2018 Grouper Season Opener Aboard The Blue Heaven!
With a vast array of ever changing regulations, few season openers are as highly anticipated as Grouper season in Florida. This particular species of notorious bottom feeders are known for the size, power, and value on the dinner table. Some species of the grouper have even been fished near the edge of extinction; Such as the Goliath Grouper. Despite the Goliaths being off limits to any forms of harvesting since 1990, other breeds still have specified seasons to maintain the population.
Nearly five years ago, The FWC (Florida Wildlife Conservation) implemented catch and release only policies in Florida Waters. While regulations vary Atlantic side to Gulf Coast, marine biologists believe they have identified the best ways to conserve the species while still satisfying the needs of commercial and recreational anglers alike. “We believe in conserving every bit we can”, Says Blue Heaven Captain Skye Stanley. Captain Stanley goes on to tell us that “despite (grouper) being known as a large fish, grouper are a very slow growing fish. Many sub species may only grow up to a pound per year regardless of diet”. Captain Stanley elaborated by informing us that grouper often alter gender between adolescence and adulthood, and that they are not a migratory species.
SA Company was lucky enough to hop on board the Blue Heaven on May 1st; Opening day of the 2018 Grouper Season. The crew departed Robbie’s Marina at 5:00AM with intentions of chumming the floor of the reef, dropping live grunts to the bottom, and bagging their limit prior to venturing offshore to chase down the Mahi. Opening week was a success for Skye, Jessie, and the Blue Heaven. Once the reef was fully chummed and lines were in the water, it didn’t take but a few moments for the crew to hook up on a double. One of the two broke off, but we were able to land a very healthy 25lb Black Grouper. Often times when a grouper is broken off, the other grouper nearby tend to become more docile, and less likely to bite. Captain Skye and Jessie tell us not to let this discourage you from working the same spot; they go on to discuss that it doesn’t take but a few minutes and some more chum to fire them back up.
The Blue Heaven’s first mate, Jessie describes these fish as “highly intelligent considering what they are”… “These fish don’t grow upwards of 100lb because they’re dumb”. With such a considerable life expectancy, many of these fish even know when they may be harvested and when they must be released; which significantly influences the behavior throughout the year. However, sometimes it is their confidence in size that drives these fearless bottom hunters from rocks, to hook, to ice box, to table. Even countless divers and spear-fishermen have had some not-so-friendly experiences on reefs and wrecks down deep and are often referred to as “bullies”.
The Blue Heaven crew went on to take their charters Marcie and Eric deep offshore to chase down the Mahi Mahi (Dorado, Dolphin). This was Marcie’s first time catching and landing a Mahi. Skye and Jessie are notorious for their “run and gun” tactics; basically site fishing for birds, weed patches, derbies, turtles, or any sign of activity on the surface. Not only was it opening day for grouper, but we had a hard blowing South East Wind; which blew the derbies, the bait, the weeds, the birds, and the fish right to Atlantic side of South Florida. Typically when you hook into one mahi, the rest of the school tends to follow (provided enough time). The group was able to pick off six mahi, dozens of yellowtail snapper, and of course their prize grouper. Marcie and Eeric go on to tell us that this is an annual tradition they’ve been upholding for the past three years. We hope to join them next year aboard the Blue Heaven next year!
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