Pensacola’s Goliath Groupers
Pensacola, Florida is world famous for its sugar-white sand beaches and emerald-green waters. With its warm weather and abundance of Hotels and restaurants Pensacola is a vacationers paradise. Just off the coast in waters as shallow as 25 feet giants of the ocean patrol their turf. It is not uncommon to see as many as 3-4 Goliath groupers searching for their daily meals amongst the debris of a wrecks here in the Panhandle.
Scuba divers often travel to Pensacola from all parts of the world to tickle their toes in the powdery white sands and of course to enjoy some of the best diving in the Country. Many of the divers see their first living giant at wrecks like the USS Massachusetts where as many as four may be present at any given time. They are awe inspiring, most weigh in around 200-300 pounds, yet some hit eight feet and over 600 pounds. In Pensacola’s warm year round semi-tropical waters you can spot the Goliath Groupers.
Diving with the Goliath Groupers
One of the most amazing things, about these giant prehistoric looking fish is they seem to be aware of their size and not intimidated by divers. Most of the groupers will allow divers to approach quite close often appearing as if they are posing for pictures. Don’t worry if you get to close if they feel threatened they will definitely let you know. The Goliath grouper has a warning device called their swim bladder, which creates a deep loud booming sound “Harrumph”. The first time you hear a Goliath Grouper bark your heart will skip a beat from the loud and often startling noise. This barking is your cue to back up and give this magnificent creature a little more space. Because their bark can be intimidating they usually show little to no aggression towards the diver and continue on their normal swimming pattern.
Seeing and Learning more
There are courses you can take that teach you how to interact with these magnificent species and inform you on their biology, which I will include at the end of this article for your reading pleasure. Here in the Panhandle of Florida prior to going on a dive the Instructor or Divemaster will, usually tell you what to expect on the dive and the actions you should avoid. Jeff at National Scuba in Pensacola is no exception and you’ll be sharing photos with your friends and family while telling them stories, about your encounter with these gentle giants.
All About The Goliath Grouper
Common Names: Goliath grouper, jewfish, esonue grouper,spotted jewfish, blackbass, giant seabass, hamlet, southern jewfish, and grouper.
About the Goliath Groupers
The Goliath grouper is a large solitary fish that will defend its territory when threatened. With aggressive body language and a rumbling barking sound made by its swim bladder. Growing to over 8′ (and up to 800 pounds), most groupers start out as females and become males later in life. They are mottled yellow-brown to gray with darker blotches. This is ideal for blending in to their rocky coral and muddy inshore habitat.
You can find them
In the western Atlantic Ocean from Florida to Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean you will fin the Goliath groupers. They also found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, from Senegal to Congo although rare in the Canary Islands. The species is also present in the eastern Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California to Peru. Mainly in shallow, inshore waters to depths of 150′, the Goliath grouper prefers areas of rock, coral, and mud bottoms.
What do they eat
Goliath groupers feed largely on crustaceans and fishes (including stingrays and parrotfishes), octopus, and young sea turtles. They ambush their prey with a quick rush and the snap of the jaws. Their sharp teeth are adapted for seizing prey and preventing escape, although most prey is simply engulfed and swallowed whole. When full grown adults have very few natural predators. Juveniles though are readily preyed upon by barracuda, king mackerel, moray eels, other groupers, sandbar sharks and hammerhead sharks.