Early College Spearfishing Trip 1979 - Goliath Grouper
I found my old college letter to my folks about this trip from Mississippi State University when I went down to Destin on a planned Scuba Diving Trip with a Scuba Club I helped form up there. Since the letter references Hurricane Frederick, the date of this trip should be late 1979 or early 1980 when I was 19 years old. Here are some more details about the trip as I remember them. We had about 6 guys that agreed to go make this trip but only 1 other guy (Bill) showed up in the wee hours of the morning to head on down. Bill and I decided to go ahead and make the run anyway. However after getting down there, the boat we had lined up said he could not take just the two of us so our trip was off. We scrambled to find another boat and got on a Cattle run with about 22 student divers. There was one other guy that was a tag along like us and was spearfishing. Bill didn't own a speargun so he rented a small gun from the local dive shop that got us on this boat. As the letter tells it, this other guy went down first and as Bill and I approached the bottom, he came swimming up to me and pointed down the reef holding his arms out depicting a large target. We swam down the reef and sure enough there was a large Goliath Grouper sitting under the Coral head. I started trying to communicate a plan of both of us shooting this fish but he started shaking his head indicating he wanted no part of it. I indicated that I was gonna try it anyway. I planted a shot right between the eyes and the fish game storming out of his hole but quickly turned around and went underneath the reef creating a cloud of invisibility. Then I realized that the rope on my gun had broken off on the reef. I desperately felt around the reef looking for him in the near zero visibility and then saw my yellow line showing. I eased up and followed the line to the shaft and felt that he was still on there. So I tied my line back together, grabbed the shaft and pulled him out away from the reef. As the letter depicts, I tried to activate my CO2 cartridge to fill my horsecollar BC but nothing happened. I managed to get some air in my BC, had him clear of obstructions, and thought this was in the bag. However, all of sudden, he was off again. My detachable tip wire had severed and he was gone. My shaft was mangled (see the photo) and we were out of bottom time so we came on up. Upon reaching the boat, this other spearfishermen had everybody all upset, telling the Captain that crazy me had tried to shoot a 250 pound Jewfish. The captain was upset and sent his 2 divemasters down with bang sticks to find and finish the beast off. However they never found the fish. The decision was made to make our second dive here at the same spot which was unusual but fortunate for me to finish my goal. After looking toward the East end of the Anchor where we left the fish and not finding him we went back and was about to go up the anchor. Checking time and air, I had about 5 minutes left so we went to the West. The cloudy haze created by all the divers cleared up and there in a gorge was the Jewfish. All I had was my dive knife so I snuck up and tried to stick him in the side but I could not penetrate the scales. I thought he was gonna shoot off and away but he just flutter kicked up the reef 5 or 6 feet and stopped again. This time I got the knife up under his gill plates and was wrestling him like Tarzan stabbing him vigorously. Blood was pouring out green everywhere and now I was looking for Sharks. My buddy Bill had his small speargun and I held the fish out from my body giving him a shot. Twice he tried and twice the spear just bounced off. We were about 30 feet up off the bottom at this point when Bill all of a sudden dropped his speargun and shot for the surface. I was like, what the heck, I have my hands full. Somehow I managed to work back to the bottom, grab his speargun and come back up to the surface. Bill was screaming like a wild man for the boat to come help us. I calmed him down and told him I had things under control. He advised that he had run out of air. Anyway, the Captain shrugged his shoulders and said it was probably only a 35 pound fish and he was misled. The fish ended up weighing 73 pounds and I got $43 for him at the fish house which paid for my $40 boat ride and gave me an incredible story to tell. Nowadays these fish are protected and no one is allowed to take them. They are actually becoming a nusciance in many areas eating everything around including fish that are speared in their vicinity. Click here to watch Grayson Shepard deal with them. The name Jewfish has also been deemed offensive and now they are called Goliath Groupers. Click here for a PDF of my letter or read the JPG below if interested.