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Goliath Groupers Could Become 'Keepers' in Florida

There might be a new species of fish for anglers to call "keepers" in Florida in 2018.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is seriously considering allowing some of the massive fish to be harvested.

Goliath groupers can grow to be up to 8 feet long and weigh up to 800 pounds.

During the FWC meeting in Crystal River on Feb. 8, the commission listened to plans regarding the grouper. The FWC directed staff to research and gather more information about allowing anglers to catch and keep goliath groupers.

Besides making the fish keepers, staff was directed to research other possible "future management options."

Staff findings will be considered at FWC's September or December meeting.

Why the interest in harvesting goliath groupers? Their numbers are up.

"They have pretty much taken over the reefs," says Ron Rincones, a retired charter captain. "My belief is that they far exceed numbers now than they did in the '50s and '60s."

Goliath groupers have been off-limits to anglers since 1990. At that time, spear fishing had nearly wiped out the species.

Today, goliath groupers are snatching anglers catches on a regular basis.

"They have become a nuisance," says Vero Beach fishing guide Mike Maher. "There should be some sort of a harvest on them."

During the Feb. 8 meeting, FWC staff shared ideas to allow a limited number of goliath grouper to be harvested. Fees would go toward further researching the species.

The FWC says it will hold public meetings before going ahead with any change in the status of the fish.