This huge grouper was at least 50 years old!
The biggest fish are often also the oldest in the sea. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was recently able to confirm that after aging a giant 350-pound Warsaw grouper caught back on December 29.
The FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute posted photos of the huge fish on their Facebook page. It was caught in 600 feet of water off the Southwest part of the state by anglers Jason Boyll. While the sight of this fish was enough to make anyone's jaw drop, it also delivered a wealth of information once FWC completed their analysis of an otolith from the fish.
Otoliths are sometimes also called "earstones." They are calcium carbonate organs that help fish to hear underwater. However, this organ is extremely helpful to biologists because it can help them estimate the age of a fish.
Boyll posted photos of the otolith and the process of removing it on his Facebook page. It was then sent in to be tested before a result came back.
"Biologists from FWRI's Age & Growth Lab estimated the age of this fish at 50 years old, making this the oldest sample collected for our ageing program," the FWC's Facebook post reads. "Acquiring the otolith from this fish was extremely valuable as samples from larger and older fish are rare."
A big old fish! This 350-lb Warsaw grouper was caught by hook-and-line on December 29th 2019, off Southwest Florida in...
As large as this fish was, it did not come anywhere near the IGFA all-tackle world record, a 436-pound, 12-ounce fish taken in the Gulf of Mexico back in 1985. This species also pales in comparison to the size of fish like the goliath grouper, which can regularly reach over 600 pounds.
While goliath groups are protected in Florida, Warsaw groupers are not. The FWC did close their press release by encouraging against the harvest of the Warsaw. Mostly because not enough is known about their numbers.
At the very least, at least researchers will be able to learn some things from this specimen and Boyll will forever have a fish story to tell that is not stretching the truth on the fish's size!