A seventeen-year-old angler hauled in a massive grouper this week while night fishing on the beach with a group of his friends. Isaac Francis was targeting sharks on the night of Feb. 2 when he hooked into a goliath grouper that his father later estimated at approximately 250 pounds.

“We were all going crazy and screaming,” Francis later told WFTS. “It was super exciting.”

Francis and his friends took turns cranking on the reel but Francis, a life-long angler, is credited with landing the fish on Turtle Beach in Sarasota. The boys then released the goliath, reporting that it swam away strong. 

“He had that kind of enthusiasm like any of us do when we’re really excited about something,” Stu Francis, Isaac’s Dad told WFTS. “It was definitely the catch of a lifetime for him.” 

There is a new limited harvest season on goliaths in Florida after more than three decades of no harvest. It started in spring 2023 and is limited to just 200 catch-and-keep permits for of the highly flavorful fish. The highly regulated season starts in March and runs through May. 

A 250-pound fish sounds enormous, but it’s not the biggest goliath grouper by a long shot. The state record is a 680-pounder caught in 1961 off Florida’s Fernandina Beach. That fish is also recognized as the International Gamefish Association’s all-tackle world record

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According to NOAA goliaths max out at 800 pounds with a length of eight feet. They were once considered for listing as an endangered species, but closing harvest in the 1990s showed promise and the population started rebounding on its own.