fish with huge size!!!

 

Incredible you saw so many together... awesome....

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Excellent shots.

 

These look to be the same as the fish we commonly refer to as the "Queensland Groper" or Gold Spot Groper" - Epinephelus lanceolatus.

 

 

 

There is resident on the Yongala wreck that is named "VW" for pretty obvious reasons.

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"Spearfishing on SCUBA? Wheres the challenge??" Maybe if they didn't allow you to carry a knife and welded the reel to your D-rings? That way, one bad shot and you're toast.

I think these things were being bang-sticked into oblivion. Its good to see them protected.

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Excellent shots.

 

These look to be the same as the fish we commonly refer to as the "Queensland Groper" or Gold Spot Groper"    -  Epinephelus lanceolatus.

There is resident on the Yongala wreck that is named "VW" for pretty obvious reasons.

 

They are closely related but not the same; the Atlantic + Eastern Pacific (Americas) species is called the Goliath Grouper (Epinephelus itajara).

 

Luiz

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I was actually bitten by a Goliath about 8 years ago on a sunken barge in Boca Raton, FL called the Sea Empress. I forgot my fins at home (duh!) but went down anyway, since we were not planning in swimming at all. My buddy was hand-feeding them (we had three around us) while I photographed the action. I was sitting on on the rusted railing of the barge with one leg hanging over the side, and suddenly SLAM. One Goliath inhaled my right foot. To say I was surprised is a slight understatement. My buddy laughed so hard it looked like his tank had exploded there were so many bubbles in the water!

 

The fish shook me around a little bit and let go, pretty surprised as well. No scratches or cuts, just a near heart attack.

 

This one is a Queensland Groper called Hamilton, a veritable pet to Manasa, one of the dive guides for Beqa Adventure Divers in Pacific Harbor, Fiji. Check out the size of this thing; it scares away all the bull sharks in the shark dive.

 

Regards,

Michael

mpostock.com

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Great story Michael!

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I still can't get over the fact that they changed its common name from "Jewfish" to "Goliath Grouper" just to be politically correct... I wonder if they will change the "Black Grouper" to "African-American Grouper" next... :D:lol:

Has the black grouper ever been to america or africa ?

 

We often get corrected here in the caribbean by americans when we use a descriptives such as 'follow the black man' referring to our jamaican colleagues whilst on a tour. We are told, 'you can't call him that he's african american' to which we reply, 'actually no he's never been to africa,has barely visited america but a few times. But he is definately black compared to the rest of us so I thought my description might help you to realise who to follow.'

 

Political correctness is a funny old world, and when i see a Jewfish, they still get called a jewfish as thats what they are to me. Can't wait to see some more this summer.

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Back when I was a volunteer naturalist for the Aquarium of the Americas, we were told to call the rather large groupers "goliath groupers" instead of "jewfish." We were also given a little history on the origins of the term "jewfish" and it has nothing to do with the Jewish faith. So the story goes a little like this:

 

Back in the day, when the fisherman would catch these magnificent animals and haul them from the water, they would talk about how their scales shone in the sunlight like jewels. Soon dubbed "jewelfish" the name eventually was shortened to "jewfish" in the sailor's/fishermen's vernacular. The name stuck until someone who didn't know the history got offended. You just have to love "political correctness". :D

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OMG, the first time Mike Veitch has said something almost positive regarding me! :D

 

However, i dont think its a good shot, wrong lens, but i do think it is a funny one, i would image a severe case of indigestion afterwards....

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Very atmospheric the way the inside of the mouth stand out in the 2nd & 3rd images! Almost looks luminous in the 2nd one!

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Nice stories there folks.

 

We get some here as well. Yep this one was really friendly...

 

I suppose over here we call them Exmouth Groupers....

 

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Thanks for the posts and pics everyone!!! I'm glad to see our goliath grouper (Epinephelus itajara), have big grouper cousins in other seas as well!

