"The herd of goliath groupers descended on us, blocking the daylight from above, and I thought the huge one was going to swallow me! I was just glad I wasn't its meal that dive!"
Those were Billy Howell's words after shooting a small amberjack on the Fin Barge in 85 feet this week. One goliath, double our size, challenged Billy, a new spearfisherman, for his fish.
I interceded, punching the goliath in the head. It backed off momentarily but charged again less tentatively, and my second punch felt like hitting a moving truck between the headlights. The behemoth sideswiped me, raking my arm with its dorsal spines. Feeding a predator is not usually a good idea, but I chose to avoid a third confrontation. I slipped the small fish off the stringer, and the goliath sucked it down.
Last year the Times reported on a diver who was grabbed around the knee by a 500-pound goliath and shaken like a rag doll. The experienced spearfisherman killed it with his speargun equipped with a high-caliber powerhead.
Every week we hear about someone being seriously hurt or killed by an alligator, another protected species. Goliath grouper have been protected since 1990 and have no fear of man. It's only a matter of time before a novice diver finds himself in a peril he cannot escape.
Chad Carney teaches scuba & spearfishing and runs charters out of St. Petersburg. Call 727 423-7775 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org