 

Glad to hear Rocha that they are common off Panama/Brazil, how did you all ever curtail the spearing of them down there??? Also, just to let you know, there is a pier we dive south of here, it is in Boca Grande, the setting of Jimmy Buffet's new movie 'Hoot'. Anyway we dive that pier/Old Phosphate Dock and I've seen as many as 50+ (yes, fifty-plus+) goliaths there in a single dive and that is with only 20 foot of viz (how many are there really?? Who knows???)!! But that is also where a guy "supposedly" just caught a record, almost 14 ft great hammer, too (hook and line record???)........, yea we are intelligent, we regularly dive that site in sometimes less viz than the length of that shark!! But again, I was just down there and only saw less than a dozen goliaths, red tide really affected huge chunks of the Gulf Coast last year, the worst one in memory and it has affected many fish populations, etc etc, along a huge stretch of coastline here.

 

But I know the goliath grouper still aggregate, usually in August, off Jupiter on the East Coast of Florida also, mostly at 'Hole in the Wall' for spawning, but also at some other sites there. We've seen as many as 40 together over there, but just at that particular time of the year, that many.

 

Goliath/big grouper stories were cool too, thanks all!! But divin w/o fins?????????????????????????????? :D:lol::lol:

 

Here is one of my goliath "stories":

 

"Once my buddy and I spied a large goliath (7ft), leaving an area. We were curious and went into the area she/he swam out of, poked around, etc., then left. A few minutes later we heard, "BOOM............, BOOM.................., BOOM......................, BOOM.................., and my buddy's eyes and mine met and got as big around as could be!!! You don't just hear it, is is like those huge, huge Japanese drums, you FEEL it all through your body and bones!!!!! To this day after seeing hundreds more goliaths I've never, ever heard one as vocal as that one, off Clearwater here. I don't know cause we never got near enough to startle it, so it must have just been really territorial and telling us it was NOT happy that we poked around in its space while it was out and about!!!!!!!!"

 

Best, Carol

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Additionally, about the "name" change....... jewfish to goliath grouper..... (for Epinephelus itaiara);

 

Yea political correctness can go kinda far, I didn't like the name change either. I've heard lots and lots of stories and "theories" about how the jewfish came to be called that. The one that makes most sense to me (let me see if I recall it correctly), is that the Greek settlers here in Florida had a Greek name for this grouper (Epinephelus itaiara); it began with 'gui...' (I forgot the whole Greek name), and then others heard it and altered it into a sort of slang "jewfish". It didn't have anything to do with any ethnic group to speak of.

 

Anyway that is the account that makes most sense to me. I understand people getting offended but I wish we could all just 'grin and bear it' a little more and not take things soooo personal, you know..... :lol::lol::D

 

And of note too, we don't feed any of these grouper at the sites here. It is illegal now in Florida to do so and I actually agree with that as far as these grouper are concerned. They can definitely find their own food and should, plus it is easy enough to see them without the use of "bait". And even though I'm not totally against "baited" shark/fish dives for photoing, I personally don't like them and appreciate photos waaaay more when artificial feeding techniques are not applied. Of course we can't wipe-out human influences entirely but I love seeing these huge grouper, bull sharks, hammers, etc. when no one is (or has) been feeding them and they are going about their underwater lives as naturally as possible at least!

 

Here's to big fish surviving and returning to places where they have been heavily impacted! (For instance I want to see as many black sea bass (Stereolepis gigas) in California waters as I remember as a young child (we used to see them 'hauled' up on fishing boats out of So Calif., but too much harvesting was devastating). I did see some in '03 when I dove Channel Islands, but they were not very big.... ;)

 

And what is up with the giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus, a picture or two of it are posted here), it is our goliath grouper's closest cousin, anyway it used to be in Hawaii and about the Pacific but is rare now? I want to see that one return, before it is beyond the point of no return (but maybe it is already???)

 

Carol

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